Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Discovery of Wheat Grains Inside a Grave as a Burial Offering in Gohar Tepe

LONDON, May 31, 2006(CAIS) -- Continuation of archaeological excavations in Gohar Tepe led to the discovery of a large amount of wheat grains inside a grave placed in an oblation dish used as a burial gift. Ali Mahforouzi, archaeologist and head of excavation team in Gohar Tepe historical site, believes that discovery of these wheat grains would reveal some aspects of daiet habits of the inhabitants of Gohar Tepe during the Iron Age.
“Initial studies on the wheat grains which were discovered in a dish belonging to the Iron Age show that they are domestic and similar to those already found in Bronze Age layers. This new discovery might change some previous theories about the lifestyle of the people of the Iron Age. While it is believed that the inhabitants of that period had a nomadic life and were not settled in a particular place and earned their livings mostly through animal husbandry, discovery of grown domestic wheat in this area could be used as a proof to claiming that the inhabitants of Gohar Tepe enjoyed permanent settlements during the Iron Age and in addition to animal husbandry they produced grains as well,” said Mahforouzi.
Offering gifts to the dead was a common practice during the ancient times. So far, different kinds of burial methods have been discovered in Gohar Tepe including jar burial, squat burial, fetal burial, etc. Burial gifts were seen in most of the graves regardless of the method used for burial. However, the philosophy behind some of these burial methods as well as the burial gifts is still unknown to archaeologists and required more comprehensive archaeological studies.
Regarding the religious practices of the Gohar Tepe inhabitants during the Iron Age, Mahforouzi said, “What the people of this area practiced as their religion is still a matter of controversy. However, considering the discovery of some clay dishes containing the remains of the bones of some sacrificed animals in the graves, most probably the empty dishes were filled with holly water or other liquids at the time of burial, showing that the people of this region believed in making offerings to the dead” added Mahforouzi.
Based on stratigraphical studies done over the past few decades on the site, Gohar Tepe was an active center in the middle Bronze Age which was still alive during the Iron Age. However, the most ancient cultural layers found in the area belong to the Neolithic period, some 14,000 years ago, which are very similar to those found in other regional states and Central Asia. “The discovered evidence such as the existence of rural life and urbanization, evidence of a flourished economy system, the existence of pottery workshops and forges, stone and clay relics such as the statues of human beings and animals, the remains of plant and animals in the region, and many more evidence found in Gohar Tepe all indicate that this historic site is worth receiving a special attention and support by the people and all the authorities especially the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization of the country.
Further excavations in the region would result in a better understanding of the lifestyle of the people who lived in the southern regions of the Caspian Sea,” added Mahforouzi. Gohar Tepe historical site, with a 50 hectare area, is located in eastern parts of Mazandaran province between the cities of Neka and Behshahr, north of Iran. It is one of the most important historical sites of Mazandaran province located near the Caspian Sea which carries the secret of an ancient civilization. It is also believed that Gohar Tepe once enjoyed a complicated urbanization with a history that goes back to some 5000 years ago.
According to the public relations office of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Office of Mazandaran province, Delavar Bozorgnia, director of this organization is intending to change Gohar Tepe historical site into a museum site with the cooperation of Ali Mahforouzi and other archaeologists, to give tourists the chance to observe closely the remains of the skeletons with their burial gifts and other historical remains discovered in this site and feel themselves in the atmosphere and historical context these objects belonged to. Also a clay oven has been created near the ancient one to make clay objects similar to the ancient ones for tourists to buy as souvenirs.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Archaeological Findings of Persepolis Exhibited

