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Chehrabad Saltmummy & Saltmine Exploration Project

Mechanical exploration activities at the Chehrabad Saltmine, Province Zanjan, Iran (47o 51’ E, 36o 55’ N) offered sudden insight in prehistoric saltmining, when well preserved remains of five salt mummies, victims of a catastrophal mining accident, with clothes, tools and other equipment had been discovered in the years 1994, 2004 and 2005. Organized rescue excavation of the Zanjan Cultural Heritage centre (Miras farhangi Zanjan) took place 2004 and 2005. Several radiocarbon data allow to place the ancient mining activities to the 6th-4th century BCE in the achamenid period on one hand and on the other to 4th-6th century CE, the sassanian period.

Since 2008 it was possible to stop the destroying mining activities at this place of historico-cultural interest. The extraordinary preservation circumstances offer a variety of scientific approaches like histological analysis, isotope analysis or archaeobotanical research. Meanwhile an international research project has been established to solve the questions around mining activities, interregional relationships, socio-cultural questions and landscape archaeology.

The main aim of the project is to ascertain a proper chronology for the site as well as the comprising recording of mining techniques used at the site. These will help to e.g. glimpse at the socio-economical background of individuals involved in the mining activities. Another important aspect is the proper restoration and conservation of objects found during the previous excavations.

The Saltmine Exploration Project is a cooperation with the Iranian authorities, represented by the ICAR and the Ruhr University of Bochum, Institute for Archaeological Studies as the main project partner. The current fieldwork is financed by the DFG (German Research Foundation) with a two year program for excavation and scientific research: „Salzmumien und Salzbergwerk von Chehrabād, Zanjan, Iran: Eine interdisziplinäre Studie zur Sozial-, Wirtschafts- und Technikgeschichte der nordiranischen Salzgewinnung in antiker Zeit“. Additional activities of the different project partners are supported by Miras farhangi Zanjan and Mäxi-Stiftung, Zürich.
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