The Zagros Mountains
: کوههای زاگرس
: چیاکانی زاگرۆس
, romanized: Çiyayên Zagros
) are a long mountain range
, northern Iraq
and southeastern Turkey
. This mountain range has a total length of 1,600 km (990 mi). The Zagros mountain range begins in northwestern Iran and roughly follows Iran's western border, while covering much of southeastern Turkey and northeastern Iraq. From this border region, the range roughly follows Iran's coast on the Persian Gulf
. It spans the whole length of the western and southwestern Iranian plateau
, ending at the Strait of Hormuz
. The highest point is Mount Dena
, at 4,409 metres (14,465 ft).
The Zagros Mountains from space, September 1992
The process of collision continues to the present, and as the Arabian Plate is being pushed against the Eurasian Plate
, the Zagros Mountains and the Iranian Plateau
are getting higher and higher. Recent GPS
measurements in Iran
have shown that this collision is still active and the resulting deformation is distributed non-uniformly in the country, mainly taken up in the major mountain belts like Alborz
and Zagros. A relatively dense GPS
network which covered the Iranian Zagros
also proves a high rate of deformation within the Zagros. The GPS results show that the current rate of shortening in the southeast Zagros is ~10 mm/a (0.39 in/year), dropping to ~5 mm/a (0.20 in/year) in the northwest Zagros. The north-south Kazerun strike-slip fault
divides the Zagros into two distinct zones of deformation. The GPS results also show different shortening directions along the belt, normal shortening in the southeast, and oblique shortening in the northwest Zagros. The Zagros mountains were created around the time of the second ice age,
which caused the tectonic collision, leading to its uniqueness.
The sedimentary cover in the SE Zagros is deforming above a layer of rock salt (acting as a ductile decollement
with a low basal friction
), whereas in the NW Zagros the salt layer is missing or is very thin. This different basal friction is partly responsible for the different topographies on either side of the Kazerun fault. Higher topography and narrower zone of deformation in the NW Zagros is observed whereas in the SE, deformation was spread more and a wider zone of deformation with lower topography was formed.
Stresses induced in the Earth's crust by the collision caused extensive folding of the preexisting layered sedimentary rocks
. Subsequent erosion removed softer rocks, such as mudstone
(rock formed by consolidated mud) and siltstone
(a slightly coarser-grained mudstone) while leaving harder rocks, such as limestone
(calcium-rich rock consisting of the remains of marine organisms) and dolomite
(rocks similar to limestone containing calcium
). This differential erosion
formed the linear ridges of the Zagros Mountains.
The depositional environment
and tectonic history of the rocks were conducive to the formation and trapping of petroleum
, and the Zagros region is an important area for oil production. Salt domes
and salt glaciers
are a common feature of the Zagros Mountains. Salt domes are an important target for petroleum exploration
, as the impermeable salt frequently traps petroleum beneath other rock layers. There is also much water-soluble gypsum
in the region.
Type and age of rock
Glaciers on Dena
The mountains are completely of sedimentary origin and are made primarily of limestone
. In the Elevated Zagros or the Higher Zagros, the Paleozoic
rocks can be found mainly in the upper and higher sections of the peaks of the Zagros Mountains, along the Zagros main fault. On both sides of this fault, there are Mesozoic
rocks, a combination of Triassic
(252–201 mya) and Jurassic
(201–145 mya) rocks that are surrounded by Cretaceous
rocks on both sides. The Folded Zagros (the mountains south of the Elevated Zagros and almost parallel to the main Zagros fault) is formed mainly of Tertiary
rocks, with the Paleogene
(66–23 mya) rocks south of the Cretaceous rocks and then the Neogene
(23–2.6 mya) rocks south of the Paleogene rocks. The mountains are divided into many parallel sub-ranges (up to 10 or 250 km (6.2 or 155.3 mi) wide), and orogenically
have the same age as the Alps
Iran's main oilfields
lie in the western central foothills of the Zagros mountain range. The southern ranges of the Fars Province
have somewhat lower summits, reaching 4,000 metres (13,000 feet). They contain some limestone rocks showing abundant marine fossils.
The Zagros Mountains were occupied by early humans since the Lower Paleolithic
Period. The earliest human fossils discovered in Zagros belongs to Neanderthals
and come from Shanidar Cave
, Bisitun Cave
, and Wezmeh
Cave. The remains of ten Neanderthals
, dating from around 65,000–35,000 years ago, have been found in the Shanidar Cave.
The cave also contains two later "proto-Neolithic
" cemeteries, one of which dates back about 10,600 years and contains 35 individuals.
