Heavy weapons and instruments tend to disappear. Copper knives, daggers, cold chisels and arrowheads abound. Articles of adornment are made of cornelian and turquoise as before, but also of lapis-lazuli and there are long copper pins with hemi-spherical heads and necklaces of mother-of-pearl, rock-crystal and jade. Button-and later cylinder-seals appeared and their use spread quickly. They were made of rare local stones, sea shells, turquoise and lapis-lazuli brought from increasingly distant areas where these precious materials were bartered for agricultural produce.
During this period there is nothing to denote disturbances or radical changes caused by the appearance of foreign elements. But at the end of the fourth millennium, as the result of events as yet unknown, possibly an Elamite invasion, the Caspian lands began to feel influence of the civilization of their south-western neighbors. From the most remote periods and throughout the third millennium, Gilgamesh, the deified hero whose legend and epic have been so often quoted, was represented on cylinder-seals.
At the end of the fourth millennium clay tablets with signs representing sounds and words appeared at Susa, Tape Sialk and Tape Giyan. From that time onwards, as had happen earlier in Sumer, there were undoubtedly scribes in Iran whose main occupation was too keep the accounts of church property. These hieroglyphs, known as proto-Elamite, do not seem to have been followed up, whereas the Sumerian ones evolved naturally from pictography to the creation of a genuine syllabic language. This language made rapid progress during the third millennium: laws, prayers and invocations to the divinity were written down.
The need to express feelings accepted by these various peoples in common led to their diffusion throughout the high Caspian plateau. As for religion, it is still very difficult from the artistic point of view to specify the known data: belief in an after-life, fear of the mysterious beyond and consequently the worship of chthonic divinities, of which the serpent is one of the animal attributes.
It appears that, in Iran, side by side with the age-old devotion to the great fertility gods, the cult of a snake god as a symbol of fecundity was particularly active from the fourth to the first millennium BC. That it remained active is shown by button-seals, vases of grey carboniferous pottery, as well as important rock bas-reliefs of which traces can still be seen at Naqsh-e-Rostam and Kurangan, for example.
At the end of the third and during the second millennium bronze work was practiced with increasing skill. Fine weapons were produced and examples have been found in the various archaeological excavations of the Fertile Crescent and Mesopotamia. It would seem that each of these human groups tried to improve or copy the weapons of its neighbor. In contrast the pottery on archaeological sites where numerous bronze objects have been discovered seems to be less beautiful and delicate.
Carboniferous pottery made its appearance in the course of the third millennium and is still used by the inhabitants of northern Iran. However, a variant of the grey carboniferous pottery with unusual shapes is found at Turan Tape and Shah Tape (in the Astarabad – Gorgan region), which are the very places where terra-cotta figurines have been discovered showing a certain skill in representing human beings in the round.
These statuettes, the heads of which have a circular depression so that hair can be attached to them and which have deep sunken eyes meant to be filled with some white matter, are unknown on the plateau and are not found anywhere else in the world to the best of our knowledge, unless perhaps in the Aegean islands. We may suppose that they are the work of a people from the east who moved westwards along the Caspian Sea towards the middle of the second millennium without crossing the Alborz Mountain and ultimately ended their journey in Aegean islands.
In the time of Samsu-Iluna, the Kassites, who had overrun Iran, threatened the eastern frontier of Babylonian kingdom, but were conquered and thrown back into their mountains. Around 1530 BC they seized their opportunity, reappeared on the plain, and a little later, in 1500 BC, founded a Kassite Babylonian dynasty which lasted for several centuries. In 1168 BC they were, however, decisively repulsed as far as the Zagros Mountains by the king of Elam, Shurtruk Nahhunta. They then lost their political importance. But we must not lose sight of them: Assyrian texts mention the Kashshu who clashed with the authority of kings of Assur, and later Greek historian frequently allude to those ‘belligerent barbarian tribes renowned for their warlike valour’. Alexander had to fight them and we know that in 317 BC Antigonus, leaving Seleucus to besiege Susa, entered the land of Kosseans without having agreed to pay them the customary tribute and that his troops, ‘harassed by these savage mountaineers’, suffered a great deal.
In the middle of the second millennium, at the time of the conquest of Babylon, they had already become a thriving people of peasants, nomadic stock raisers and warriors who, according to Strabo, could ‘put at the disposal of the Elymaids on occasion as many as 13,000 archers to help them when fighting the Susians and Babylonians.’ They hadintermarried with Aryans who had penetrated on to the plateau in the course of remote and unrecorded migrations, but these Aryans had been so completely assimilated that one could not really say that they modified the fundamental unity of the aboriginal population in the slightest.
For the greater part of the year most of them inhabited the high plains of the ‘Dasht-e Khava’, the ‘Dasht-e Aleshtar’ and the ‘Mahi Dasht’, to the north of the Zagros Mountains, living as nomads and devoting themselves to horse breeding. It is from their tombs grouped near the springs by which they camped in these high plains of Lorestan that the numerous bronze, gold, silver and even iron objects which have been discovered since 1928 have come. These objects are both offensive and defensive weapons: daggers, swords, maces, shields, axes, the heads of arrows and lances; items of harness for horses: bits for everyday use, bits for breaking-in, ceremonial bits, bracelets, fibulae, buttons, mirrors, toilet accessories: vases of every kind: vases for funerary libations, cups, goblets and even, at a later period, situlae decorated with scenes borrowed from Assyrian mythology; cylinder seals, representations of the Great God, the Great Goddess and especially of the Mesopotamian hero Gilgamesh, as well as his companion Enkidu.
The ceiling is ten meters high and the height between the floor of the pit and the top of the dome is thirteen meters. Several windows provide good light and sufficient air. The trapezoidal pit is one meter deep and seven meters long. It is bordered by a wooden plank which can withstand the enormous weight of the accessories used in the practice of ancient sports. The steps overlooking the pit are shaped in a half circle for the spectators. The platform of the “morched” is square and placed near the passage providing access to the gymnasium hall.