THE MYSTERY OF TEPE MIL
By: Akbar Montajebi
Abstract: The history of Tepe/Tappeh Mil coincides with Mythological Rey city which is a remnant of Assyrian rule. This mound or hill (Tappeh) along with the historical Dashte Varamin Tappeh is the fruit of human exertion whose application has not yet been clearly specified. The Tappeh which was devastated by Mongol invasion and earthquake has been excavated twice and the negligence of the excavators has inflicted much damage to the monument. Excavation of the relics in Tappeh Mil in 1998 is one of the programs of Archeological Research College.
Tappeh Mil is the name of a district near Varamin. When you travel several kilometers from the road leading Shahre Rey to Varamin (Varamin Road), you come across a side road which ends with Tappeh Mil. Tappeh Mil itself is visible from the Varamin Road.
In other words it is so large that can be
easily seen from distance. The Tappeh falls within the middle of vegetable
and other farms and the residents the region `Mil' region. The reason for
this appellation seems due to the two big columns erected over the mound.
The mound covered by a lofty stone brick dome displays some repair work by
the Cultural Heritage Organization. Below and beyond the two big pillars
and its brick dome a series of excavations have been carried out.
Manifestation of ancient times
Tappeh Mil seems to have survived from ancient and mythological Rey city - a city in whose dilapidated and poor houses Sadeq Hedayat wove his Blind Bat (Bufe Kur) about an old peddler and an imaginary wife. But the fact is that the monument is a manifestation of 6 thousand years old human settlement and relics from such ancient times that has been dug out of its heart and delivered to museums. After discovery of each earthenware and pitcher and other items we may perhaps unveil the mystery of this ancient habitation. Ancient Rey has survived only in mythology and is ascribed to the Pishdadian Dynasty whereas in the Old Testament and several Assyrian tablets now and then we come across this name.
Tappeh Mil has been excavated several times -
once by a western archaeologists who arrived into Iran and discovered it.
But it is not known when he discovered it. He even failed to record his
works and his recollections did not help other scientists. Thus Tappeh Mil
remained virgin for another explorer to step in and make discovery. At the
second stage a talented Iranian archaeologist visited the Tappeh and made
a series of excavations, but he also left the work unfinished as if evil
spirits sleeping in the ghastly structure prevented and scared the
When you look down from the upper elevations
of the Tappeh, you can see the workers earnestly working under the
scotching sun. But they do not mind the warm and persistent sun. Discovery
of even a broken pitcher or earthenware gives such an joy to the worker
that he cannot find elsewhere. A question continually lurks in the minds
of all works: "What was the application of this lofty mound? Whey did
people in those remote times build this dome and the big gallery behind
the dome on the mound? Was it a Sassanian fire temple?
"Yes it is. Of course I was too firm in my
assertion, but the possibility exists. One cannot give a definite answer
to the above question, but in the meantime we do not reject such a theory.
As long as the exact application of the monument is not proven, we cannot
accept any possibility which nears truth. Because the existence of ash in
the monument is an indication of fire temple," says Ms. Zarintaj Sheibani,
the manager of the excavation team, in order to satisfy a simple
The upper floor is paved with stone and yellow tableaux here and there warn you that photography is forbidden. But our photographer shoots his pictures for the magazine as if he has never read the warning. Even cinema cameramen have taken pictures of every corner and nook in this edifice.
The shadow of the dome and the side walls
spreads all over the northern side of the building, the gallery which has
no door, the window and the ceiling. Six column stumps can be seen in this
spot without any decoration which indicate that the high columns once
supported the ceiling of the gallery.
Earlier excavations have left many evil impact
on the mound and revealed very little information. But no evidence has
been spotted here that can point to the history of the monument. We
possess very scanty information which points to nowhere. But now Ms.
Sheibani and her college are glad that they have dug out such relics of
human life in this isolated and damned edifice.
Rey has always been interesting
"From the beginning of archeological
excavations by the west in Iran Rey has always interested experts so that
at the beginning of the twentieth century when a French delegation led by
De Morgan traveled to Iran to conclude archeological contracts, Pezar one
of the scientists was dispatched to Rey and he chose Tappeh Mill for his
excavations. He estimated Tappeh Mil to contain an area of 9 kilometers
and he started earth digging in 1909, but due to incorrect method of
excavation, little information was discovered. Pezar left the site without
building fences or walls to protect the historical site and such
negligence caused the end part of the gallery to collapse. As a result the
gallery lost its real shape and with such oversight a great part of
information related to Tappeh Mil was lost for ever," Sheibani complains.
