Thursday, December 28, 2006

Explosions Shook Historic City of Toos

Tehran, 28 December 2006 (CHN Foreign Desk) -- Recent explosive operations by Road & Transportation Department of Khorasan Razavi province for construction of a belt road three kilometers from the city of Toos have caused cracks to appear in the surrounding walls of this historic city. Construction of the belt road close to the historic city of Toos has recently started without coordination with Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO). This is while based on an act passed by the Iranian Cabinet Ministers, all governmental organizations are obliged to coordinate their projects with ICHTO and obtain permission.
Expressing strong objection to the activities of the Road & Transportation Department of Khorasan Razavi province, Vafa Sabeti, head of the Research Center of Toos Historic City said: “Currently a team of cultural heritage experts has been dispatched to the historic city of Toos to make a report from the damages caused by the explosive operations.” Considering that the city has large numbers of old buildings, Sabeti predicts that more likely the city’s main rampart, the ruling seat of the ancient citadel, and Haroonieh have also seen damages by the explosive operations. However, since the city’s rampart extends for 7 kilometers, Sabeti believes that assessing the extent of damages to this historic city is a time-taking process.
On the other hand, executive authorities of road construction claim that their operations do not pose any threat to the ancient monuments of Toos. “We had to use weak explosives to destroy the trenches that exist on the path of road construction; but explosions are set at a distance of 3 kilometers from the city; therefore, this historic city is safe,” said Ali-Akbar Alipour, the project manager.
The historic city of Toos is located in Khorasan Razavi province, northeast Iran. It was among the first cities that were destroyed by the Mongol invaders and like other cities of Khorasan province was almost completely ruined. Ruins of old Toos can still be seen in this city today; however, Toos is most famous for the tomb of Ferdowsi, the renowned Persian poet of the 10th century AD.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Lost Achaemenid City Rising from Bam Historic Site

Tehran, 18 December 2006 (CHN Foreign Desk) -- Studies by a team of archeologists from Bam Archeological Research Institute led into discovery of a vast city, 42 hectares in area, belonging to the Achaemenid dynastic period (550 BC–330 BC) at the historic site of Bam, Kerman province. Archeologists assume the city is more likely what referred to in historic texts and Bisotun inscription as Nashirmeh which was mistakenly taken as the other name for the historic complex of Pasargadae located in present-day Fars province. Large numbers of potshards dated to the Achaemenid dynastic era were also found by archeologists during their recent studies in Bam’s major fault, situated close to the world famous Bam Citadel.
Archeologists believe that the discovery of the exact location of Nashirmeh, otherwise referred to as Paishiyauvada, is essential in gaining a greater understanding of the mysterious years of strife and turmoil during the last years of Cambyses’ reign which carried through the years that followed his death.
Cambyses II (reigned 529-522 BCE) was the son and successor of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid dynasty, who took over the Persian Empire after the death of his father. There may have been some degree of unrest throughout the Empire at the time of Cyrus’ death, for Cambyses apparently felt it necessary secretly to kill his brother, Smerdis (Bardiya), in order to protect his rear while leading the campaign against Egypt in 525 BC. He conquered Memphis and the Pharaoh was carried off in captivity to Susa. Egypt remained as a Persian satrapy for the following 200 years.
While in his Egypt campaign in 522 BC, news reached Cambyses of a revolt back home led by Gaumata the Magian, an impostor claiming to be Smerdis (also known as the false Bardiya), the youngest son of Cyrus the Great and Cambyses’ brother. Several provinces of the Persian Empire accepted the new ruler, who bribed his subjects with a remission of taxes for three years. Hastening home to regain control, Cambyses died, possibly by his own hand, more probably from infection following an accidental sword wound. Later, Darius the Great defeated Gaumata and came to power in 521 BC. The new finding could overturn previous conceptions regarding the events that ultimately resulted into transferring of power from the heirs of Cyrus the Great to the dynasty of Darius the Great who was from a noble Persian family. It can also shed light on the baffling story of Bardiya’s assassination as some believe he was killed by his brother Cambyses while others say that the person killed by Darius the Great was the real Bardiya who was murdered due to Darius’ ambition to gain domination of the Persian Empire. The latter theory is now fading for several reasons raised by the new finding of Nashrimeh outside the boundaries of Pasargadae.