Tehran, 30 May 2006 (CHN) -- On the sideline of the first workshop for promoting the management and planning of cultural landscapes of world heritage, currently held in Pesepolis, Fars province, an exhibition displaying archaeological findings in this historic palace opened today in Persepolis.
In this exhibition some pictures which were taken by foreign archaeologists such as Eric Schmidt and Ernest Herzfeld from the Oriental Institute of University of Chicago, during the archaeological excavations in Persepolis some 70 years ago have been displayed. In addition, images taken from other historical sites provided by different cultural heritage research centers such as Parse-Pasargadae, Tchogha Zanbil, Bam Citadel, Soltanieh, Bisotun, Takht-e Soleiman and historical sites of Shiraz, Yazd, Izeh, Neishabour, Masouleh, Niasar, and Abyaneh have also gone on display in this photo exhibition.
The opening ceremony of this Cultural Heritage Exhibition was held this morning with the attendance of Junko Taniguchi, UNESCO’s programme specialist in culture who is also the Organization’s representative in Tehran, Mohammad Hassan Talebian, head of Parse-Pasargadae Archaeological Research Center, Mehdi Mousavi, deputy director of Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization Research Center, Hashem Rabani, director of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department of Fars province, Samad Raja, civil deputy of Fars governor office and some cultural heritage experts. The first workshop for promoting the management and planning of cultural landscapes of world heritage started its work yesterday, 29 of May, in Persepolis and will run to the 2nd of June.
During this five-day workshop, some Iranian and foreign experts in cultural heritage including representatives from the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and UNESCO and also heads of archaeology research centers of a number of countries study the latest accomplishments of UNESCO in this field and discuss the importance of cultural landscapes in preserving the cultural heritage sites all over the world.

Tarisha’s Landscape, Another Historic Site in Danger

Tehran, 30 May 2006 (CHN) -- After two years of interruption in the construction of a hotel and an amphitheater in the vicinity of Eshkaf-e Salman (Salman Cave), also called Tarisha worship place, where the biggest Elamite cuneiform inscription is located, the Rehearing Court of Khuzestan province voted in favor of the construction of the building. Construction of this hotel which started two years ago in the vicinity of one of the most ancient caves of Iran without coordinating with the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department of Izeh is a real threat to the landscape of Eshkaft-e Salman historical site.
The court’s decision was announced two years ago; however, due to financial problems, the construction of the hotel had been stopped for two years and now the project is resumed in Eshfat-e Salman in Khuzestan province. “Backed by the court’s approval, the project manager has resumed the construction of this hotel in the area that is considered part of the cultural landscape of Eshkaft-e Salman historical site,” said Keramat Tahmasebi, director of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department of Izeh in Khuzestan province.
According to Tahmasebi, Khuzestan’s Rehearing Court was not convinced with the reasons provided by the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department of this province presented to the court in a file for preventing the construction of the hotel in the area and announced that the submitted file was not complete.
In its announcement, the court says: “Although the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization is the body that determines the vicinity of a cultural or historical site, the reasons and documents which were submitted to the court by the hotel’s project manager seemed more reasonable compared to what was received from the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization, which is why the court voted in favor of this project to be continued!”
Asked to comment on the court’s announcement, Tahmasebi said: “While in its verdict the court has mentioned that determining the limits of a cultural landscape is the responsibility of the Cultural Heritage Organization, it has not fully recognized this right and has rejected our reasons. Besides, in the comprehensive map of the city, according to which the court has passed this act, our organization has agreed with the establishment of a park in the vicinity of Eshkaft-e Salman, not a hotel!”
“After the cultural landscape of the historic site of Eshkaft-e Salman was determined, we announced it to all the related organizations. Following the court’s decision, we complained to Iran’s Supreme Court asking them to study the case, but the project manager of the hotel has taken the chance and continued the construction works,” added Tahmasbi.
The pre-historical site of Eshkaft-e Salman is located in the city of Izeh in Khuzestan province and is one of the first historical sites in Iran which was registered in the list of Iran’s National Heritage. The biggest New Elamite inscription is found in this ancient site which is about to be turned into a tourism destination. Four reliefs can be seen in Eshkaf-e Salman, two of which are inside the cave and the other two are in the outside. What is interesting about these reliefs is that it is the first time the picture of a woman is carved beside a man. The image of the wife and sister of the king in a ceremonial tradition, while the priest is in front of them, shows that Eshkaf-e Salman was a worship place.
There is also another cave near this site which was turned into a holly place during the Ilkhanid era. What is happening in the case of Eshkaf-e Salman is only one example of the many other cases of this kind where the country’s cultural heritage is victimized by its urban and development projects. Same things have repeatedly occurred in other parts of the country and that is something Iran’s cultural heritage authorities must find a solution to before it afflicts the entire country.
Iran is trying to highlight the importance of its cultural landscape, the lands that surround its historical sites, and to make people realize how vital preserving the cultural landscapes are in protecting the country’s cultural heritage. In fact, cultural and historical landscape has turned into a very important factor considered greatly by UNESCO during the last two decades in inscribing a place in the list of world heritage sites and one of the main concerns of cultural heritage experts and enthusiast.
What is ironic in the story of Eshkaf-e Salman and its struggle with the hotel is to remember that Iran is currently hosting the first workshop for promoting management and planning of cultural landscapes of world heritage, but yet the country itself has major problems in this regard. The workshop started yesterday at Persepolis, Fars Province, and is attended by experts from International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and UNESCO and heads of archaeological research centers both inside and outside Iran with the aim of raising the awareness of both the public and the authorities about the importance of preserving their cultural landscapes.
It is undoubtedly correct to argue that the conflicts between different organizations within Iran and in other countries too when it comes to making a choice between preserving a historic site and going on with a development project rise from lack of information about the importance of these cultural heritage sites, and the fact that there are very limited training in this area. It is true that one of the ways through which the countries may succeed in doing so is by passing some regulations which strictly forbid constructions in the vicinity of a historic site. However, passing such laws is only a temporary solution as long as no training happens which provides the reasons for the existence of such regulations.
Perhaps holding of the fist workshop for promoting management and planning of cultural landscapes in a country like Iran would lead into awakening the people and the authorities not only in Iran but also in other countries of the world about their endangered historical sites while familiarizing them with the ways through which they may protect them from more damages.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Jiroft Inscription Belongs to the Eastern Civilization

