Images: Ancient Evidence of Agriculture in Iran

Earliest agriculture

chogha golan in iran

(Image credit: TISARP/University of Tubingen)

In 2013, archaeologists from the University of Tubingen described an astonishing example of early agriculture unearthed in a site called Chogha Golan in Eastern Iran.

Eastern stretches

Zagros Mountains near the site of the Euphrates river

(Image credit: TISARP/University of Tubingen)

The site, which was about 12,000 years old, was nestled in the Zagros Mountains, much further east than prior discoveries of agriculture from the same time period.

Continuous occupation

archaeologist excavates chogha golan iniran

(Image credit: TISARP/University of Tubingen)

Isotope dating revealed that Chogha Golan was occupied between 12,000 and 9,800 years ago.

Layers of history

excavations in Iran

(Image credit: TISARP/Tubingen)

The mound, known as a tell, contains different layers of the ancient settlement.

Traveling back in time

Nicholas Conard excavates Chogha golan

(Image credit: TISARP/University of Tubingen)

Because early inhabitants of the region built houses out of mud on top of the rubble of earlier settlements, traveling down the tell can reveal a continuous story of occupation in the region. Here, archaeologist Nicholas Conard excavates Chogha Golan

Evidence of occupation

archaeologists at chogha golan, iran

(Image credit: TISARP, University of Tubingen)

The site was teeming with evidence of early human settlement.

Stone fragments

stone artifacts found in Chogha golan

(Image credit: TISARP/University of Tubingen)

Chipped stone fragments (possibly of tools) were found at the site.

Clay figurine

clay figurine found at chogha golan iran

(Image credit: TISARP/University of Tubingen)

The site also contained many simple clay figurines.

Ancient barley

a microscope image of wild barley

(Image credit: TISARP)

But astonishingly, the excavations also revealed thousands of examples of ancient grains, such as this wild barley grain.

Gradual development

microscope image of wild barley

(Image credit: TISARP/University of Tubingen)

The layers of the excavation site revealed several stages of agriculture development. First, humans simply gathered wild grains. Next, they cultivated wild grains and finally developed their own domesticated versions, such as emmer, an early form of wheat.

Grinding tools

grinding tools for early agriculture at chogha golan

(Image credit: TISARP/University of Tubingen)

The site also harbored a number of tools, including mortars and grinding tools, that could have been used to grind cereals..

Tia Ghose
Managing Editor

Tia is the managing editor and was previously a senior writer for Live Science. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, and other outlets. She holds a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington, a graduate certificate in science writing from UC Santa Cruz and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Tia was part of a team at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that published the Empty Cradles series on preterm births, which won multiple awards, including the 2012 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.