The Proto-Elamite period, also known as Susa III, is a chronological era in the ancient history of the area of Elam, dating from c. 3100 BC to 2700 BC. In archaeological terms this corresponds to the late Banesh period. Proto-Elamite sites are recognized as the oldest civilization in the territory of present-day Iran. The Proto-Elamite script is an Early Bronze Age writing system briefly in use before the introduction of Elamite cuneiform.
During the period 8000–3700 BC, the Fertile Crescent witnessed the spread of small settlements supported by agricultural surplus. Geometric tokens emerged to be used to manage stewardship of this surplus. The earliest tokens now known are those from two sites in the Zagros region of Iran: Tepe Asiab and Ganj-i-Dareh Tepe.
The Mesopotamian civilization emerged during the period 3700–2900 BC amid the development of technological innovations such as the plough, sailing boats, and copper metal working. Clay tablets with pictographic characters appeared in this period to record commercial transactions performed by the temples.
The most important Proto-Elamite sites are Susa and Anshan. Another important site is Tepe Sialk, where the only remaining Proto-Elamite ziggurat is still seen. Texts in the undeciphered Proto-Elamite script found in Susa are dated to this period. It was originally assumed that the Proto-Elamites were in fact Elamites (Elamite speakers), because of cultural similarities (for example, the building of ziggurats), and because no large-scale migration to this area seems to have occurred between the Proto-Elamite period and the later Elamites. As Proto-Elamite writing has now been found over a wider area that is less certain.
Proto-Elamite pottery dating back to the last half of the 5th millennium BC has been found in Tepe Sialk, where Proto-Elamite writing, the first form of writing in Iran, has been found on tablets of this date. The first cylinder seals come from the Proto-Elamite period, as well.
The site of Sofalin (Lat. 51” 44’ 06 N., Long. 35” 18’ 58 E) lies on the Tehran Plain on the north-central plateau of Iran about 10 kilometers east of the modern city of Varamin. Sofalin means pottery shards in Persian. The site covers an area 500 meters long and 400 meters wide with a height of 10 meters above the plain. Occupation ranged from the late 4th millennium BC to the Iron Age. It was excavated in two seasons from 2006 to 2007 by a Morteza Hessari led team of the Archaeological Service of Islamic Azad University of Varamin-Pishva. Among the finds were inscribed clay tokens, Proto-Elamite tablets, clay bullae, clay sealings, and blank tablets. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry of the residue in a Bevel Rim Bowl found beeswax.
Proto-Elamite seals follow the seals of the Uruk period, with which they share many stylistic elements, but display more individuality and a more lively rendering.
Susa III/ Proto-Elamite cylinder seal 3150–2800 BC Louvre Museum Sb 2675
Susa III/ Proto-Elamite cylinder seal 3150–2800 BC Mythological being on a boat Louvre Museum Sb 6379
Proto-Elamite seal impression: combat between man-bull and animals