The Achaemenid Empire (550-330 BCE) was one of the largest, in terms of territory, in the ancient world, stretching from the River Syr Darya (in Central Asia) to Egypt. Although numerous excavations have been conducted in most of the places comprising the empire, Iranian Khorasan, located northeast of the country south of the Amu Darya River, remains largely unexplored.

One of the few excavations undertaken, started in 2009, extended over four seasons until the present day, discovering an almost circular adobe building with six towers near the village of Takhchar-Abad, south of Khorasan.

The site, called Tappe Takhchar-Abad, is about 18 kilometers northeast of Birjand and on the edge of an arid plain where no contemporary or related sites have been identified.

It sits on a semiconical hill, with a base diameter of 42 meters and a height of 4 meters, around which is a trench about 11 meters wide, with a canal to the northeast that supplied it with water.

At the end of the four seasons of excavations, the remains of an almost circular adobe building 18 meters in diameter with six solid towers and walls up to 3 meters high were uncovered. This building was completely covered and intentionally filled with sand.

Tests revealed that it had been deliberately filled to a height of almost 2 meters with alternating layers of broken or intact brick, sand, and stones. After the building was filled, some structures were built on top, during the Parthian period.

Traditionally, these types of circular sites are attributed to the Parthian period. However, recent evidence suggests that the construction of these buildings began in Greater Khorasan during the Achaemenid period, initially in Bactria, east of Greater Khorasan, where about 10 sites of this type have been identified and excavated.

Takhchar Abad is similar to Garry Kyariz I, located 67 km northwest of Ashgabat, in Turkmenistan. It is a circular building with eight semi-oval towers, which was occupied from the Iron Age to the Achaemenid period.

For the Takhchar Abad site, the dating of the ceramic remains found demonstrates that the building was constructed in the 6th century BCE and was abandoned between the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE.

The conclusion of the archaeologists is that Takhchar Abad was built in the late Iron Age and was abandoned around 500-400 BCE. It was then reoccupied during the Parthian period (2nd and 3rd centuries CE), and finally filled in and covered during the 3rd-4th centuries CE.


Dana M, Rafei SR, Mahmoudinasab A, Mashkour M. Cultural coherence of architecture in Greater Khorasan from Bactria to South Khorasan in Iran during the Late Iron Age/Achaemenid period. Antiquity. doi:10.15184/aqy.2024.42

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