Hasanlu IVb: The Iron II Cemetery

Hasanlu, ancient name unknown, is located in northwestern Iran just south of Lake Urmia in the valley of the Qadar River in the Zagros Mountains. This fortified citadel settlement rose to prominence in the Late Bronze Age (1450–1250 BC) and early Iron Age (1250–800 BC) as part of a vibrant highland culture of unknown ethno-­‐linguistic composition. Located astride a convergence of important overland routes, Iron II Hasanlu (Period IVb) achieved a remarkable level of prosperity and enjoyed close relations with Transcaucasia, northern Mesopotamia, and northern Iran. The central citadel, located atop an archaeological mound standing 20 meters above the surrounding plain, sheltered several multistory monumental columned-­‐hall temples and palaces as well as treasuries, arsenals, and stables. The surrounding low mound consisted of clustered residences, production facilities, and cemeteries that slowly gave way to a verdant agricultural landscape.  
Excavations conducted by the Hasanlu Project (1956–1977), directed by Robert H. Dyson, Jr., revealed the grim remains of an attack on the Iron II settlement around 800 BC in which hundreds of the settlement’s occupants perished (MNI 255) at the hands of an invading force that set fire to the timber superstructures of the buildings. The intensity of the blaze, and the rapid pace with which it spread, destroyed the citadel before the attackers could loot its riches and ultimately resulted in incredible preservation of the lower mud-­‐brick portions of the buildings and their contents. On the Low Mound, the Hasanlu Project excavated 100 Iron II burials containing the skeletal remains of men, women, and children placed in simple cist graves, stone-­‐covered cist graves, and stone-­‐built hypogea. The dead were interred with a rich assortment of grave goods, including ceramic and metal vessels, weapons, personal ornaments, tools, and food offerings, providing researchers with a remarkable dataset on the identities of the members of this community and their mortuary rituals and belief systems. In sum, Hasanlu provides two datasets allowing us to reconstruct the identities and lifestyles of its inhabitants — the 100 graves of the Iron II cemetery and the 255 victims of the citadel’s destruction deposit. The analytical potentials for comparison of these two datasets are virtually unparalleled in Near Eastern archeology; however, despite its importance, the cemetery remains largely unpublished.

The publication project is directed by Dr. Michael Danti.