4- Khaled Nabi – Historical Perspective


4 – 1 the first encounter


looking from top of the hill at the  3 shrines at Khaled Nabi with a sea of green wave like hills at the background  stretching to infinity in all directions in the middle of no where especially in spring have a magical effect on the visitor. But the ancient grave yard next to Khaled Nabi not only raises feeling of beauty and strangeness in the observer but also starts unknown chain of thoughts that last far beyond the visit.


Who were the people that made these strange grave stones?

When was the graves made?

Where these people roaming nomads or did they represent a civilization?

Which civilization did they represent?

Was this just a graveyard or did they hold elaborate ceremonies here?

How is this graveyard related historically or culturally to the rest of the country or the world?

How did, or did, their beliefs affect our beliefs in some distant past?



When day dreaming is cheap, and you have nothing else to do, with above thoughts in mind one wonders around internet, looks for answers on looks up bookshops, libraries searching for answers that are far and few. The following article is the result of such wondering that may provide some leads to those that may one day stumble on this site and become infected by the why, when, what fever.



4 -2 Khaled Nabi is not a single phenomenon


Khaled Nabi is not single phenomenon in Gorgan (current Golestan Province). There are many other similar graveyards in Golestan province, perhaps not set in as majestic setting as Khaled Nabi but quite few are just as impressive. The graveyards are mostly situated near small villages some only a few kilometers from the main road.


The grave yards fall basically in to three categories,


1)      those with grave stones similar to  Khaled Nabi

2)      those with wooden grave markers similar in design to those in Khaled Nabi but with different decoration

3)      those with mix of above two types of grave markers plus some flat grave stones with a small hallow for collecting rain water






On the following map (sketch) I have tried to mark the location of some of these vanishing graveyards. On the map I have also tried to draw the approximate path of the Gorgân’s Defense Wall.


It is very interesting that a 150 – 300 km long wall, 10 by 10 meters, the second largest defensive wall in the world, dating back to Sassanid dynasty or Parthian Empire is virtually unknown among the people of Iran or for that matter people of Gorgan. Many Parthian / Sassanid burial sites have been found along the wall.


It is interesting to note that most of Khaled Nabi type graveyards are to the north of the Gorgan Defensive wall. For that matter the oldest grave yard are near Iran Turkmenistan border to the south of the Attrak River which is on the border between the two countries.


Perhaps this implies that the wall was made to keep out the invaders from the north that made these strange graveyards. On hill sides or mountain areas of Gorgan virtually no such sites are found.


It has been suggested that the markings on the grave markers (specially the wooden types) are a kind of identification used by various tribe, very much like the markings on flags used by various regiments in the armies.



 map of phallic graveyards in gorgan


N0 61





Path of gorgan defense wall:

Gomishan area

Voshm-gir dam

Gonbad-e-kavus (continued along Gorgan River from here)



Pish kamar mountains



The graveyards:


1 – Khaled Nabi

Direction: Gorgan / Kalaleh / Tamer-qareh-qozi / Gachi so / Khaled Nabi

Grave type: stone grave markers


2 – Gonbad Tata

Direction: Gorgan / Kalaleh / 6km past tamer-qareh-qozi junction /

Pish kamar village / zave bala village

Grave type: wooden grave markers






3 – Agh Band

Directions:  Gorgan / Gonbad-e-kavus / north main road from Gonbad (30km)

Ghareh-makher junction /Agh band village (5km) / Agh band graveyard

Grave type: stone grave markers


4 – Avaze Bardi-neshan

Direction – Gorgan / Kalaleh to Gonbad / Gildagh area? /

Avaze Bardi-neshan graveyard

Grave type: wooden grave markers


5 – Mir Davod

Direction: Gorgan / Gonbad-e-kavus / north main road from Gonbad (10 km) /

Abadan Tappeh village (13km) / Aman Gol-tapeh village (16km) /

Mir Davod graveyard

Grave type: stone grave markers


6 – Ata

Direction:  Gorgan / Gonbad-e-kavus / north main road to dashli-boroun /

Near Iran Turkmenistan boarder / east of Incheh-boroun village

Grave type: stone grave markers


7 – Ana Muhammad Gog

Direction: Gorgan / Gonbad-e-kavus /main north road to Dashli-boron /

Between Dashli-boron and Damage village (road side)