One idea that discards the second theory says that if Gaumata was the real Bardiya, why did he refuse to fight Darius the Great in Pasargadae, the center of Achaemenid power? Moreover, Darius the Great’s inscription in Bisotun says that the ‘real’ Bardiya was murdered before Cambyses led his campaign to Egypt. Some believe that Bardiya was killed by the order of his own brother, Cambyses, to prevent any possible claim to the throne while Cambyses was off to Egypt.
Yet relatively fewer archeologists and historians hold Darius the Great responsible for Bardiya’s death and say that Guamata was Cambyses’ brother, Bardiya. These experts argue that if Bardiya was killed by Cambyses in 525 BC, there was no way to keep it secret for three years until Guamata claimed the thrown as Bardiya in 522 BC. On the other hand, historians say that Darius the Great could have easily distorted the reality in his recording in Bisotun inscription as he does not say much about Guamata except that he was a Magian who rebelled against the Achaemenid king of the time whereas in other historic accounts left from his reign, Darius the Great clearly states the ancestors, nationality, and residence of his enemies. However, the first idea that says Guamata was an imposter holds more truth based on historic evidence.
“If the Magian Gaumata is Bardiya, son of Cyrus the Great, why didn’t he stay in Pasargadae? Why did he initiate his uprising somewhere far from the Achaemenid dynastic capital of Pasargadae? Therefore, it is much closer to the reality to say that Gaumata was not in fact Cyrus’ son and for this reason he could not make his way through Pasargadae,” says Mohammad-Taqi Atayi from the team of archeologists in Bam.
“If the theories raised by the recent discovery are proved, the political history of early Achaemenid period as we know it today could significantly be challenged … Once the only reliable reasoning which suggests Nashrimeh and Pasargadae to be one and the same city is disproved, one may conclude the theory that says Darius rebelled against the Imperial Family is fundamentally flawed and can be questioned,” added Atayi.
According to this archeologist, the names of three cities located in Kerman appear on the inscriptions found in Persepolis’ ramparts, one of which is Nashirmeh.‌ He also said that that evidence of Achaemenid dynastic period can still be found in Kerman such as potteries discovered in Sassanid era fortresses of Dokhtar and Ardeshir.
One of the strong documents used by archeologists to refute the theory suggesting Nashrimeh and Pasargadae to be the same is the Bisotun inscription. A few years after Darius the Great rose to the throne, he arranged for the inscription of a long ode of his accession in the face of the usurper Gaumata to be inscribed on a cliff in the Zagros Mountains of Iran that extend to Kermanshah Plain in a historic site known as Bisotun.
The inscription is carved in both Old-Persian and Elamite languages. The Old-Persian inscription mentions a place called Paishiyauvada while its twin inscription in Elamite has Nashirmeh in place of this word. This shows that Paishiyauvada and Nashirmeh refer to the same place and that Nashirmeh was the Elamite name for Paishiyauvada. On the other hand, since it was not common for a city to have more than one name in one language and since Paishiyauvada and Pasargadae are both Persian names, it is clear that Paishiyauvada and Pasargadae are not the same. Therefore, Nashirmeh is not the Elamite equivalent for Pasargadae and refers to the same city known as Paishiyauvada. Moreover, according to the Bisotun inscription, Paishiyauvada is the name of a city on the foothills of a mountain called Arakadri, which today archeologists believe is the Jebal-Barez Mountain, south of Bam in Kerman province. This shows that Nashirmeh was indeed in Kerman.
