Ancient Elam (3200-539BC)

Life before the Achaemenid Empire

By Dr Parsa Daneshmand

In this podcast, Dr Parsa Daneshmand of University College London, provides an introduction to Ancient Elam. 

Elam was an ancient civilization centred in the far west and southwest of modern-day Iran, stretching from the lowlands of what is now Khuzestan and Ilam Province as well as a small part of southern Iraq. Elamite states were among the leading political forces of the Ancient Near East.

Elam was part of the early urbanization of the Near East during the Chalcolithic period (Copper Age). The emergence of written records from around 3000 BC also parallels Sumerian history, where slightly earlier records have been found. In the Old Elamite period (Middle Bronze Age), Elam consisted of kingdoms on the Iranian plateau, centred in Anshan, and from the mid-2nd millennium BC, it was centred in Susa in the Khuzestan lowlands. Its culture played a crucial role during the Persian Achaemenid dynasty that succeeded Elam, when the Elamite language remained among those in official use.

1. Where was ancient Elam? What sources do historians use to reconstruct early Elamite history?
2. What were the origins of the Old Elamite period (2700–1500 BC)? What do we know about Old Elamite society?
3. How did Elamite society differ from other contemporary civilisations? How did relations with these civilisations develop?
4. Can you tell us about the economy of the Old Elamite period? How far did their trade connections extend?
5. How does the Elamite state develop during the Middle Elamite period (c.1500–c.1100 BC)? When do we see the emergence of the Elamite Empire?
6. How significant a power did the Elamite Kingdom become? What do we know about their society, culture and religion?
7. What led to the fall of the Middle Elamite dynasty?
8. How does Elam develop in the Neo-Elamite period?
9. When and why do we start to see significant Indo-European speaking Iranians migrate to the Iranian plateau?
10. Can you tell us about the city of Susa? What was its political and religious importance to Elam?
11. What was the legacy and significance of the Elamite Kingdom? Do we see Elamite cultural influence within the Achaemenid Empire and the later Hellenistic period?

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