Kul Tapeh: an early Bronze Age site in north-western Iran

Akbar Abedi, Behrooz Omrani & Nasir Eskandari

Figure 1
Figure 1. Map showing the location of Kul Tapeh in north-western Iran
(after Smith 2005: 232).
Click to enlarge.

Kul Tapeh (E 45° 39' 43"- N 38° 50' 19", 967m asl), located near the city of Hadishahr (Alamdar - Gargar) (Figure 1), is a tell about 4ha in extent and currently rises 15m above the surrounding land (Figure 2). The site was recorded by an expedition to East Azerbaijan province in 1968 under the supervision of Kambakhshfard, and was later noted by Omrani (1994). New surface survey by the authors has retrieved pottery sherds from the Late Chalcolithic, Bronze Age and Urartian periods, with fragments of bone as well as lithics made of chert and obsidian (Figure 3).


The Late Chalcolithic pottery includes coil-built red plain and red painted ware. The exterior of the red painted ware is decorated with black on red paint in geometric patterns. Paint is generally confined to the upper portions of the vessel, and frequently consists of diagonal lines (Omrani 1994). It should be noted that the Late Chalcolithic sherds are very rare.

Early and Middle Bronze Age pottery can be divided into three general types: burnished black and grey ware, red ware, and grey ware with brown slip, both interior and exterior (Figure 4). The appearance of Nakhichevan-type lugs, indicates cultural relations with sites in the Trans-Caucasus and Anatolia on the one hand and east of Lake Urmia on the other (Alizadeh & Azarnoush 2003). Most of the abundant Early Bronze Age sherds from Kul Tapeh belong to the Kura-Araxes culture (below).

Figure 2
Figure 2. North view of the site.
Click to enlarge.
Figure 3
Figure 3. Lithic material from Kul Tapeh.
Click to enlarge.

Figure 4
Figure 4. Kura-Araxes pottery with diagnostic Nakhichevan lugs.
Click to enlarge.
Figure 5
Figure 5. Urmia wares of the site.
Click to enlarge.

Figure 6
Figure 6. Pottery of Urartian period.
Click to enlarge.

Later Bronze Age ceramics consist of Urmia ware including painted monochrome and polychrome pottery (Figure 5). In the first half of the second millennium B.C. 'Urmia Ware' extended over the Urmia basin (Edwards 1981), and has been found in Haftavan VIB (Edwards 1981) Geoy Tapeh C/D (Brown 1951), Tapeh Dinkhah IV (Hamlin 1974), Yanik Tapeh (Burney 1961), Kurdlar Tapeh, Bastam, Tapeh Baruj (Alizadeh 1382/2003) and Gol Tapeh (Talai 1984). Despite the general similarity between Urmia Wares, regional names are used in different regions, for example in east Georgia known as Trialeti-Vanadzor culture (Smith 2009), in Azarbaijan republic Uzarlik culture (Kushnareva 1986), and in Armenia Karmirberd-Sevan culture. It is worth noting that after the Late Bronze Age, the site was abandoned for about one thousand years before being reoccupied in the Urartian period (Figure 6).


This preliminary study of surface materials shows that Kul Tapeh dates back to the later Chalcolithic (second half of the fourth millennium BC) and into the late Bronze Age. The early site belongs to the Early Trans-Caucasia or Kura-Araxes culture, which spread through the Caucasus and the Urmia Basin. Its origin is unknown, but it has been noted in the valleys and foothills of three Caucasus republics (Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia), as well as eastern Anatolia and the Levant.


The authors gratefully acknowledge Prof. A. Sagona, Dr. A. Smith, Dr. M. Rothman and K. Alizadeh for their help. We would also like to thank H. Darabi for reviewing the article.


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* Author for correspondence.

  • Akbar Abedi*
    Department of Archaeology, University of Tarbiat Modares, Jalal Al-e Ahmad St, Pol-e Gisha, Tehran, Iran (Email: akbarabedi.um@gmail.com).
  • Behrooz Omrani
    Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, Tabriz, East Azerbaijan, Iran (Email: omrani.behrooz@gmail.com).
  • Nasir Eskandari
    Department of Archaeology, University of Tehran, Enghelab St, Tehran, Iran (Email: nasireskandari@gmail.com).