Tehran, 29 May 2006 (CHN) -- In his latest research paper about the discovered inscription in Konar Sandal in Jiroft, Piotr Steinkeller, professor of Assyriology in Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations of Harvard University, explains that there exists no correlation between the inscriptions discovered in Jiroft, Shahdad, and Melian historical sites with the Elamite civilization which itself was under the influence of the civilization of Mesopotamia, and they should be considered as an eastern writing language.
“In his latest paper, Prof. Steinkeller has explained that there should not have been any relation between the discovered inscription in Jiroft and Elamite civilization, which itself was under the influence of Mesopotamian civilization. Steinkeller believes that it would be better to throw away this way of thinking and aknowldege the ‘eastern script’ instead of ‘Elamite script,’” said Yousof Majidzadeh, head of excavation team in Jiroft.
The Elamite script is known to belong to Khutelutush-In-Shushinak (c. 1120 - 1110 BC), the Elamite king. Experts believe that it is not logical to accept that a nation, who has a writing language itself, abandons its script after the conquest of a powerful neighbor and adopt Mesopotamian culture and script. They believe that this script found its way to Susa from eastern Iran.“
Decoding the discovered inscription in Jiroft requires a lot of time. However, archaeologists believe that this script must have been more ancient than that of the Elamite civilization. Further archaeological excavations in Jiroft historical site might help researchers to learn more about the identity of this inscription. We had two different writing languages in Iran during ancient times: One of them is Proto-Elamite script, which was mainly figures and numbers, and the other was writing language which did not use images. Prior to the discovery of Jiroft inscription, the most ancient script had been found in Susa historical site which has remained from the reign of Khutelutush-In-Shushinak. This inscription dates back to 1200 BC, while the Jiroft inscription is older than that and is estimated to be between 4400 to 4500 years old,” added Majidzadeh.
Elam is one of the most ancient civilizations on record. It was centered in the far west and southwest of today Iran. The Elamites came in power about 300 years after the fall of the Jiroft Kingdom (5000-3000 BC). The reign of the Elamite kings lasted from 2700 to 539 BC, coming after what is known as the Proto-Elamite period which began around 3200 BC when Susa, the later capital of the Elamites, began to receive influences from the cultures of the Iranian Plateau to the east. “It is believed that Jiroft’s writing language came into existence at the same time Mesopotamia started developing a writing system. According to the carbon 14 tests conducted on the layers in which Jiroft inscription was discovered, this inscription was dated to 2500 BC. Although such tests have not been carried out on Mesopotamia inscription yet, based on the discovered evidence so far, archaeologists strongly believe that Mesopotamia’s script goes back to 2600-2700 BC at most,” explained Majidzadeh. The new discoveries during the archaeological excavations in Konar Sandal such as historical inscriptions, the most ancient ziggurat of the world, and many other historical relics have confused archaeologist and confronted them with an unknown civilization in the east. This further led into revisions on some previous archaeological hypotheses.
The city of Jiroft is situated close to Halil Rud historical site in Kerman province. The discovered stone dishes in the area belonging to the first half of the third millennium BC point to the developed art of carving on stones at that time. The second inscription that was recently discovered at the Konar Sandal Ziggurat of Jiroft is scheduled to be deciphered by teams of researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of Paris. Archaeologists are waiting for the results to come out which may well change the history of civilization as we know today.

