Home / news and events / Maritime Archaeology in Persian Gulf

Maritime Archaeology in Persian Gulf

Nascent stage of Maritime Archaeology in Northern Borders of famous Maritime Crossroads: Persian Gulf

stone anchor recovery from Siraf port- Persian gulf- Iran: by Hossient tofighian
Hossein Tofighian investigating a torpedo-shaped amphora in seabed or In situ torpedo-shaped amphora: by Hossient tofighian © AMLM
torpedo-shaped amphora recovery form Bandar Rig-Persian gulf- Iran: by Hossient tofighian © AMLM
torpedo-shaped amphora, Persian gulf- Iran: by Hossient tofighian. © AMLM
Hossient tofighian whit a torpedo-shaped amphora believed to be from a Sassanid era shipwreck in the shallow waters of the Bushehr Peninsula- iran: : by Hossient tofighian. © AMLM

Iran is among the countries that have long coastal lines. From north it has the Caspian Sea and from the south it reaches to the Persian Gulf. Persian Gulf acts as a bridge between East and West which is the confluence of cultures and great civilizations. Persian Gulf in the ancient world and even today is one of the busiest trade and military routes.

Hence, I (Ramin Adibi) decided to go to Dr. Hossein Tofighian, the Director of Maritime Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology Research in the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization of Iran, and, in addition to learn about the history of maritime archaeology in the northern part of the Persian Gulf, I also wanted to ask about his ideas about the recent surveys conducted by this group on the southern coast of the city of Bushehr.

Ramin Adibi: Please briefly describe the history of maritime archeology studies at the Institute of Archaeology?

Hossein Tofighian: the need to decode the unknown history in the 90’s led a small group of archaeologists to explore the northern Persian Gulf; in 1993, the first steps were taken by making the archaeology group at the Institute of Archaeology and the selected archaeologists learned diving on Kish Island. Simultaneous to the training, their diving equipment was purchased via non-governmental and governmental organizations’ funds. But, first coherent and planned activities of the Group in the year 2000 and underwater surveys around the shores of Port Sarif were formed in Bushehr Province. Before the commencement of field activities, a series of preliminary studies were conducted by Mr. Rastipoor, including the scrutiny of the potentials of the southern coast for maritime archaeology and a map was thus provided for this purpose. The first coherent and planned activities of the Group were however conducted in the year 2000 and were commenced by underwater surveys around the shores of Siraf Port in Bushehr Province.

Ramin Adibi: Speaking of “Siraf”, I know 70 years ago, Sir. Aurel Stein, the British-Hungarian archaeologist conducted archaeological research in this area and then David Whitehouse together with Gholamreza Masoumi did several seasons of excavation in this area. Also, in recent years, Mohamad Esmaeil Esmaeili Jelodar has conducted certain researches about Siraf, but what are the achievements of the maritime archeology research group of the Institute in this field?

Hossein Tofighian: In the same year (2000), Sarif port was excavated to the depth of 30 meters underwater with the aim of finding signs of the collapsed remains of the ancient port and at shallow depths there were evident dispersion of clay with red pulp everywhere. In 2006, moreover, the cargo of an ancient ship was discovered on the shores of Siraf containing a large number of torpedo-shaped Amphoras. In 2009, I conducted certain maritime archaeological surveys on the discovered cargo. In 2012, an Iranian-American joint staff jointly conducted maritime archaeology studies on the shores of Siraf, where I was the Iranian head of the delegation and Ms. Sorna Khakzad was the supervisor of the American group. Moreover, the findings of my researches were published, such as: The Architecture of the Siraf coastal ancient port: relying on archaeological studies and research in the Journal of Archaeological Studies of Tehran University and the study of Siraf Historic Port at the Archaeology Conference at the University of Birjand.

