Landlord Villages in the Tehran Plain

KazemabadMany travellers in rural Iran have noted the mud-brick walled, self-enclosed Landlord villages in the landscape, and these structures have also been the focus of more systematic historical and ethnographic observation and study. Now largely abandoned, these villages offered the opportunity for exploring the use of space in relation to status, economic function, and individual and group identity, and in 2007 the first season of a new archaeological project aimed at exploring the spatial and social organisation within the villages was undertaken. This preliminary field season allowed us to test a combination of methodologies (based on detail village plans and ethnographic interviews) and determine whether they were appropriate for the collection and analysis of information. This project is the first archaeological project in Iran exploring the very recent past, and as such, falls into the classification of Historical Archaeology. In 2008 we carried out planning and interviews at further villages, and excavated within the landlord and farmers houses at Kazemabad, one of the villages planned in 2007. We had another successful season of excavation at Kazemabad in 2009, exploring the village hammam (baths) and other communal areas.

landlordIran’s ‘White Revolution’ of the 1960s and 70s had a huge impact on social and political organisation and relations, and one area where this impact is manifest in terms of material remains are Landlord Villages. The antiquity of these villages is generally agreed to be rooted in the early Islamic period, although their origins and their actual dates remain largely conjecture. What is clear from a range of records is that Landlord Villages were an accepted and extensive form of social and economic organisation for large segments of Iran’s rural population for the centuries leading up to the radical changes of the second half of the 20th century.

The aims of this project, therefore, are to record and analyse the material culture of Landlord Villages in order to further understand the social and economic relationships between landlord and farmers and between farmers; and in doing so to consider the creation and expression of identity within these villages; and to provide a model of spatial analysis linked to function which can potentially be applied to self-contained settlements at different points in history and prehistory.

This project is a collaborative venture between students and staff from the Universities of Leicester (UK) and the University of Tehran (Iran) and the Institute for Cultural and Archaeological Research (Iran). It is funded by the British Institute for Persian Studies.

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