News ID: 302859
Published: 0836 GMT May 08, 2021
German team to participate in new archeological excavations in Chehrabad Mine

More salt men may be discovered

More salt men may be discovered
The photo shows the first salt man which is kept in National Museum of Iran in Tehran.

Iranica Desk

The new season of archeological excavation in Chehrabad Mine, Zanjan Province, where salt men were discovered, will begin in October.

Abulfazl Aali, head of the Archeological Research Department of Zanjan Province’s Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization, told Iran Daily that this is the sixth season of excavation to be carried out in cooperation with the Archeological Department of the German University of Bochum and Bochum Mining Museum.

This season, which is expected to last for two months, he noted, was to have been conducted in the current spring, but the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country prevented the start of its operations.

“We hope that the vaccination program will go well across the country by October. This will not only pave the way for the German team to enter Iran but also help us follow our excavation programs with ease,” he said.

Aali added that the project to study salt men has been one of the best and most successful archeological plans implemented in Zanjan Province during the past decade.

Aali said archeological studies in Chehrabad Mine began in 2004.

“Zanjan Province’s Cultural Heritage Organization carried out two excavation seasons to save the mine, because at that time mining activities were being undertaken there, thus we tried to prevent wider destruction,” he said.

Aali observed that the first salt man was accidentally found in 1993 while extracting salt; however, mining continued until the second and third salt men were discovered.

“The two mummies were dismembered because they were bulldozed out of the mine while the salt was being mined,” he added. “After that, during an operation conducted in 2004-2005, we tried to preserve part of the mine. We not only dug out several ancient tunnels used for extracting salt, but also found the fourth and fifth mummies. These two mummies, especially the fourth one, are among our perfectly preserved ones. An agreement on bilateral cooperation in Chehrabad Mine was signed with German Mining Museum based in Bochum in 2011.”

“Following that, we launched cooperation with the University of Bochum,” he said. “The sixth salt man was discovered in the same year in collaboration with the German group.”

Referring to the results of the previous five excavation seasons, he said mining was stopped in the region during the excavations. Carrying out archeological studies and revising works done previously are among measures undertaken during excavations.

“The fourth season of excavation was conducted in the mine in 2018-2019. We also carried out archeological studies on one of the areas located around the mine in the past year,” Aali noted.

“During the 10 years of cooperation with the German group, new information was collected regarding the manner, techniques and tools of mining during the Achaemenid and Sassanid eras,” he observed. “Old mining tools as well as textiles, leather and wood belonging to miners were found in the mine and transferred to Zanjan Museum.”

He noted that DNA extraction was performed on the salt men and studies have been conducted on their skin and body tissues to determine their roots and geographical origin.

 “According to our studies,” said Aali, “the oldest mummies date back to the Achaemenid Period, that is, over 2,500 years ago, and the others belong to the Sassanid Period, that is, over 1,700 years ago.

 “In the new season of excavations to be carried out at the beginning of autumn, we will try to collect more information on the mine, because in previous excavations we discovered a tunnel dating back to the Seljuk era. We want to know more about this period as well as the Achaemenid and Sassanid eras.”

He said a number of tunnels used for extracting salt were discovered in the mine, which are interconnected. The tunnels collapsed several times during Achaemenid and Sassanid eras, and after the Qajar era, with each collapse a number of miners were killed.

“Since the salt naturally embalmed all workers buried in the mine, their bodies have remained intact. Since Chehrabad is a large mine, more salt men are predicted to be discovered,” he concluded.

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