Date of Sivand Dam Inundation Not Yet Agreed Upon

Tehran, 29 May 2006 (CHN) -- The final meeting on the inundation of Sivand Dam will be held on the last week of spring 2006 with the presence of representatives from the Ministry of Energy and Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO). This is while the Minister of Energy had already announced that they had reached to an agreement of the exact date of the Sivand Dam inundation which according to him would have been November or December 2006.
“We have not yet reached an agreement with the Ministry of Energy on the inundation of Sivand Dam and the Minister of Energy made his announcement according to what he had estimated from the trend of excavations in Bolaghi Gorge historical site,” said Esfaniar Rahim Mashayi, President of ICHTO to CHN. Prior to this, the Minister of Energy had participated in an interview with Iran’s Fars News Agency in which he announced the agreement of this ministry with ICHTO for the inundation of Sivand Dam toward the end of this year.
“I had a visit to Shiraz on 17th of May and in a meeting attended by ICHTO authorities we studied the case and it seemed that the ICHTO had no problem with resuming the construction of Sivand Dam,” said Parviz Fatah, Minister of Energy. According to Hashem Rabani, director of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department of Fars province, the inundation of Sivand Dam will cause no harm to Pasargadae historical site; however, the final result will be clarified by the end of spring. Some experts anticipate that the archaeological excavations in Bolaghi Gorge will finish by that time. It is certain that inundation of the Sivand Dam will drown major parts of Bolaghi Gorge and many of its historical sites; however considering the distance between this dam and the tomb of Cyrus the Great in Pasargadae, flooding of the dam will not directly affect Cyrus’ Tomb, though the humidity created by it will gradually destroy this ancient monument as well.
Sivand Dam is constructed on the Sivand River in Bolaghi Gorge historical site which is located 9 kilometers from the world heritage site of Pasargadae in Fars province. Following the news of the inundation of Sivand Dam, a false rumour was spread around the world which caused a lot of concerns among the cultural heritage enthusiasts that Pasargadae is in serious danger of being drowned. Today, after many studies, experts believe that the only threat the dam poses to Pasargadae and the tomb of Cyrus is the changes in humidity of the area. Still experts from the Ministry of Energy argue that this could be compensated by controlling the water level of the dam reservoir. Yet the relatively close distance between the Sivand Dam and Pasargadae leaves many suspicious.
However, since Bolaghi Gorge will submerge with all its historical sites once the dam is flooded, experts started their archaeological excavations there under a comprehensive salvation project in which archaeologists from all around the world take part. The project has led to some valuable discoveries so far such as unearthing of the remains of the palace of Darius, a village belonging to the Achaemenid era, and large numbers of ancient artifacts. Based on previous agreements, flooding of the dam is postponed until archaeologists announce that their excavations in Bolaghi Gorge are finished.

The illegitimate rumour that is concerning the supporters of the reservations of ancient monuments however is not only that Pasargadea will be drowned. The major concern is about it being destroyed by the humidity. Hence the rumour is no "false romour" but the reality and needs to be taken seriously. Already many have signed a petition against opening the damn. If you are interested please go to Save Pasargad website and show your support.
If CHN takes the survival of such ancient monuments so seriously, I suggest they build a glass cover around the monument. This technique has successfully been applied to the walls of the valley of the kings in Egypt under the supervision of Zahi Hawas.

