The provenance of the tree is thus of some importance to this issue and we have to consider the natural distribution of Dalbergia sissoo today and, even more important, in the past.
A large tree with grey bark and deciduous leaves, Dalbergia sissoo thrives on well-drained, loamy and sandy soils along watercourses and grows in riparian forests throughout the Indo-Iranian borderlands, mainly in the sub-Himalayan tracts of India and Pakistan.
Here Dalbergia sissoo (shishum in Sindhi, tali in Punjabi) grows together with babul (Acacia arabica), tamarisk (Tamarix) and Euphrates poplar (Populus euphratica).
Dalbergia sissoo is also an indigenous element in south-eastern Iran where it is found in the provinces of Kerman and Makran (Rechinger 1984: 43).
An isolated mention of Dalbergia sissoo comes from the Oman peninsula where Mandaville spotted a few trees in 1975 in the Jebel al-Akhdar during the Oman Flora and Fauna survey (Mandaville 1977: 255).
In conclusion, the heartland of Dalbergia sissoo seems to be located in the indo-Iranian borderland, with a present distribution stretching more or less from the Indus and the sub-Himalayan tracts to south-eastern Iran (Figure 5).
Dalbergia sissoo is well-attested in the archaeobotanical record of the indo-Iranian borderlands, where it appears as charred or dessicated wood at several protohistoric sites.
The earliest archaeological attestation of Dalbergia sissoo comes from the mid fifth-millennium BC levels at Mehrgarh (period II) in the Kachi plain of northern Baluchistan (Thiebault 1992; Tengberg & Thiebault 2003).