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In Memory of the Life of Ezatollah Negahban, the Father of Iranian Archeology

Twelve years passed since the death of Ezatollah Negahban. He has been called the father of Iranian archeology, and some have considered him a great enemy of smugglers and antique dealers in Iran.

According to ISNA, on the twelfth death anniversary of Dr. Ezatollah Neghaban, the father of Iranian archeology, the Iranian Archaeological Society reviewed his life and his effects on Iranian archeology:

Ezatollah Neghaban, a well-known archaeologist and founder of the Archaeological Institute of the University of Tehran, was born on March 1, 1962, in Ahvaz. It was not more than two years before his father was elected by the people of Ahvaz for the National Assembly and came to Tehran with his family. He completed his primary education at Jamshid Jam Primary School (later called Iraj). He first entered the German Technical School (known as the Industrial School) in Tehran after passing the entrance exam. He enrolled in the field of electrical and mechanical engineering. After a year of studying in this field, with the announcement of foreign schools’ closure by the then Ministry of Education, he entered Firouz Bahram High School. He completed his secondary education in this school.

In 1949, he received a bachelor’s degree in archeology from the University of Tehran, and a year later, he left for the United States to continue his studies. After finishing a complemental English study in the University of Michigan, he entered the Institute of Oriental Studies at the University of Chicago in 1950. In 1954 he defended a thesis entitled “Evolution of beige pottery in Khuzestan” under “Donald McCann” ‘s supervision and received his post-graduate degree.  During his residence in Chicago he met and married his wife, Miriyam Lewis Miller, a librarianship student.

After his return to Iran, Colonel Alinaghi Vaziri, one of his undergraduate professors, offered him a teaching position at the University of Tehran. It was warmly received by Negahban and approved by Dr. Ali Akbar Siyasi, Dean of the Faculty of Literature. After successfully passing the written test and interview Negahban was hired by University of Tehran as Associate Professor. The University of Chicago rated his degree equivalent to a doctorate. In 1967, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Tehran, and he was promoted to professor. From 1968 to 1978, Dr. Neghaban was in charge of the Department of Archeology, Faculty of Literature, University of Tehran.

In 1958 he proposed a project for establishing “Institute of Archeology, University of Tehran”, which was agreed and supported by Col. Vaziri, Dr Siasi, the then Dean of the Faculty of Literature, but mainly with his own efforts and constant follow-up, despite the University’s small budget.  Finally, with the agreement of dr.Ahmad Farhad, a Chancellor of Tehran University, the Institute started operating in 1960 and until 1978 Dr Negahban was the Dean.  In 1976 he was elected as Dean of the Faculty of Literature and Humanities of Tehran University and was active in this position until his retirement in 1979.

Negahban took many major and effective steps in the course of his scientific activities in the field of archeology:

Structural changes in the students camps:  before Dr. Negahban’s tenure, there were no programs for field studies for archeology students and the only field programs were the scientific camps that were intended for the students, and since these camps, which were mostly recreational, were held during Nowruz holidays, they were not very well received, and so the Faculty spent the budget on other programs.  For the first time, Dr. Negahban directed the study visits, which had usually been to Isfahan and Shiraz, to less visited parts of the country, for their antiquities.

Establishment of the Institute of Archeology, University of Tehran; His second significant step was the founding of the Institute of Archeology at the University of Tehran, which took nearly two years from its proposal in 1958 until its practical initiation in 1960. The first activity of this institute was participating in the archeological survey program of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the University of Chicago in the Shahabad and Mahidasht districts of Kermanshah under the supervision of “Robert Braidwood,” 1960. In 1961, at the end of the work, this delegation donated all its tools and equipment to the Archaeological Institute.

Inviting world renowned archeologists to work in Iran: Dr. Neghaban played a crucial role in opening a new and scientific chapter in prehistoric Iranian by inviting Braidwood, Karlovsky and Caldwell.

Marlik excavation, the first joint excavation with the Department of archeology: Archaeological excavations in Marlik (Cheraghali Tappeh) Rudbar was the first collaboration between Department of Archeology and the Institute of Archeology of the University of Tehran, which was done for 14 months without the participation of foreign archaeologists, and under the supervision of Dr. Neghaban.

Excavations of HaftTappeh in Khuzestan: these excavations were carried out in 1966 under the supervision of Negahban, despite the sabotage of the French and especially roman Ghirshman (who were trying to dig there first).

Efforts to pass a resolution condemning the smuggling and sale of antiques; Dr. Neghaban has always been one of the strongest advocates of programs to regulate archeological activities, and some considered him a great enemy of smugglers and antique dealers in Iran. At the Fifth International Congress of Archeology and Art of Iran in 1347, Dr. Neghaban played a crucial role in passing a resolution condemning antiques’ smuggling and sale. As a technical archaeologist in the Archaeological Department, he played a significant role in preventing some illegal activities in buying and selling antiquities.

Establishment of the first permanent independent exploration base for students of the University of Tehran; According to most Iranian archaeologists, the most significant contribution of Dr. Neghaban in advancing the country’s archeology is the establishment of a permanent workshop in the Qazvin plain for archaeological activities of the University of Tehran and the training of students in this workshop. In the winter of 1970, he obtained the necessary license and budget to repair the ruined caravanserai of “MohammadAbad Khareh” in Qazvin. This place then became a center for continuous and long-term archaeological research at the University of Tehran, where students participated in various field activities to study the country’s archeology. This leading program continues to this day.

Transformation of the educational system of archeology students; in the summer of 1971, Dr. Neghaban proposed to the Department of Archeology of the University of Tehran, according to which the practical courses required for undergraduate and graduate courses were included in the curricula of archeology students so that no student would be recognized as a graduate without passing these courses. The first group of students of archeology and art history for internship in the first semester of the academic year 1971-72 participated in the study and excavation of the Qazvin plain, which continued without interruption until the academic year 1980-81.

Dr. Neghaban retired from the University of Tehran in 1979 and moved to Philadelphia. Being released from teaching and administrative work, he spent the rest of his life publishing the final report of archeological activities, especially archeological excavations in Cheraghali, Marlik hill, TappehZagheh hill in Qazvin, HaftTappeh hill in Khuzestan, and a review of 50 years of Iranian archeology. These are among his most significant scientific works. He has written extensively in reports, articles, and notes in Persian and English and and has participated and presented papers and lectures at dozens of domestic and international conferences.

Dr Negahban’s management of the Department of archeology and the Archaeological Institute, Marlik Magazine published two issues, the third of which was published later as Kand-o-Kav, but then closed altogether. Due to Negahban’s significant and influential role in the history of developments and the structure of Iranian archeology, he is referred to as the father of Iranian archeology.”

Dr. Neghaban died in the United States on February 2, 2009, after spending several years suffering from the effects of an accident. “The archeology society of Iran will always treasure the memory of Dr Negahban and by reviewing and remembering his role in archeology, invites us to a fresh analysis of the developments in archeology in Iran.”

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