Shahr-e Sukhteh is an archaeological site of a sizable Bronze Age urban settlement, associated with the Jiroft culture. It is located in Sistan and Baluchistan Province, the southeastern part of Iran, on the bank of the Helmand River, near the Zahedan-Zabol road. In July 2014 it was placed on the World Heritage List of UNESCO.
The reasons for the unexpected rise and fall of the Burnt City are still wrapped in mystery. Artifacts recovered from the city demonstrate a peculiar incongruity with nearby civilizations of the time and it has been speculated that Shahr-e-Sookhteh might ultimately provide concrete evidence of a civilization east of pre historic Persia that was independent of ancient Mesopotamia.
Shahr-e Sukhteh, meaning ‘Burnt City’, is located at the junction of Bronze Age trade routes crossing the Iranian plateau. The remains of the mudbrick city represent the emergence of the first complex societies in eastern Iran. Founded around 3200 BC, it was populated during four main periods up to 1800 BC, during which time there developed several distinct areas within the city: those where monuments were built, and separate quarters for housing, burial, and manufacture. Diversions in water courses and climate change led to the eventual abandonment of the city in the early second millennium. The structures, burial grounds and a large number of significant artifacts unearthed there, and their well-preserved state due to the dry desert climate, make this site a rich source of information regarding the emergence of complex societies and contacts between them in the third millennium BC.
Covering an area of 151 hectares, Shahr-e Sukhteh was one of the world’s largest cities at the dawn of the urban era. In the western part of the site is a vast graveyard, measuring 25 hk.s. It contains between 25,000 to 40,000 ancient graves.
The settlement appeared around 3200 BC. The city had four stages of civilization and was burnt down three times before being abandoned in 1800 BC.
The site was discovered and investigated by Aurel Stein in the early 1900s.
Beginning in 1967, the site was excavated by the Istituto Italiano per Africa e Oriente (IsIAO) team led by Maurizio Tosi. That work continued until 1978. After a gap, work at the site was resumed by the Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization team led by SMS Sajjadi. New discoveries are reported from time to time.