The early history of man in Iran goes back well beyond the Neolithic period, it begins to get more interesting around 6000 BC, when people began to domesticate animals and plant wheat and barley. The number of settled communities increased,particularly in the eastern Zagros mountains, and handmade painted pottery appears. Throughout the prehistoric period, from the middle of the sixth millennium BC to about 3000 BC, painted pottery is a characteristic feature of many sites in Iran. The Persian Empire is the name used to refer to a number of historic dynasties that have ruled the country of Persia (Iran). Persia’s earliest known kingdom was the proto-Elamite Empire, followed by the Medes; but it is the Achaemenid Empire that emerged under Cyrus the Great that is usually the earliest to be called “Persian.” Successive states in Iran before 1935 are collectively called the Persian Empire by Western historians.