Grave type: stone grave markers



8 – Ha-ghi Ghoshan

Direction: Gorgan / Gonbad-e-kavus / north main road from Gonbad (12km) /

Ha-ghi Ghoshan graveyard (on the side of the road) /

Near Ha-ghi Ghoshan village (3km)

Grave type: stone grave markers


9 – Sultan Ali

Directions: Gorgan / Gonbad-e-Kavus / road (west from Gonbad) to Sultan Ali village

/ Sultan Ali village graveyard

Grave type: stone grave markers


10 – Goo-reh Kho-jeh

Direction: Gorgan / east of Kalaleh / Gil-dagh area? / Ham-mam dar-reh /

Goor-eh kho-jeh graveyard

Grave type: stone grave markers


11 – Za-ka-re-ya-yeh Pay-gham-bar

Direction: Gorgan / Gonbad-e- kavus / Voshm-gir dam /Gog tapeh village

Grave type: stone grave markers





4 – 3 similar graveyards in other parts of Iran


4 – 3 -1 Azerbaijan / lurestan


There are more Khaled Nabi type graveyards in other parts of Iranian Azerbaijan and around Tabriz. The stone / wooden grave stones have basically the same shape as those found in Golestan province but have more matured carvings and even some have Arabic writing on them


 map of some phallic graveyards in azarbayejan and lurestan

NO: 62


Shad bakh

Azerbaijan / Tabriz south west (6km) / Shad Bakh graveyard

Grave style: stone grave marker – some with date



Azerbaijan / Tabriz / Kal-jah graveyard

Grave style: stone grave markers – similar to khaled Nabi



Azerbaijan / Kajjan village

Grave style: stone grave markers



There are also few such graveyards in Lurestan province.



Direction: lurestan / Posht Kooh / Sar-tang graveyard

Grave style: stone grave markers


It is also interesting to note that grave stones in shape of lion or ram statues are found in lurestan, Azerbaijan. Similar gravestones are also found in Armenia and Greece







No 63



4 – 4 other parts of the world


There are many references to similar graveyards in other places such as Europe especially in Ireland. There are also references to India where even today such gravestones have a more ceremonial value than just mere gravestone.



4 – 4 – 1 Ireland


The earliest record of Celtic people is from France and western Germany in about 1200BC. They started to settle in British Isles around 600BC. Perhaps being in far corner of Europe and similarity of their traditions to old roman religion helped some of their early customs survive better than those on main land Europe to date.



The Irish ancient Celtic religion also exhibits more than a few similarities to certain celebrations in Iran and Mesopotamia such as: imbolic to nouroze at start of spring, with roots going back to Assyria and summeria glorified in the story of Ishtar and tammuz, sambaing to Mehregan at beginning of Autumn, and other ancient Iranian celebrations such as yalda (start of winter), sadeh (mid winter) which are what is left of very ancient sun worship cultures in the area.


So it would not be farfetched if one assumes that the Celts were originally tribes from the Asian steppes (if you prefer Aryans or Indo-Europeans ….) and hence the similarity of the customs. also In Ireland one can find many phallic stones .


4 – 4 – 2 Europe


phallic stones similar to dose found at Khaled Nabi were once more common in Europe, but nowadays hardly any survive, but still at places certain remainders of such past can be found. Such gravestones were mainly destroyed by follower’s Christian faith who regarded such shapes as obscene.



4 – 4 – 3 India


Phallic symbols have great significant in some Indian religions, and special connection to some of Vedic deities. In India these symbols have far grater significance than just a grave stone but in India we also find traces of the people (so called Aryans) from the north to which is connected the Vedic tradition.


Also phallic symbols are also found in the Indus Harappan civilization.












4 -5 Graveyards of Torkaman Sahra (Gorgan)


From little I know of spread of phallic grave yards or stones it appears that they somehow relate to waves people who came from the vast Russian steppes at different times, the Aryans and Turks, who have some common heritage specially in form of old Shamanism beliefs.


Review of history of graveyard styles in Torkaman Sahra (old Gorgan), from early pre history till the appearance of nomadic tribes from the north, is perhaps helpful in shaping an insight to the origins of these graveyards.


Human traces have been found in various parts of Gorgan, such as caves in mountain ranges in south of Behshahr as far back as 100,000 years ago.


The burial styles of the settled pre-history people in Gorgan from 6000 to 1500 BC. Indicates that the dead were buried beneath the house floor in crouched position which was the style practiced in most other parts of current day Iran at the time.