The rule of the entire Kerman region along with a number of other satrapies was bestowed by Cyrus the Great to his youngest son, Bardiya. This is why Gaumata chose this region, Paishiyauvada in particular, as the base of his revolt. Moreover, its population of 8000 people was a great advantage. Even if three-quarter of the population were women, children, and the elderly, this still leaves a population of 2000 young men who could make up a powerful army to help Gaumata reach its goal. However, if Gaumata was the real Bardiya, he could have easily made use of all the powers in his hand and unite all the regions under his control to rebel against his brother and seize over Pasargadae, which evidently never happened, once again proving Gaumata as fraud.
Nonetheless, further studies on the recently discovered Achaemenid city of Nashirmeh (Paishiyauvada) will shed more light on the mysterious years that followed Cambyses’ death.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Traces of Mithraism Found in Mazandaran Province

Tehran, 8 June 2006 (CHN) -- Discovery of some Mithraism symbols such as cypress, a goat and an inscription in Sassanid-Pahlavi language and Mithraism architectural style in Kangelou Fortress all have strengthened the theory that this historical monument was used as a worship place during the ancient times. “In Avesta, Zoroastrian’s holly book, Mithra means promise and faith. Mehr (literary meaning love or sun) was one of the creators of Ahura Mazda, God in Zoroastrianism. He was the protector of promise and faith and was lord of light and brightness. We have found some symbols of this religion in Kangelou Fortress,” said Saman Sourtiji, member of academic assembly of Iran’s Archaeology Research Center and head of excavation team in Kangelou Fortress.
According to Sourtiji, while most of the Mithraism worship places were located inside the caves or places deeper in the ground with the opening towards the sun, Kangelou monument has a quiet different style. “Kangelou is an oval-shaped tower with a 50-square-meter area, constructed in three floors with rubbles, plaster, and mortar. Although most parts of the ceiling have been destroyed over time, what has remained indicates that Sassanid architectural style was used in the construction of the ceilings. A small hole towards the west was identified during the initial excavations in this monument on the base of the tower which means that there must have been a cubbyhole in a lower level of the tower,” added Sourtiji. According to Mithraism beliefs, Mehr was created from a stone, which is why Kangelou monument has a panorama of a huge rock mountain named Khernero from the north. In Pahlavi language, Khernero means the spirit of the sun. Sourtiji believes that former discoveries in this historical site indicate that Kangelou Fortress must have been used as a worship place during the Sassanid era. For example, discovery of some graves with burial gifts such as an opal signet ring with Pahlavid-Sassanid script carved on it, discovery of a gemstone with the design of a six-petal sun carved on it, and another gemstone designed with the image of a cypress tree all may be used as proofs to this claim because all of these designs had a symbolic meaning in Mithraism beliefs.
“The design of a goat, which was the symbol of nature and fertility, was carved on one of the discovered jewels. Also the discovered Sassanid-Pahlavi inscription on the opal signet ring says “Farokhi” or “Farahi”, meaning luck or happiness, and belongs to the 4th century AD when Mithraism was spread to a large extent within Iran and Europe,” explained Sourtiji. Mithraism was an ancient mysterious religion prominent from the 1st century BC to the 5th century AD. Mithraism apparently originated in the eastern part of today’s Iran around the 7th century BC. It was based on worship to the goddess Mithras and derives from the Persian and Indic god Mithra and other Zoroastrian deities. Mithras was known throughout Europe and Asia by the names Mithra, Mitra, Meitros, Mihr, Mehr, and Meher. The veneration of this God began about 4000 years ago in Persia, where it was soon embedded with Babylonian doctrines. According to Martin A. Larson, an American populist freethinker and religion scholar, in The Story of Christian Origins, Mithraism and Christianity derived from the same sources.
Mithra’s birthday was adopted by Christians in the 4th century AD as the birth of Christ. The archaeology team in Kangelou Fortress hopes to find more traces of Mithraism in this historical monument. If this claim is proven fully, Kangelou will be the most important Sassanid prayer house discovered so far in Mazandaran province.