The DFG Priority Programme 2176: The Iranian Highlands

The Douzlākh salt mine is located in the north-eastern part of the western Iranian highlands. This region has a long and turbulent history from the Stone Age to the modern era, but one that still leaves us with many mysteries to solve.

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The research project around the Douzlākh salt mine is therefore now also part of a priority programme (SPP) of the German Research Foundation (DFG): "The Iranian Highlands: Resiliences and Integration of Pre-modern Societies." SPP 2176 consists of 12 individual research projects (and one coordination project) dealing with the cultures, geology and languages of the Iranian Highlands. Temporally, the projects range from early human development in the Palaeolithic to well into the Islamic period of the 13th and 14th centuries. The core focus of all projects is the topic of resilience: How did societies or cultures of the Iranian highlands establish resilient ways of life that could cope with crises?

Important questions of the priority programme also arise from the significant role the Iranian highlands have played at different times:

  • Societies of this region exchange with the surrounding cultural areas in Mesopotamia, Caucasia or Central Asia. 
  • Sometimes intense political and economic relations develop here.
  • Trade, immigration or political inclusion play an important role.

The cultures of the Iranian highlands knew how to integrate these relationships into their own networks, to transform them or to resist them. In doing so, they shaped the people and societies with whom they had contact and are equally shaped by them.

One of the research projects, for example, deals with the raw materials of the Iranian highlands under the title: "The Iranian highlands: mining landscapes of the central plateau between resilient and precarious social and economic strategies". Parts of this region are very arid and many people live from livestock and agriculture. However, one thing is abundant: mineral and metallic raw materials. These are, for example, salt, copper, lead, silver and zinc.

These raw materials, their extraction and their use had an important economic and also social significance. They were often so important that they were also decisive factors in the founding of great Persian empires. This becomes particularly clear in the Iron Age from the end of the 2nd millennium BCE and during the Archaemenid (c. 6th - 4th centuries BCE) and above all the Sassanid (c. 3rd century CE - 7th century CE) and early Islamic periods. In the surroundings of such important sources of raw materials, settlements and subsistence systems are formed, which significantly influence life in the Iranian highlands.

The research at Douzlākh and around the geographical and cultural region of the salt mine is part of the DFG priority programme, and we anticipate new and exciting findings around Douzlākh in the near future.

More information about the priority programme and the individual projects can be found at: www.iranianhighlands.com


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