Shahr-e-Sukhteh which means “Burnt City” in Persian is one of the most mysterious places in eastern Iran. Added to UNESCO world heritage sites, Shahr-e-Sukhte is the remains of a mud-brick city of the great Bronze Age and is regarded as one of the earliest large urban communities of the history. Located on the banks of the Helmand River on the Zahedan – Zabol road in Sistan and Balouchestan Province, this pre-historic area is one of the most important tourist attractions of Iran. let’s find out why.

Its Mysterious Name

the burnt city in Iran

The name, “Shahr-e-Sukhteh” is reason enough for many tourists to buy a flight ticket to Iran and see what the mysterious “Burnt City” is all about. Undoubtedly, you have to visit this place in order to learn about one of the earliest urban societies of the world. The name “Burnt City” was given to this ancient area because it was believed to be annihilated by fire. However, it was later discovered that the city was gradually abandoned due to deviance of water routes and climate change.

The Architecture of Shahr-e-Sukhteh

The architectural characteristics of any pre-historic place is one of the most notable aspects of it. This city, divided to four main sections, is home to one of the ancient cemeteries of the world. Although there is nothing similar to a temple found in this area, a large building proudly stands here which probably used to be a public place for religious purposes.

Houses of Shahr-e-Sukhte are 90 to 160 m2 and have 6 to 10 rooms which had been built around a central yard. Constructed with bricks, these houses reveal no trace of food storage rooms. This means that the government was responsible for saving crops for colder months.

The Cemetery


It’s fascinating that some of the most valuable findings of “the Burnt City” were discovered from the cemetery. 310 graves have been found here containing skeletons, the biggest collection of pre-historic fabrics, the earliest Iranian inlay work and many other things that will be explained in this article were all retrieved from this cemetery.

An Enigmatic City to Explore


One of the wonders of Shahr-e-Sukhteh is that this pre-historic city reveals signs of incredible scientific progress. From an artificial eyeball to a skull with two holes in sides and a golden thread that obviously depict a skull surgery, the remains of this ancient city demonstrate an astonishing advancement in medical sciences.

The artificial eyeball

As the earliest known artificial eyeball of the world was discovered in Shahr-e-Sukhteh, many scientists developed an interest in exploring this historical site. The eyeball features a hemispherical form and is made of an unknown light material while the surface of it is covered by a layer of gold. This artificial eyeball is attached to a skull which belonged to a woman and has two drilled holes that were made for keeping the eyeball in its place with a golden thread. The eyeball and the skeleton of the woman date back to a time between 2900 and 2800 BCE.

Skulls that had Undergone Surgery

As mentioned earlier, in addition to the artificial eyeball, there’s another remain unearthed in Shahr-e-Sukhteh area which is evidence to a highly developed medical system. You can see a skull in this pre-historical city which belonged to a 12 or 13 year old girl who used to suffer from hydrocephalus. It’s obvious that parts of the bone of the skull were removed by surgeons successfully and therefore she was saved. However, the girl died about 9 months later for an unknown reason. In addition to that, another skeleton of a 14 year old girl has been discovered here who had undergone a brain surgery. These remains are all indications of unbelievable medical development in 5000 years ago.

A 5000 year old Ruler

A 5000 year old ruler made of ebony wood with a length of 10 centimeters is another ancient remain found in the far-famed “Burnt City” of Iran. This small ruler demonstrates a remarkable advancement in mathematics and is another evidence of scientific development of the people who lived in this awe-inspiring area.

The Oldest Backgammon in the Whole World


If you are a fan of backgammon and board games, you will fall in love with this astonishing ancient backgammon! There’s a cemetery in Shahr-e-Sukhteh which is referred to as “the 761 cemetery” and was the place where the oldest backgammon of  world was fpund. Made from ebony wood, this backgammon and its 60 beads were found in this UNESCO heritage site. As you can see in the picture, there’s a twisting snake illustrated on the rectangle shaped board-game, holding its own tail in its mouth. The beads are made of azure, opal and turquoise.

Prepare to be shocked by the World’s First Animation

Exploring Shahr-e-Sukhteh is a journey to the magnificent ancient times. Besides seeing the oldest board-game, the first artificial eyeball and two skulls that had undergone surgery, you will see the first animation of the world in this area.

But what do we mean by the first animation?

Shahr-e-Sukhteh attractions

It’s an earthen goblet featuring an illustration of a goat and a tree. The pattern has been repeated on purpose, depicting the goat moving toward the tree and eating the leaves of the tree in five motions. This remarkable artwork was found in a 5000 years old grave in the magnificent “Burnt City” of  Iran.

What else do we know about Iran’s Burnt City?

Archaeologists believe that this ancient city used to be a major trading center and had a great economic value in the old times. Also, the graves prove that diverse burial traditions were practiced here which is an indication of cultural diversity. In addition to that, vestiges found in this area show an appreciable advancement in masonry, pottery, knitting, mat weaving, jewelry making and sculpturing. Not to mention that the collection of fabrics discovered in this site indicates that people of Shahr-e-Sukhteh were impressively advanced in textile industry.

 Interested to Visit Shahr-e-Sukhteh?

As you can see, Shahr-e-Sukhteh is a rich source of information for historians, archaeologists and anyone who is enthusiast about pre-historic societies. If exploring the remains of an ancient city, wandering among the ruins of its houses and learning about the stories that lay behind its walls sound exciting to you, south-eastern Iran must be your next destination. For more information on our tours and itineraries, contact us at Land of Turquoise Domes.