She such incidents are not unprecedented and
at several occasions scientists have damaged our historical sites and
monuments such as Susa and Choghazanbil ziggurat.
"These archaeologists are after information
and do not mind the destruction of monuments. They are not at all
concerned what will happen to the historical site after excavation.
Whereas these are in fact our historical and cultural heritage which must
be protected and guarded under any circumstances," Sheibani bitterly
Asked about the second excavations, Sheibani
said: "In 1952 engineer Hakemi was assigned to make necessary excavation
at the main body of Tappeh Mil by the Iranian Archeological Organization (IAO).
His operation in the site led to the repair of the chamber but his
findings were not recorded. He also left the work half-finished for
unknown reasons and Tappeh Mil which had been badly damaged by this later
excavation as well was wholly forgotten without tracing information about
field excavations, or clearing doubt about the use of the existing
buildings and its relation with the ancient Rey city. Thus Tappeh Mil
remained neglected until last year IAO set plans for its excavation."
I descend from the elevation and meet two
people who are repairing part of the building and reach the opening of a
long corridor full of tiny mosquitos. This is a narrow corridor which
passes the lower story of the monument and reaches the back of the mound.
I enter the corridor, followed by several others, and exit from the other.
Here I face a vast plain and see farmers harvesting at a distance.
"This corridor or vestibule used to lead to
the other parts of the monument but regretfully as a result of negligence
and lapse of time the side corridors have been destroyed. Most probably
the residents of Tappeh Mil used the corridor as a venue to serve the
upper story of the building because stairs existed at the back of the
structure which has been destroyed."
- "What excavations have you done and what
have you discovered? Have you damaged the building like the two former
explorers or have ended with happy results?", I question Sheibani.
- " In this phase of operation we are
excavating only the lower parts under the dome. In this part there is a
central yard with columns adorned by plaster which have collapsed as well
as thick small walls with unbaked bricks which have divided the area into
various compartments. So far we have not discovered the application of
these various compartments and spaces but experts hope to discover the key
to all these secrets in a future excavation," Sheibani answers.
- "Can we disclose all riddles?"
_ "I hope so. There is a small barrel-shaped
oven at the back of the wall northwest of the yard and tubs used to store
foodstuff and vessels which contained dairy products. All these indicate
that there was continued life in this Tappeh. Meanwhile a thick layer of
ash between the debris in the pits and broken earthenware vessels in the
same area in the yard leads us to doubt whether the monument was
- "What debris?"
- "A big earthquake shook the region in the past which destroyed this monument also. Shaking violently the giant columns at the upper story of Tappeh Mil, they crashed with such a force that they sunk deep into the earth. A large part of the building was destroyed during this earthquake. Our excavations prove that at other periods such as during the Mongol invasion or perhaps in future earthquakes this building was destroyed again. Maybe the destruction was intentional because we have seen traces of ax on several column foots."
- "You said life was going in this place. Have
you seen human bones or skulls?"
- "No, We have discovered neither bone nor
skulls, perhaps because there is a graveyard in this vicinity. In ancient
times the people did not bury their dead in their house or residential
quarter. They laid their dead to rest at an other district. Even if you
mean casualties from earthquake, we have not yet found anything. But a
sort of cave life and seasonal farming life existed in this area in the
remote past. Evidence which we have discovered so far have proven this
fact because the small walls in this region were used as foundations to
pitch tents. So far we have identified architectural and cultural relics
from the beginning of Islam and Seljuk periods, but due to security
reasons we have not yet explored the medieval periods and have not
discovered the reason for void of record about the date of construction of
the dome and the upper floor and Seljuk architecture. Meanwhile one must
note that this is not a natural mound but an artificial mound constructed
by the residents of this region. If you see the walls are sunk it is
because of its artificial nature."
Like other mounds in the Rey region such as
the Varamin historical mounds and farther and near mounds these are all
human construction. Of course by studying and comparing the topographic
maps one can decide the exact scope of Tappeh Mil. Meanwhile should we dig
in the surrounding farms and expand the limit of the Tappeh Mil
excavation, we may find more information.
Asked when they will end their exploration, Sheibani said her first phase of excavation would end in a few days and the team will depart after erecting a protecting wall around the Tappeh until the second phase of excavation starts business.
"Perhaps at that time we can discover more careful information which can lead us to the mystery of this mythological metropolis," Sheibani added.