Living in Caves for 12,000 Years: Uncovering the Secrets of Meimande, Iran

  With the evolution of the times to this day, many human living conditions in ancient times have no concrete representation. People can only get some inspiration from movies, TV series or museums. In an ancient village in Iran, villagers have been living in caves in the mountains, which has not changed for thousands of years. It is Memand, a world cultural heritage in Iran.
A different kind of family in Shanwowo

  Maymand is located in Kerman Province in southeastern Iran. It is part of the central plateau of Iran and is about 2,000 meters above sea level. Kerman Province is already quite close to Afghanistan and Palestine. Ancient Silk Road stations and castles are scattered among it, and the vast Gobi desert and mountains are endless.
  Both sides of the road to Meimande are equally sparsely populated, with few villages and even less green. The occasional pistachio grove is a relatively large industry here. Of course, those colorful mountains also contain immeasurable mineral resources. The copper factory near Meimande is the second largest copper company in the world.

  At the end of the road is Meimande, a U-shaped mountain nest. The rock masses on both sides are covered with caves. They are scattered and distributed according to different “floors” along the gentle mountain slope. From a distance, the cave and the weathered rock walls look even more desolate and spectacular. This original appearance has been maintained very well and has not undergone major changes to this day. Local people call this kind of cave house “kicheh”. Some are single houses, and some are composed of several adjacent caves of different sizes for a family to live.
  Some cave houses have locked doors, some have long been abandoned, and there are also scattered cave doors that are not locked. The shoes outside the door indicate that someone is resting inside. The abandoned cave is a bit dark, and the top is even blackened by smoke. The marks that were obviously carved by humans have gradually become rounded, enough to give people a sense of the vicissitudes of time.
  Said is 50 years old this year. His thin figure and full head of white hair make him look older. After obtaining the consent of “Old Man” Said, I entered his home. His wife was resting on the ground. When she saw me coming in, she got up to say hello and brought a basket of figs from outside. The figs in this area are not big, but they are very sweet.

  The cave house where Said lives is more than 60 square meters. The “ceiling” is also dark, and the floor is covered with carpets. He usually sits or lies on it. The living facilities in the cave are quite complete, including fans, refrigerators, and gas stoves. Korean TV dramas are being played on the TV. Using translation software, Saeed and I chatted.
Winter residence of semi-nomadic people

  The ecological environment of Meimande can be said to be very harsh. The dry and barren Gobi Desert makes the summer here extremely hot and the winter very cold. The residents of the cave houses are a semi-nomadic people in Iran who are engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry. They herd cattle and sheep in spring, summer and autumn, and live on the lower plains or in neighboring villages and farms. In winter, they live in the lee of the rock wall in the cave. cave.
  This seasonal migration of semi-nomadic people is a change made by local people to adapt to the climate where they live. The earliest history of human activities in Meimande can be traced back to more than 12,000 years ago. Stone paintings from nearly 10,000 years ago were even found around the ancient village, and pottery fragments from nearly 6,000 years ago also prove the antiquity of Meimande.
  Due to the lack of written records, archaeologists have to use scientific methods and refer to village customs and habits to trace Meimande’s past. One theory believes that the cave village was built by a branch of the Aryan tribe between 800 and 700 BC.
  People in this area during this era believed in Zoroastrianism, also known as “Zoroastrianism”. Believers of Mithras, the “god of fire”, believed that the sun was full of magical power and believed that the south-facing mountains were sacred. of. Today, there is still a very simple-looking Zoroastrian Holy Fire Temple in Maymande.
  There is another theory that the early days of Maymand can be traced back to the second and third centuries AD, when different tribes from southern Kerman stopped here when they migrated. Archaeologists are even more convinced of this hypothesis after more than 150 bone vessels from the Sassanid Dynasty (also known as the Second Persian Empire, 224 AD – 651 AD) were discovered near the village. And to this day, the local language of Maymand still contains many words from ancient Sassanid.
During the holidays, it’s hard to find a cave house

  Said told me that it is autumn now, and only a dozen of the more than 300 cave houses in Maymande are inhabited. Even in winter, there are fewer and fewer houses left in the village. I opened his refrigerator and found that it was quite rich in eggs, milk, and vegetables. Although the chickens can be raised by oneself, most of the ingredients still need to be purchased from outside the village, which takes time.

  Maymand is about the same distance from Yazd and Kerman, both taking more than two hours, and it takes more than 40 minutes to drive from the nearest town. Although there are convenience stores, there are not many people there, so there are very few choices inside. Moreover, convenience stores mostly serve a small number of tourists. Sometimes Said would ride his motorcycle out to do shopping, and he could live for more than ten days with one purchase.
  At the entrance of the ancient village, there is a cafe and a studio, hidden in earth-colored buildings at the foot of the mountains. They are very inconspicuous. The simple signboard has an English logo, which naturally serves tourists. There is a very simple mosque on the other side of the road, also in the cave. If it weren’t for the sign, no one would know that it was a mosque. Functional caves such as bathrooms, schools, and caravan stops have been used for hundreds of thousands of years.
  Meimande becomes more popular on weekends or festivals, and it is difficult to find caves for tourists to stay overnight or even a “house”. People in the city are full of curiosity about the cave dwelling experience of more than 2,000 years. You need to take off your shoes when entering the cave. The uneven floor is covered with carpet. Some caves are equipped with beds, and some sleep directly on the carpet. This is definitely a rare experience for today’s city dwellers.

  Perhaps one day, the caves of Memande will no longer be inhabited and become a kind of museum. Even then, it will be a unique treasure that takes visitors through thousands of years of time. In 2015, UNESCO included this area in the World Cultural Heritage List under the name of “Mei Mande Cultural Landscape”.

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