Around 1500 BC (perhaps some time between 3000 – 1500BC) there is a change in burial and life styles in the area. The dead are now buried in grave yards near the dwelling places  new pottery (gray pottery) appears and in many new graveyards and the long heads replace the  round heads (all hotly debated topics to extent that they have now become political rather than historical). The same changes are felt in many other settlement areas around current day Iran such as Sialk, etc.


These changes are interpreted as signifying the arrival of new people from the north, what many prefer to call Aryans. During early part of this period the dead were mostly buried in an east west direction in Gorgan perhaps indication of a sort of sun worship? But latter graves of the period exhibit no specific burial direction


After this period (about 1500 BC) many new grave styles are observed in Gorgan and other rejoins’ of country especially in the north:


tumulus – Around heap of earth over the dead with one or few markers on the top


kurgans – a rectangular grave witch is covered by timber and earth is heaped on the grave. Pottery and horses may also be buried with the dead


Clay pots – dead are placed in large clay pots and then buried.


Megalithic – graves constructed from large pieces of stone


From above account it appears that the ancient Khaled Nabi style grave yards in Gorgan are not assumed to be connected to early local (pre 1500 BC) or early nomadic (Aryan) migration (1500 TO 600 BC) but  to later Turk migrations.


Not that it matters whether the creators of these graveyards were Aryans or Turks, but I still find it difficult to disregard possibility of a relation between Khaled Nabi style grave yards in Gorgan and Aryans in light of Irish grave yards.


Unfortunately in absence of any carbon dating of bones in Khaled Nabi, or similar information, the origin of some of the graveyards in Gorgan like Khaled Nab would remain somewhat speculative. I would definitely belie the wooden grave markers and those in Azerbaijan to belong to the second wave of invaders from the north the Turks.





4 – 6 latter migrants from the north


If these graves in Gorgan were not made by the Aryans or first wave of people from the north, then the next contender for such graveyards will be the Turks (the legendary Turan, mentioned in Iranian epic Shahnamehs), who also like Aryans came from the north after the fall of Sassanid empire during the Islamic caliphate and eventually took over the Iranian plateau.


the Islamic conquest of Persia resulted in relocation of many of the Iranian ruling class further south in to Afghanistan and beyond and after about 200 years they setup two main dynasties namely the Samanid dynasty and Tahirid dynasty that lasted for about 150 years. Although these dynasties paid lip service to the caliphates in Baghdad and also accepted Islam but at the same time propagated the Iranian culture in the rejoin. 




The Turkic are assumed to originate from somewhere in Ural Mountains and latter through migration setup their first Turkish empire (Göktürk empire) in Central Asia Which later disintegrated. Part of the Turkish tribes (6 tribes – eastern Turks) migrated to the east and the remaining one tribe (western Turks – the Oghuz Turks) migrated to the west. During Samanid and Tahirid dynasties the Oghuz Turks served in the armies of Samanid, and Tahirid as well as Abbasid caliphs armies.


 Latter on the Turks took over the Iranian dynasties in the east and set up the Ghaznavid Empire which was basically a mix of Oghuz Turk and Iranians with Iranian culture and Islam (Sunni) as religion.


Although the Mongols defeated the Turks, but by this time the Turks had become native of north east Iran and continued to live in the region. During the Mongol rule two more Turk tribes settled to west of Iran  the Qara Qoyunlu Turcomans and         Aq Qoyunlu Turcomans, who were later to conquer Iran after the Mongols and setup Timurid Empire and latter Turk dynasties such as Qajar dynasty.


The Oghuz Turks, before converting to Islam practiced Shamanism, and Tengriist, Wolfe was part of Turkish mythology and they believed that their founder was son of wolf (and perhaps there is a connection between the name of Gorgan and this myth).






  The Oghuz also used to place wooden poles on their graves as found in many Gorgan graveyards therefore The wooden grave markers in Gorgan and Azerbaijan can surely be attributed to Oghaz Turks as this was their custom in there home land.


 The grave stones in Iranian Azerbaijan, with their Islamic stylization and in cases with writing can be attributed to western Oghaz (Qara or aQ Qoyunlu Turks)


 But the jury must still be out on the subject of the origin of the grave stones of Khaled Nabi and some other similar grave yards in Gorgan,


It would also be interesting to know if such stone phallic graveyards exist further in Torkmenistan or further to the east of Turkmenistan.




One Response to “4- Khaled Nabi – Historical Perspective”

  1. RAHELEH Says:


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