Parthian and Sasanian Periods
This was the period of greatest occupation in Afghan Sistan, with over 100 of our 175 sites showing Parthian and/or Sasanian remains. The nomadic Saka people, who gave Sistan its name, controlled the area for a while, followed by an Indo-Parthian dynasty based in Sistan until the rise of the Sasanians in the 3rd century CE. The first palace at Shahr-i Ghoghola was built in Parthian times along with numerous other large sites along the Helmand River. Canals flowed into Sar-o-Tar and supported numerous sites there. We found several fire temples dating to this period, the one at Ŝna Qala having similarities to the well-known one at Kuh-i Khwaja across the border in Iranian Sistan. The westernmost Buddhist stupa known from the early expansion of the religion was excavated at Khane Gauhar in 1971. A Mesopotamian-style temple, with numerous Greek-influenced architectural elements and objects, was excavated at Khwaja Ali Sehyaka. Occupation in the agricultural zone of Sar-o-Tar included several elaborate estates, such as House 139, excavated in 1974, and numerous smaller farms that left only storage jars embedded in the ground as evidence. Parthian fine ceramics, many of them decorated in a dark red slip with ring burnishing, appeared all over the survey zone. Numerous animal figurines in fired ceramic also appeared at different Parthian sites.
Historical documents show that the Sasanian empire controlled Sistan from early in the 3rd century CE and that the dynasty may have originated from a Sistani family. The region was a central part of the Sasanian empire until its demise in the 7th century. Many Sasanian sites were identified by the project, including a string of fortresses in Sar-o-Tar that resembled collections of Sasanian forts in northeast Iran and elsewhere. The Sasanians also took over and reused many of the Parthian period sites in the region. The Sasanian empire was brought down by the Arab invasion of the 7th century CE according to historical records but the archaeological correlates of this political change are not clear in Sistan.
We were unable to identify clear evidence of the first century of Arab rule.