site located in southeastern Iran, about 220 km (136 mi.) directly south of the city of Kerman and 130 km (80 mi.) north of the Strait of Hormuz (28°20′ N, 56°52′ E). The mound of Tepe Yahya rises to a height of 19.8 meters and covers an area of approximately 3 hectares (7 acres) at its base. The site was discovered in 1967 by the joint archaeological expedition of the Peabody Museum, Harvard University, and the Archaeological Service of Iran, under the direction of C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky. Excavations at the site were undertaken in summer 1967–1971 and also in 1973 and 1975.
Tepe Yahya has a long, but not unbroken, sequence of occupation: archaeological excavations have identified ten major phases of occupation based on a series of radiocarbon dates and comparative stratigraphy. In addition to the excavations at Tepe Yahya a regional survey, with limited excavation, was undertaken by Martha Prickett within the Soghun Valley, in which Tepe Yahya is located, and the Shah Maran-Daulatabad basin to the west. The results of this survey offer the fullest understanding of the shifting settlement regime in this region of southeastern Iran.
At Tepe Yahya, of particular importance was the recovery of a series of Late Neolithic villages (periods VI–VII) datable to 3900–4900 BCE. Excavation uncovered a considerable number of domestic dwellings and successfully documented the subsistence pattern of the inhabitants and their material inventory. Archaeological survey indicated that sites in this period could reach a size of 10 hectares (25 acres), although most were 2–3 hectares (5–7 acres). A limited repertoire of metals was found associated with a stone tool and bowl industry and a distinctive ceramic inventory of coarse chaff-tempered wares. The wares were in later levels complemented by black-on-buff and black-on-red painted wares. The site was also occupied in the Chalcolithic period (3300–3900 BCE), period VA–C.
In the last century of the fourth millennium, Tepe Yahya was the site of a Proto-Elamite “colony.” Excavations uncovered a single building complex, in excess of 500 square meters, referred to as period IVC (3100–2800 BCE). From this building twenty-five inscribed Proto-Elamite tablets, numerous cylinder sealings, and beveled-rim bowls, and other ceramic types were recovered that can be readily paralleled at Susa and Tal-i Malyan. Following the abandonment of the Proto-Elamite colony, there is a gap in the sequence until the second half of the third millennium. With the reestablishment of settlement in period IVB (2400–1700 BCE), the community is distinguished by two features: the manufacture of chlorite bowls decorated in the distinctive Intercultural Style of geometric, architectural, and animal styles and the presence of a local style of cylinder seal. The materials recovered from this settlement, which include several phases of architecture, can be readily paralleled at Shahdad. The recovery of the period's material inventory has led a number of scholars to identitfy this region of southeastern Iran as comprising the kingdom of Marhaši, a kingdom frequently referred to in Ur III period texts in Mesopotamia.
Period IVB is followed by the settlement called IVA (1800–1500 BCE), whose ceramic assemblage and orientation of its architecture and other material differ fundamentally from that of the preceding period. Recent analysis of these materials suggest parallels to those recently recovered in Central Asia, namely in Margiana and Bactria.
Following the IVA occupation there is a chronological gap of at least half a millennium. The Iron Age at Tepe Yahya (period III) is established between 700 and 525 BCE and is distinguished by an architectural complex consisting of large houses sealed by two large mud-brick platforms without architecture constructed on their surface. Period II (475–275 BCE) consists of large houses containing a ceramic inventory with parallels to Achaemenean ceramic types. The final occupation at Yahya (period I, 200–300 CE) consists of very poorly preserved architecture, typical Parthian-Sasanian ceramics, and limited material remains.
- Damerow, Peter, and Robert K. Englund. The Proto-Elamite Texts from Tepe Yahya. Peabody Museum, Harvard University, American School of Prehistoric Research, Bulletin 39. Cambridge, Mass., 1989.
- Lamberg-Karlovsky, C. C. Excavations at Tepe Yahya, Iran, 1967–1969. Peabody Museum, Harvard University, American School of Prehistoric Research, Bulletin 27. Cambridge, Mass., 1970.
- Lamberg-Karlovsky, C. C. “Urban Interaction on the Iranian Plateau: Excavations at Tepe Yahya, 1967–1973.” Proceedings of the British Academy 59 (1973): 282–319.
- Lamberg-Karlovsky, C. C., and Maurizio Tosi. “Shahr-i Sokhta and Tepe Yahya: Tracks on the Earliest History of the Iranian Plateau.” East and West 23 (1973): 21–57.
- Lamberg-Karlovsky, C. C., and Thomas Wight Beale. Excavations at Tepe Yahya, Iran, 1967–1975: The Early Periods. Peabody Museum, Harvard University, American School of Prehistoric Research, Bulletin 38. Cambridge, Mass., 1986.
C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky