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Tepe Godin


Tepe Godin. Photo Jona Lendering.
View from the southeast
Godin Tepe: Iron Age settlement in western Iran, along the road from Ecbatana to Behistun and Mesopotamia.

In the first quarter of the first millennium, nomadic cattle-herders speaking an Indo-Iranian language infiltrated the Zagros and settled among the native population. They are mentioned for the first time in the Assyrian Annals as enemies of king Šalmaneser III (858-824). The inhabitants of the KURMa-da-a ("the land of the Medes") were divided into several smaller clans, and although the Assyrian kings were able to subdue some of them, they never conquered all of Media.

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Store rooms at Godin Tepe. Photo Jona Lendering.
Store rooms

One of the Median princes lived on a hill that is now called Godin Tepe, which dominated a fertile plain along the road from Ecbatana, the Median capital, to the west, to Behistun and beyond, to Babylonia and Assyria. The fortified manor consisted of at least three halls (reminiscent of the throne hall of Cyrus' Palace P in Pasargadae), several storage rooms, and a comparatively small throne hall with banks on four sides. There was also a kitchen with three ovens and a drain.

Map of Tepe Godin. Design Jona Lendering.
On the north face of the hill, the remains of a heavy wall with five bastions have been excavated. The cemetery was to the south of the ancient town. (Today, it is again in use.) The site is not unlike nearby Tepe Nush-e Jan or the Urartian fort «avustepe, which also date to the Iron Age.

The "deep sounding". Photo Jona Lendering.
The "deep sounding"

Although Tepe Godin offers a splendid view of the plain, the modern visitor will be slightly disappointed by the site itself. The reason is that archaeologist T. Cuyler Young Jr., who was in charge of the excavation of the site in 1965-1973, made a very deep sounding and destroyed part of the Median citadel. He discovered that the hill contained at least nine earlier strata, going back to the Copper Age.

Bronze Age jar from Godin Tepe. Museum of Hamadan (Iran). Photo Jona Lendering.
Bronze Age jar, Tepe Godin III (Museum of Hamadan)

One of these earlier towns, Godin Tepe IV, appears to have been destroyed by humans in c.2400 BCE. One skeleton was found under a collapsed wall; another one, with an arrow in his vertebrae, belonged to someone who died of starvation after he had become paralyzed.

Getting there

The site is about ten kilometers east of Kangavar; traveling from that town to Ecbatana, you must leave the main road after seven kilometers and turn to the right. After about five kilometers, the hill is to your left. A satellite photo can be found here.
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2010
Revision: 6 Feb. 2010
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