Darband Cave Project

Late Lower Paleolithic



Darband has yielded the first-known evidence for Late Lower Paleolithic occupation in a cave in Iran.



Darband Cave and its neihboring cave, overlooking a deep canyon

(photo: F. Biglari 2006)



The Darband cave and an adjacent larger cave are located on the north side of a deep tributary canyon of the Siahrud River, a tributary of the Sefidrud River that flows into the Caspian Sea (Gilan province). The site lies at an altitude of 750 meters above sea level and faces south, on a nearly vertical cliff dominating the deep canyon. Darband is a single chamber cave about twenty-one meters long, with a seven-meter-wide entrance.

    V. Jahani located the site in 2005; he collected some faunal remains and potsherds on the floors of both the Darband cave and its neighbouring cave. The site was re-visited by Biglari, Jahani and Shidrang in 2006; that expedition yielded a large number of faunal remains and small number of stone artifacts, which were collected from disturbed deposits along the western wall of the cave.



 View of the cave entrance from inside

(photo: F. Biglari 2006)

The lithic artifacts are mainly made of chert, followed by silicified tuff, and other volcanic rocks. Chert artifacts are smaller than those made from other rock types, which may have to do with the small size of the chert nodules. Flakes make up the majority of the artifacts and their platforms are plain or cortical; few are small. The majority of flakes have a high flaking angle (exceeding ninety degrees) mostly between 110 and 124 degrees. Aside from four specimens, all the artifacts show some retouch that allows them to be classified as marginal retouched flakes, scrapers, notched, awls, end-scrapers, and small core-scrapers. Other artifacts consist of few cores and a core-chopper. Most of the artifacts are heavily patinated.


 A heavily patinated core-chopper from Darband Cave

(photo: F. Biglari 2006)


    The faunal assemblage is dominated by cave bears and brown bears, along with a few ungulate remains (Argant, Mashkour and Biglari, in preparation). The presence of large numbers of cave-bear and brown-bear remains in the faunal assemblage and sparse lithic artifacts at the site indicates that Darband primarily represents a bear den. The co-occurrence of artifacts and bear bones does not imply human predation or scavenging. Because there are no clear cut marks, except a few burning signs on the bear bones, they probably accumulated through natural mortality. Such alternating use of caves by hominins and cave bears is reported from Middle Pleistocene cave sites in the Caucasus and Mediterranean Basin. Darband represents the first record of this taxon from Iran. The presence of this carnivore at western Alborz seems to be a southeastern extension of Caucasian population of Pleistocene cave bear. 


     Our preliminary observation based on both lithic and faunal assemblages indicates a probable Middle Pleistocene age for the site; meanwhile we have submitted two bear teeth for U-series dating that could help us to put the site in a chronological framework. We plan to excavate selected areas in future seasons of fieldwork in Darband Cave.


Test excavations in the Darband Cave, May 2012

(photo: T. Ghasimi 2012)


For more information look at:


Biglari, F., and S. Shidrang.

2006 The Lower Paleolithic Occupation of Iran, Near Eastern Archaeology 69(3–4): 160-168


Biglari F.,  Jahani, V.; Mashkour,  M.; Argant, A.; Shidrang, S.; and Taheri, K.

2007 Darband Cave: New Evidence for Lower Paleolithic occupation at Western Alborz Range, Gilan. Iranian Journal of Archaeology and History 41:30-37. (In Farsi, with an English abstract.)

Biglari F.,  and V. Jahani.

2011 The Pleistocene Human Settlement in Gilan, Southwest Caspian Sea: Recent Research, Eurasian Prehistory 8 (1-2): 3-28

For a short YouTube video watch here:


Last updated: 2 June 2012