The Helmand Sistan Project

Stone Objects

Some stone objects found were plainly utilitarian, others more decorative. Most were made of local stone, steatite from the hills to the south, basalt from volcanic pillows like Kuh-i Khwaja, and travertine from the mountains at the foot of Koh-i Malik Siah on the Pakistani border. Other objects came from further away, many in the Baluch mountains to the south. The abandonment of the Sar-o-Tar region after the 15th century meant that many everyday objects were left in the ruins of those houses including large storage vessels, millstones, tables, mortars, pestles, and a well-made steatite lamp from Qala 214.5. Limestone, basalt, and sometimes fired ceramic pulleys were found at many of our Plain of Jars sites. Common at some of the Partho-Sasanian sites were stone cubes, many of granite, that we assume were used as weights, though there is little consistency in their size or weight. Several whetstones were collected by the project along with flat river stones thinned at their sides, which may have been loom weights. Among the more exotic objects were the miniature stone columns and weights with handles known from other sites in Iran and Central Asia as coming from the early 2nd millennium, mostly found at Godar-i Shah. Two finely-carved stone discs found at our Early Iron Age sites have few known parallels and one, of purple quartzite, came from a distance away. While most of the Greek-style decorative elements found in Sistan were made of fired ceramic, a few were made of marble.

A large steatite ledge-handled storage vessel found at Houses 338. Pieces of numerous similar vessels were found at sites containing Timurid remains.
Half a basalt millstone excavated at Timurid House 183C.
Part of a low basalt table excavated from Timurid House 183B.
Gray sandstone pestle made from a river rock found near a mortar of the same material at Qala 345, date unknown.
Pulley made of basalt found at Jars 172 site. Numerous other pulleys shaped like this one were found at other jars sites, some made of stone, some made of fired ceramic.
A basalt mortar found on the surface at Shahr-i Gholghola, date unknown.
A well-made steatite oil lamp found at Timurid House 214.5.
A gray sandstone whetstone from the surface of Shahr-i Gholghola.
A collection of stone cubes we presume were used as weights, though their size, material, and weight vary greatly. Most were found at Parthian sites, so we suggest they date to that period.
Two river sandstone pieces, worked on the sides, used presumably as loom weights.
The miniature columns from Godar-i Shah have been known since the early 20th century and were documented by George Dales a few years before us. They are common grave goods at sites in northeastern Iran and Turkmenistan dating to the early 2nd millennium BCE. We found similar miniature columns on recent Islamic graves at two other sites along the Shela Rud and at Qala-i Sirak in the Helmand Valley.
Two donut-shaped objects we labeled as maceheads were found at two of the Early Iron Age sites, one of basalt, which is found locally, the other of purple quartzite, which is not. Both are well made and show no evidence of use.