Understanding Past Societies: Ethnoarchaeology in the Makran Sefidkuh Region

In order to truly understand the past, it is necessary to determine the social nature of early societies. A prime field of study that aids in this analysis is ethnoarchaeology. Ethnoarchaeology examines experiences, artifacts, and any existing structures in present, living societies to draw inferences about the past. This study also requires the archeologist to ask questions that go beyond what is apparent in archaeological records (Renfrew and Bahn 2018, 143-148). 

As archaeologists are always looking to learn more about the past, there are constantly new discoveries being made around the world. Over the past few years, the Makran Sefidkuh mountains of the Baluchistan region of Iran have been analyzed using ethnoarchaeology. In 2016, Hossein Vahedi began conducting an archeological survey on the region as part of his thesis at Shahrekord University. Later, he continued his work and began an ethnoarchaeological project through the Public Relations Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism. The goal of the ethnoarchaeological project was to survey the living communities in the ​​Makran Sefidkuh region and to identify settlement continuity patterns. Having a combination of desert and mountain climates, along with the Paleolithic, Chalcolithic, and Islamic cultures present, the Sefidkuh area was especially interesting to the archaeologist (Vahedi 2020).

Figure 1. Map created to show the region being surveyed (Vahedi 2020).

Within the mountain region, 12 current settlements were identified. Some of the present buildings are circular, and some are ovular. They were constructed out of various materials, primarily mud and stone. A survey of the region revealed items such as pottery fragments, circular gravestones, and Islamic glass bracelets and cemeteries. The circular gravestones resemble that of those discovered in Oman and Pakistan. Due to the proximity of Sefidkuh to these countries, it is speculated that it was a major area of trade between the Baluchistan and Sistan communities and the Persian Gulf’s smaller, southern communities. Supporting this theory is that the pottery found was one of the Baluchistan’s special index potteries, Londo. Londo pottery has been found in Fras, Pakistan, and other sites, for it is one of the most substantial pottery groups in the Makran region and neighboring areas (Heritage Daily 2020). Additionally, it is believed because of the seemingly permanent settlements, yet strategic significance of the location for trade, that Sefidkuh has been home to many groups of semi-sedentary nomadic people (Heritage Daily 2020). This would imply that the inhabitants of the region were mostly mobile, but also lived in these permanent settlements for at least some of the year. 

Figure 2. One of the circular houses in the region (Vahedi 2020).

Although the specifics of the past communities in Sefidkuh are yet to be identified, it is the study of ethnoarchaeology that allows for the societal mysteries of the past to be uncovered using what is available today. Without this methodology, our understanding of the present day Baluchistan region would just be basic knowledge of archeological finds, there wouldn’t be as much interpretation of its predecessors. 



Heritage Daily. “Archaeological Survey and Ethnoarchaeological Studies in Sefidkuh of Makran, Iran.” HeritageDaily, May 13, 2020. https://www.heritagedaily.com/2020/05/archaeological-survey-and-ethnoarchaeological-studies-in-sefidkuh-of-makran-iran/129091. 

Renfrew, Colin, and Paul Bahn. 2018. Archaeology Essentials: Theories, Methods, and Practice. Fourth edition. Thames & Hudson.

Vahedi, Hossein. “Ane Today – 202008 – the First Archaeological and Ethnoarchaeological Survey Project in the Sefidkuh Makran Mountains of Baluchistan.” American Society of Overseas Research (ASOR), August 21, 2020. https://www.asor.org/anetoday/2020/08/survey-baluchistan. 

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