The period is dominated by conflicts between the Elamite state in southeastern Iran and neighboring Mesopotamia. Cultural connections are demonstrated by the use of Mesopotamian cuneiform to record the Elamite language, cylinder seals, and the building of ziggurats. One of the most important sites is Susa, a locus of cultural and commercial interchange between the mountain folk of the Zagros and the inhabitants of the Mesopotamian plain.
An Elamite dynasty from Shimashki, perhaps located in Luristan in the central Zagros Mountains, overthrows the Third Dynasty of Ur, replacing Mesopotamian domination of the lowlands with their own. At Susa, objects are made from a mixture of ground calcite, quartz, and bitumen. This compound is used for sculpture such as figurines and bas-relief plaques, and for many objects of everyday life, including jewelry and cylinder seals.
The powerful Sukkalmah (or grand regent) dynasty is well-documented by cuneiform inscriptions on cylinder seals, buildings, and royal texts. They rule the highlands of the Zagros Mountains and the lowlands of the Susiana plain, conducting successful agricultural exploitation in the latter region by means of irrigation technology.
A new capital and religious complex, including a ziggurat, is built by King Untash-Napirisha at Chogha Zanbil. The ziggurat’s facade is covered with glazed blue and green terracotta, and its interior is decorated with glass and ivory mosaics. A finely carved stone stele of Untash-Napirisha adapts Mesopotamian religious imagery to depict Elamite mythology, while an extraordinary lifesize statue made of copper cast over a bronze core represents the king’s wife Napir-Asu.
The cemetery of Marlik, in northern Iran near the Caspian Sea, yields rich tombs with precious metal vessels, glass objects, and distinctive ceramics in the shape of humped bulls. At Susa, molded bricks—some depicting bull-men and palm trees—are used as a form of architectural decoration.
The Shutrukid dynasty renews major building activity at Susa, and military forays capture important Mesopotamian monuments, including the stele of Akkadian king Naram-Sin and the law code of Hammurabi, as war booty. The Kassite rulers of Babylonia, who may have originated on the Iranian plateau, are defeated by the Elamites around 1157 B.C.
Nebuchadnezzar I of Babylon invades Elam, plundering the countryside and destroying Susa.
“Iran, 2000–1000 B.C.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/?period=03®ion=wai (October 2000)