Iran, 8000–2000 B.C.

  • Storage jar decorated with mountain goats
  • Kneeling bull holding a spouted vessel
  • Striding figure with ibex horns, a raptor skin draped around the shoulders, and upturned boots
  • Vase with overlapping pattern and three bands of palm trees
  • Monstrous male figure
  • Head of a ruler


8000 B.C.

6500 B.C.

Pre-Pottery Neolithic, ca. 8000–7500 B.C.
Pottery Neolithic, ca. 7500–5000 B.C.

6500 B.C.

5000 B.C.

Pottery Neolithic, ca. 7500–5000 B.C.
Chalcolithic, ca. 5000–3500 B.C.

5000 B.C.

3500 B.C.

Pottery Neolithic, ca. 7500–5000 B.C.
Chalcolithic, ca. 5000–3500 B.C.
Early Bronze Age, ca. 3500–2000 B.C.
Susa II, ca. 3500–3100 B.C.

3500 B.C.

2000 B.C.

Chalcolithic, ca. 5000–3500 B.C.
Early Bronze Age, ca. 3500–2000 B.C.
Proto-Elamite period, ca. 3100–2900 B.C.
Old Elamite period, ca. 2700–1500 B.C.
Susa II, ca. 3500–3100 B.C.
Susa III, ca. 3100–2700 B.C.
Susa IV, ca. 2700–2500 B.C.


A universally accepted chronology for the entire ancient Near East remains to be established. On the basis of the Royal Canon of Ptolemy, a second-century A.D. astronomer, regnal dates can be determined with certainty in Babylonia only as far back as 747 B.C. (the accession of King Nabonassar). Through the use of excavated royal annals and chronicles, together with lists of annually appointed limmu-officials, the chronology of Assyria can be confidently extended back to 911 B.C. (the accession of King Adad-nirari II). The earliest certain link with Egypt is 664 B.C., the date of the Assyrian sack of the Egyptian capital at Thebes. Although it is often possible to locate earlier events quite precisely relative to each other, neither surviving contemporary documents nor scientific dating methods such as carbon 14, dendrochronology, thermoluminescence, and archaeoastronomy are able to provide the required accuracy to fix these events absolutely in time. The West Asian portion of the Timeline therefore employs the common practice of using, without prejudice, the so-called Middle Chronology, where events are dated relative to the reign of King Hammurabi of Babylon, which is defined as being ca. 1792–1750 B.C.

Beginning in the eighth millennium B.C., agricultural communities form in western Iran. It is not clear if these represent an indigenous development or are the result of outside influences. By the end of the fifth millennium B.C., several settlements had grown considerably. The site of Susa is founded at this time with its political and artistic affiliation alternating between the nearby lowland cities of southern Mesopotamia and the highland civilizations of Iran. During the third millennium B.C., an Elamite kingdom emerges centered on the cities of Susa and Anshan, the latter in the Zagros Mountains.

Key Events

  • ca. 8000 B.C.

    The earliest domestication of sheep and goats occurs at Ali Kosh in southwestern Iran.

  • ca. 8th millennium B.C.

    The earliest known clay vessels and modeled human and animal terracotta figurines are produced at Ganj Dareh in western Iran.

  • ca. 6000–5000 B.C.

    Painted pottery and figurines from Hajji Firuz are similar to those found at sites in Mesopotamia, indicating contact between distant settlements.

  • ca. 4200 B.C.

    The site of Susa is founded on a broad fertile plain. Surrounded by numerous agricultural villages, Susa is centered on a large mud-brick platform and becomes the regional locus of what is now central Khuzestan. Finely handmade, painted vessels are buried in graves beside the platform. The variety and individuality of these specialized wares indicate the presence of many artisans.

  • ca. 3400–3100 B.C.

    Ceramics, cylinder seals, and sculpture at both Chogha Mish and Susa are virtually identical to those from southern Mesopotamia.

  • ca. 3100–2900 B.C.

    During the Proto-Elamite period, Susa, like neighboring Mesopotamia, uses hollow clay balls (bullae) to enclose counting tokens, and cylinder seals that are applied to a variety of jar sealings as well as bullae and clay tablets. The seals and small-scale sculpture are of the highest quality, often depicting wild animals or demonic figures in humanlike postures (2010.166). Clay tablets inscribed with the Proto-Elamite writing system are found at numerous sites across Iran. Although derived from Mesopotamian cuneiform, the script remains largely undeciphered.

  • ca. 2600–2250 B.C.

    Chlorite vessels of the “Intercultural Style” are characterized by decoration of the entire surface with abstract patterns, vegetal and architectural motifs, or naturalistic representations of animals or humans. Made in southern Iran and the greater Gulf region, these vessels are traded widely across the Near East from Syria to the Indus Valley.

  • ca. 2350–2000 B.C.

    Susa falls under the rule of the Mesopotamian kings of Akkad and, later, the Third Dynasty of Ur. Influenced by the art of Mesopotamia, Puzur-Inshushinak (r. ca. 2112–2095 B.C.) is the first king of Susa to leave large-scale statuary. A number of his monuments are inscribed with bilingual inscriptions: Akkadian written in cuneiform, and Elamite written in a poorly understood linear script. At the end of the period, the Elamites invade southern Mesopotamia, destroying the city of Ur.


“Iran, 8000–2000 B.C.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2000)