Digging a deep grave to bury a COVID-19 victim in a tiny northern Iranian village has revealed remnants of a soldier and some artifacts buried with him from the Parthian era (247 BC – 224 AD).
The discovery was accidentally made when a digging machine brought the remnants of a skeleton and some artifacts to the surface. Mehdi Izadi, the Deputy Head of the Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran in Mazandaran Province, was present at the site for the funeral of a COVID-19 victim in his native village of Paji (or Pachi) in Mazandaran Province.
The ancient remnants were damaged during the digging, he said. These included parts of a skeleton, a sword, a quiver and arrows, a dagger, a shield and an earthen vessel. According to Izadi who is a historian himself, the shape of the weaponry found with the skeleton suggests that they date back to the Parthian (Arsacid) period, he said.
The protocol for the burial of COVID-19 victims requires digging the ground to a depth of 3 meters but the ancient remnants were discovered at a depth of 2.5 meters.
Izadi said two years ago the skeleton of a young girl buried in an earthenware jar and some bronze necklaces and bangles dating from 3,500 to 5000 years ago were discovered in the same cemetery during expansion work.
The tiny village of Paji has a population of less than five hundred. It is nestled in Alborz mountains and lies close to the ancient Hecatomopylos ("Hundred Gates") mentioned by the Greek historians (today's Damghan) and Tepe Hissar, a rich prehistoric site dating back to the 5th millennium BC.
Mazandaran Province which lies to the south of the Caspian sea was one of the Iranian provinces worst-hit by the coronavirus epidemic. The province is still among those categorized as "red zone" by the Iranian Health Ministry.