Archaeologists excavate a castle bringing to light ancient architecture in Ojan

TEHRAN — Archaeologists have uncovered an ancient government castle in ancient Ojan, which was once a prosperous city in northwestern Iran during Seljuk and Ilkhanid times.

“During this excavation season, a team of archaeologists dug four trenches in the ruined castle so that the experts could get inside the government monument,” CHTN said on Saturday, citing archaeologist Mohammadrahim Velayati.

“Contrary to our initial expectations, the interior space embraces a large hypostyle hall,” said the archaeologist who led the team.

“We previously assumed, regarding the specifications of the roof where these four trenches dug, that the interior had several rooms distributed between stone walls coated with plaster mortar.”

However, the new idea came to light when columns were found after the debris was removed, the archaeologist said.

At the end of June, the team began working to fill the gaps between written records and archaeological finds in the ancient city, located in the Bostanabad district of Azerbaijan’s eastern province.

“According to written sources, during the Seljuk and Ilkhanid periods, the entrance to the castle was on the eastern front, so one of the trenches was dug there with the help of students from the University of Tehran .”

This trench, at a depth of 30 cm, led to the discovery of a gate column… However, further excavations revealed evidence that an eastern entrance had been built in the Safavid style after a violent earthquake caused major destruction on the opposite side, Velayati said.

The first buildings in Ojan date back to the 5th and 6th centuries of the Hegira and coincided with the Seljuks. Later, the city was an administrative center of the Ilkhanids in the 7th and 8th centuries of the Hegira and knew its apogee until the end of the Safavid period.

Surviving architectural structures include square-shaped battlements, a government castle, watchtowers, walled walls, incised underglaze clays, underglaze paintings, and local unglaze clays from the 6th to 8th centuries.

The Ilkhanid dynasty, also called Il-Khanid, was a Mongol dynasty that ruled Iran from 1256 to 1335. Il-Khan is the Persian word for “subordinate khan”.

Hulegu, a grandson of Genghis Khan, received orders from supreme Mongol leader Mongke to conquer Iran. Hulegu set out around 1253 with a Mongol army of around 130,000 men. He founded the Il-Khanid dynasty in 1256 and conquered Baghdad and all of Iran in 1258, according to Britannica.

The Il-Khanids consolidated their position in Iran and unified the region as a political and territorial entity after several centuries of rule fragmented by small dynasties. During the reign of Il-Khanid Maumud Ghuzun (r. 1295-1304), the Il-Khanids lost contact with the remaining Mongol rulers in China. Mahmud Ghuzun himself embraced Sunni Islam, and his reign was a period of Iranian cultural revival in Iran, with scholars such as Rashid al-Din flourishing under his patronage.

Ghazan’s brother Oljeitu (r. 1304-16) converted to Shia Islam in 1310. Oljeitu’s conversion caused great unrest and when he died in 1316 civil war was imminent. His son and successor, Abu Sa’id (r. 1317-1335), converted to Sunni Islam and was thus able to prevent a war.

During Abu Sa’id’s rule, however, factional strife and internal unrest continued to spread. Abu Sa’id died leaving no heir, and with his death the unity of the dynasty was shattered. Subsequently, various Il-Khanid princes ruled parts of the dynasty’s former territory until 1353.

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