Type of site:
Razavi Khorasan Province
Near the village of Foshtong, 40 km north-west of the city of Sabzevar
Historical region: Khorasan
Late Sasanian period – early Muslim period (6th–9th century AD)
Most interesting finds:
– reconstruction of the plan of the main part of the building
– subsidiary structure abutting the main building from the north-east
– structures on a stone platform which extends to the south-east of the main building
History of research:
Dates of PCMA mission’s work:
2008–2010 (the research was continued without the participation of the PCMA)
Type of research:
Barbara Kaim (since 2008)
Hassan Hashemi (2008–2009)
Mahammad Bakhtiari (since 2010)
– Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw
– Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw
– Iranian Center for Archaeological Research
As a result of illegal excavations conducted by robbers in the past, the furnishings of the central room of the main building were destroyed.
Description of the site and research:
The ruins of a stone structure called by the inhabitants of neighboring villages Khune-ye Div (“House of the Demon”) stood on a rock spur rising in the middle of the Rivand River gorge in the Binalood Mountains (Figs 1, 2). The Sasanian-period building was located at least 2 km away from the modern village, the remains of which had been identified during a survey conducted in 2010. This characteristic location suggested the exceptional function of the structure.
During the first season of excavations (Fig. 8) in 2008, it was determined that the main room of the building was square. It consisted of four stone corner pillars (Figs 3, 4), which supported a dome raised on squinches (Fig. 7). The space between the squinches was crowned with barrel vaults. Thus, the building represented a characteristic type of Sasanian-period temple and palatial architecture, the so-called chahar taq (“four arches”). The entrance was located in the north-east wall of the building and was preceded by a narrow corridor.
The remains of the furnishings of the main room allow the assumption that the building was a Zoroastrian fire temple. Unfortunately, due to the destruction caused by illicit excavations, no conclusive evidence, i.e., remains of a fire altar, was found. However, its presence is suggested by the remains of large platforms (Fig. 9) in the central part of the room, which is where such altars were located in other ancient temples.
During the second season of excavations, a small room of unknown function abutting the north-eastern side of the building was uncovered. A three-step clay platform ran around its walls. Further to the east, an almost square feature (4.20 x 4.30 m) hewn into the rock was discovered. It was approximately 1 m deep and presumably served as a water reservoir. Its walls were covered with gypsum plaster. The presence of this structure supports the hypothesis about the sacral character of the main building because direct access to water was needed for performing the fire rituals.
All of the known ancient fire temples are located at a distance from settlements, likely due to the requirements of the Zoroastrian ritual. Therefore, it may be presumed that the rooms uncovered during the last season of excavations to the south of the main building could have been used by the temple staff or by pilgrims. The bedrock had to be leveled to allow for their construction. The effort needed for completing this operation is another indication of the exceptional character of the building.
Kaim, B., Bakhtiari, M. and Hashemi, H. (2013). Khone-ye Div. Preliminary report on the second and third seasons of Irano–Polish excavations (2009 and 2010). Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 22, 543–551.
Kaim, B. and Hashemi, H. (2010). Khone-ye Div. Preliminary report on the first season of Irano–Polish excavations. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 19, 603–611.