Excavating in Iran and Central Asia: Cooperation or Competition?

in “Masters” and “Natives”

Abstract

In the study of the human past, the Iranian plateau and Central Asia have the privilege to host some of the most significant historical, archaeological, and cultural developments on the planet. From around the second millennium BCE, the Iranian plateau participated in the realization of a series of ever larger and powerful political units, culminating in the Achaemenid dynasty of the first millennium BCE, and the numerous chiefdoms and political-state formations, many of which nomadic in character, in Central Asia. The activities of archaeological research in Iran and Central Asia, therefore, provide a framework for placing some of the most significant events of the past. In today’s ongoing European cultural and economic expansion, with Iran as a future near neighbour and Central Asia as a kind of suburban farther, but at the western border with China, the need for a more in-depth understanding and appreciation of their past and, therefore, of the present, can hardly be procrastinated over. These geographical areas have been essential in the history of mankind, regardless of their historical, linguistic, and ethnic backgrounds, or their political/national outcomes in modern and contemporary times. The archaeological activities within those areas have been, for at least a century, essential to understanding the related Western and native consciousness of their historical past.

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