Ramin Adibi: Between the years 2002-2003, the Maritime Archaeology Group of the Research Institute had amazing discoveries about the Rig Port; please briefly explain it;

Hossein Tofighian: Following the reports by local fishermen to the Cultural Heritage Organization of Busher Province on discovering clay fragments from the seabed, the Maritime Archaeology Group of the Institute of Archaeology in order to study and identify the cultural relics conducted scientific diving in the Persian Gulf during two seasons, one in the winter of 2002 and another in 2004 with professional divers participation of the private sector. In this underwater search operation, there was surveyed an area of one square kilometer on the seabed by archaeological divers. In maritime archaeological studies of Bandar (Rig) Ganaveh in the Persian Gulf, there were identified certain cultural materials including torpedo-shaped jars, small and large water storage jars, weapons like helmets, armors and dispersion of clay fragments. There were also detected in the seabed a few more pieces of the torpedo-shaped pottery jars and a basic rock anchor. Objects were detected at different distances away from each other and there was no coherence between them. The most important centers for torpedo-shaped potteries that are comparable with the Rig Port are as follows: the Mehrooyan Port, Hezarmardan Port, Shaghab Cemetery, Reyshahr, Southern Coast of the Bushehr Peninsula, Siraf Port, Nayband Historical Port, the Archaeological Site of Susa, Mianab Plain of Shushtar and the southern coasts of the Persian Gulf, East of Africa, India, Ceylon, and Mesopotamia. I also recently published a book entitled “Persian Gulf Ports in the Sassanid and Early Islamic History Relying on Archaeological Studies and Maritime Archeology“, wherein I fully discussed these findings.

Ramin Adibi: Probably the discovered objects and works from the shores of the northern Persian Gulf are comparable with the potteries recently discovered from Godavaya in Sri Lanka. You spoke of the southern coasts of the Bushehr Peninsula, as if you have done studies in this area recently, please explain this:

Hossein Tofighian: Discovering clay fragments in the waters of Bushehr on the coast of this city by the Research Department of University of Medical Sciences of Bushehr and, too, the pieces that were stuck into the net of local fishermen led the Institute of Archaeology in 2014 conduct an initial review of the region’s Maritime Archaeology. Accordingly, maritime archaeological excavations began from early August of this year (2016) in the waters of the coastal city of Bushehr and lasted for a month and Bushehr University of Medical Sciences together with the Institute of Archaeology conducted maritime excavations in the waters of Bushehr. In this season of discovery, four underwater divers carried out archaeological excavations which led to the discovery of a number of torpedo-shaped vats. In the beginning, through the buoy investment, the spots around the historical area, where we intended to carry out explorations, were identified. The historical site belongs to the merchant ship sunk in the Sassanid era, which, due to its closeness to the beach, seems to be left nothing of the ship and only its cargo may have remained healthy. Beside torpedo-shaped vats, other types of vats were identified in the area of Maritime Archaeology, that about 20 of these vats were removed from underwater in the archaeological surveys. Moreover, two torpedo-shaped vats were taken out so as to carry out scientific studies on them whereas these objects should be kept in the Province based on the laws of the country and studies should be conducted at the Organization of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism of the city of Bushehr. Finally, the more accurate results of these maritime archaeological excavations will be provided in the form of scientific articles and a comprehensive report. Given the importance of this historical site, it has been prepared as a case for the National Registration.

Ramin Adibi: And the last question is that how do you expect the future of maritime archaeology in Iran?

Hossein Tofighian: Concerning the adoption of the Department of Maritime Archaeology in the new charts of the Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, from now on we will be able to equip the group with advanced equipment and we can take a number of graduates in archaeological studies that have diving training. The future plans of the Group of Maritime Archaeology are the survey of the coast of Persian Gulf in historic ports such as Mahrooyan, Siniz, Ganaveh, Reyshahr and Hazarmrdan, Jalali, Nemirom or Bataneh, and Nayband. We also have certain programs for the conservation and restoration of historic ships off the coast of the Caspian Sea. Of the most important programs of the Group is the training of the members in one of the experienced countries, like Turkey, in the field of maritime archeology, where the initial negotiations have been conducted in this regard.
Special thanks to Dr. Tofighian for this interview

Press release and images provided by Ramin Adibi
© AMLM: Director of Archaeology of Maritime Landscape Magazine
For further information please contact:


Work Cited:

Adibi, R., 2016 . Nascent stage of Maritime Archaeology in Northern Borders of famous Maritime Crossroads: Persian Gulf. [Online] Available at: http://farhang-darya.com/2016/10/15/104/ [Accessed .. October ….].

Persian version (نسخه فارسی خبر)


About admin

Check Also


Interim short report: Investigating the Archaeology of Maritime Landscapes of Gilan Province

According to,news agency of Iran’s Research Institute for Cultural Heritage and Tourism (RICHT) and based …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

+ 15 = 21