Evidence from later Upper Paleolithic
occupations come from Yafteh Cave, Kaldar Cave near Khoramabad, and Warwasi, Malaverd near Kermanshah, Kenacheh Cave in Kurdistan, Boof Cave in Fars and a number of other caves and rock shelters.
Location map of the Wezmeh Cave in the range of Neanderthals
Signs of early agriculture date back as far as 9000 BC in the foothills of the mountains.
Some settlements later grew into cities, eventually named Anshan
is one archaeological site in this area. Some of the earliest evidence of wine
production has been discovered in the mountains; both the settlements of Hajji Firuz Tepe
and Godin Tepe
have given evidence of wine storage dating between 3500 and 5400 BC.
During early ancient times, the Zagros was the home of peoples such as the ancestors of the Sumerians
and, later, the Kassites
, who periodically invaded the Sumerian
cities of Mesopotamia
. The mountains create a geographic barrier between the Mesopotamian Plain
, which is in Iraq
, and the Iranian Plateau
. A small archive of clay tablets detailing the complex interactions of these groups in the early second millennium BC has been found at Tell Shemshara
along the Little Zab
. Tell Bazmusian
, near Shemshara, was occupied between 5000 BCE and 800 CE, although not continuously.
The mountains contain several ecosystems
. Prominent among them are the forest and forest steppe
areas with a semi-arid climate
. As defined by the World Wildlife Fund
and used in their Wildfinder, the particular terrestrial ecoregion
of the mid to high mountain area is Zagros Mountains forest steppe
(PA0446). The annual precipitation
ranges from 400–800 mm (16–31 in) and falls mostly in winter and spring. Winters are severe, with low temperatures often below −25 °C (−13 °F). The region exemplifies the continental variation of the Mediterranean climate
pattern, with a snowy winter and mild, rainy spring, followed by a dry summer and autumn.
The mountains of the East-Zagros, the Kuh-i-Jupar (4,135 m (13,566 ft)), Kuh-i-Lalezar (4,374 m (14,350 ft)) and Kuh-i-Hezar (4,469 m (14,662 ft)) do not currently have glaciers. Only at Zard Kuh
some glaciers still survive. However, before the Last Glacial Period they had been glaciated to a depth in excess of 1,900 metres (1.2 miles), and during the Last Glacial Period to a depth in excess of 2,160 metres (7,090 feet). Evidence exists of a 20 km (12 mi) wide glacier fed along a 17 km (11 mi) long valley dropping approximately 1,600 m (5,200 ft) along its length on the north side of Kuh-i-Jupar with a thickness of 350–550 m (1,150–1,800 ft). Under conditions of precipitation comparable to current climatic record-keeping, this size of glacier could be expected to form where the annual average temperature was between 10.5 and 11.2 °C (50.9 and 52.2 °F), but since conditions are expected to have been dryer during the period in which this glacier was formed, the temperature must have been lower.
Flora and fauna
A view of Persian oak
forests that dominate the Zagros Mountains
Although currently degraded through overgrazing
, the Zagros region is home to a rich and complex flora. Remnants of the originally widespread oak
-dominated woodland can still be found, as can the park-like pistachio
steppelands. The ancestors of many familiar foods, including wheat
, almond, walnut
, pistachio, apricot
can be found growing wild throughout the mountains.Persian oak
) (covering more than 50% of the Zagros forest area) is the most important tree species of the Zagros in Iran.
Carcass of a leopard that was found near Zom village in the protected area of Kosalan and Shahu in 2019
Other floral endemics
found within the mountain range include: Allium iranicum
, Astragalus crenophila
, Bellevalia kurdistanica
, Cousinia carduchorum
, Cousinia odontolepis
, Echinops rectangularis
, Erysimum boissieri
, Iris barnumiae
, Ornithogalum iraqense
, Scrophularia atroglandulosa
, Scorzonera kurdistanica
, Tragopogon rechingeri
, and Tulipa kurdica
The Zagros are home to many threatened
organisms, including the Zagros Mountains mouse-like hamster
), the Basra reed-warbler
) and the striped hyena
). Luristan newt
) – vulnerable endemic to the central Zagros mountains of Iran. The Persian fallow deer
(Dama dama mesopotamica
), an ancient domesticate
once thought extinct, was rediscovered in the late 20th century
Province, in the southern Zagros. Also, Wild Goats
can be found almost all over the Zagros mountain range.
Seasonal vegetation cover of the mountain top of Dasht- Kahou, Taq-e Bostan, Kermanshah, Zagros
The entrance to the ancient Mesopotamian underworld
was believed to be located in the Zagros Mountains in the far east.
A staircase led down to the gates of the underworld.
The underworld itself is usually located even deeper below ground than the Abzu
, the body of freshwater which the ancient Mesopotamians believed lay deep beneath the earth.
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