Kul-e Farah relief I, detail of Hanni of Ayapir's face (7th-6th century BC) by Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina WicksMacquarie University
Just over 2,500 years ago a local Elamite ruler, Hanni of Ayapir, was asserting his authority over the Izeh valley in the Zagros highlands of southwest Iran. As he tells us himself, Hanni was subject to another, far more powerful ruler, king Shutur-Nahhunte, son of Indada, named after the great Elamite god, Nahhunte.
Map of Southwest Iran showing locations of Elamite reliefs and other key Elamite sites (2018) by Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina WicksMacquarie University
Home to the ancient civilization of Elam (c. 4200-525 BC)
Satellite view of the valley of Izeh showing locations of reliefs (17th-6th century BC) by Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina WicksMacquarie University
Izeh Valley, location of twelve Elamite rock reliefs
Hanni is the only known author of twelve Elamite reliefs carved on various rock surfaces around the highland Izeh valley from the 17th to the 6th century BC in open air sanctuaries that incorporated natural features such as caves, waterfalls, springs, and rivers. Sadly, the identities of the other rulers have faded into anonymity.
Kul-e Farah open-air sanctuary (9th-6th century BC) by Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina WicksMacquarie University
The Elamite open-air sanctuary of Kul-e Farah, Izeh Valley
Hanni had his relief carved in a gorge with a seasonal creek opening out into the lush Izeh valley. The gorge was already home to five other Elamite reliefs depicting hundreds of worshippers and served as the location for periodic pilgrimage.
Six reliefs carved on cliffs and boulders around the gorge of Kul-e Farah
Kul-e Farah relief I (7th-6th century BC) by Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina WicksMacquarie University
Kul-e Farah relief I
Hanni’s image was carved up on a high, protected ledge looking out over the Izeh valley.
Kul-e Farah relief I, detail of Hanni of Ayapir with line drawing (7th-6th century BC) by Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina WicksMacquarie University
Hanni, son of Tahhi, kutur of Ayapir
The large-scale figure of Hanni, kutur ("caretaker, protector, ruler") of Ayapir is the central character of the Kul-e Farah I relief. He is set apart from the other figures by his much larger scale and his richly ornamented garment.
Kul-e Farah relief I panel (7th-6th century BC) by Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina WicksMacquarie University
Hanni presiding over a ceremonial sacrifice
Hanni's weapon-bearer and military commander
A high official of Hanni's court
Trio of court musicians playing string and percussion instruments: a vertical harp, horizontal harp, and square drum
Animal sacrifice scene
Sacrifice of a mountain goat, three round-horned sheep (already decapitated), and a zebu
Hanni's 24-line Elamite cuneiform inscription
In a long inscription covering the upper part of the relief, Hanni nominated himself as a vassal of the Elamite king Shutur-Nahhunte, son of Indada, and spoke of his achievements and piety towards the gods.
Kul-e Farah relief I panel overlaid by line drawing of the figures (7th-6th century BC) by Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina WicksMacquarie University
Hanni's artists: Theme and style
Hanni's artists borrowed core themes from earlier reliefs at the site, and despite erosion and vandalism, it is still possible to appreciate their “natural” plastic treatment of body parts. This was achieved by combining varying modelling depths and engraving of details.
Shekaft-e Salman reliefs co-opted by Hanni six centuries after their manufacture (7th-6th century BC) by Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina WicksMacquarie University
Hanni's inscriptions at Shekaft-e Salman cave sanctuary
On the southwest side of Izeh valley opposite Kul-e Farah is the majestic “romantic grotto” of Shekaft-e Salman (“Salomon’s Cave”) with a waterfall and creek. Here Hanni added his inscriptions to a series of four earlier Elamite reliefs inside and next to the mouth of the cave.
Mr. Asadi, Bakhtiyari caretaker of Kul-e Farah reliefs in front of relief I (7th-6th century BC) by Javier Álvarez-Mon & Yasmina WicksMacquarie University
Protecting Hanni's Elamite cultural legacy
Today the Kul-e Farah sanctuary is overseen by its self-appointed caretaker, Mr Asadi, who lives on-site and has dedicated his life to ensuring the safety of the reliefs. The imperative to preserve these reliefs, with their immense cultural value cannot be overstated.
Prof Javier Alvarez-Mon
Dr Yasmina Wicks
Dr Brian Ballsun-Stanton
Álvarez-Mon, J. 2019. The Monumental Reliefs of the Elamite Highlands: a Complete Inventory and Analysis (from the Seventeenth to the Sixth Century BC). Eisenbrauns and The University of Pennsylvania Press
Álvarez-Mon, J. 2020. The Art of Elam (ca. 4200-525 BC). Routledge
Álvarez-Mon, J., G.P. Basello, and Y. Wicks 2018. The Elamite World. Routledge
Wicks, Y. 2020. Kul-e Farah Reliefs (eahaa00251). The Encyclopedia of Ancient History: Asia and Africa. Wiley-Blackwell