Restoration of Cyrus' Tomb Started in Pasargadae

Tehran, 29 May 2006 (CHN) -- Restoration of the tomb of Cyrus the Great, the Achaemenid king, has started in Pasargadae historical site in Fars province by removing very giant stones. This project which involves 10 restoration experts aims at preventing possible damages to this ancient monument by humidity.
“Studies on the condition of Cyrus’ Tomb and its susceptibility had already started last year, and following that the restoration project of this Achaemenid monument was planned. About 30 years ago, some parts of this monument were restored by an Iranian expert. However, since the material which was used in the restoration was cement, and cement and stone do not stick together for a long time, the cracks appeared once again through which the raindrops leaked into the tomb and caused more damages to the monument. In this restoration project we will try to prevent any water leakage by closing the cracks,” said Mohammad Hassan Talebian, head of Parse-Pasargadae Research Center.
The restoration work started with the ceiling of this historical monument and experts believe that the restoration of the ceiling will be completed by the end of winter.
“Some stones had been removed during the previous restoration work. This time we also have to remove some giant stones and put them back to their original place. The exact place of the stones will be determined by the metal braces used in the construction of the tomb,” said Hassan Rahsaz, restoration expert and head of restoration team of Cyrus’ Tomb.
So far, experts have relocated three stones of the ceiling, weighing more than 2 tons each.
“This year we are intending to pay a special attention to the Tomb of Cyrus and Pasargadae historical site. Therefore, for us this year is the year of Pasargadae,” added Talebian.
Pasargadae historical site is located 87 kilometer northeast of Persepolis in Fars province of Iran. Pasargadae was an important city during the Achaemenid era (648 BC–330 BC) and was the first capital of the Persian Empire. It was construction by the order of Cyrus the Great around 546 BC but was left uncompleted due to death of Cyrus in a battle in 529-530 BC.
Many Greek and Persian historians account that after Cyrus the Great was killed in the battle, he was brought to this place and was buried there. They also say that his tomb was constructed towards the sunset since he was fond of the unset view during his lifetime.
The tomb of Cyrus the Great has witnessed many dramatic events in the course of the history. After the conquest of Persia by Arabs in the seventh century AD, Arab armies came upon the tomb planning to destroy it. However, the talented caretaker of the grave managed to convince the Arab commander that the tomb was not built to honor Cyrus but instead housed the mother of King Solomon. This way he saved it from destruction.

Cylindrical Seal with a Strange Design Discovered in Dezful

Tehran, 28 May 2006 (CHN) -- Archaeological excavations in Sanjar Tepe in Khuzestan province resulted in the discovery of a cylindrical seal with the design of a winged horse on its end. Although it is not the first time that the archaeologists have found a design of a winged horse in Iran, what makes this one special compared to the previous ones is that this winged horse has a lion’s head and a cow or a goat’s hooves, creating a strange creature which combines features of a horse, a bird, a lion, and a cow!
“A stone seal which most probably belongs to the Sassanid era (226-651 AD) was discovered during the first archaeological excavation in Sanjar Tepe in Dezful. The design of a winged horse can be seen on the seal whose head is like a lion and has round hooves like a cow or a goat. Horse was considered as a sacred animal during the Sassanid period and had a special place among the Persians of the time. We had previously found a large number of Sassanid seals with the designs of winged horses on them in other archaeological sites but what makes this one unique among all the pervious ones is that it is the first time we see such a strange combination of four animals all in one. Another interesting thing about this design is that the hooves are round not cracked, although we don’t have any idea about the reason it is designed so,” said Mostafa Abdolahi, archaeologist and head of Archaeology Department of Azad University of Dezful.
First season of archaeological excavations in Sanjar Tepe has started by the students of Dezful Azad University under the supervision of Dr. Pour Derakhshandeh. According to Abdolahi, the objects which have been discovered so far in this historical site, including clay, bronze and iron relics, were displayed in an exhibition in Khuzestan which was held during the Cultural Heritage Week (18-25 of May).
“Some models illustrating the Islamic architectural style used in the constructions of the city and colored posters from some historic monuments prepared by the students were displayed in this exhibition. In addition, some documentary movies from different archaeological sites were screened in this exhibition,” said Abdolahi.
Sanjar historical Tepe is located in the city of Dezful in Khuzestan province, south of Iran, and belongs to the Elamite period (2700 BC-539 BC). The first season of archaeological excavations in this historical site led to discovery of the location of Zahari, the Elamite city. “This city was located between the cities of Susa and Avan. Considering the archaeological evidence found in the region, we believe that this city must have existed near the Sanjar Tepe,” added Abdolahi.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Bolaghi Gorge, Home to Many Potters

Tehran, 27 May 2006 (CHN) -- Discovery of several clay ovens at the Bolaghi Gorge in Fars province shows that art of pottery was much flourished in this historical site some 7000 years ago and that this place was the residential settlement of handicrafts artists in pottery making during the ancient times. This was announced in a one-day archaeology seminar which was held on 24th of May in Iran's National Museum with a special focus on Bolaghi Gorge historical site. During this seminar, heads of archaeology teams issued their reports on their accomplishments in this historical site.
Iranian-German joint archaeology team, represented in this seminar by Mojgan Seyedein and Barbara Helwing, declared the discovery of several numbers of kilns for baking clays and used it as a proof to claiming that a large number of potters lived in Bolaghi Gorge during the ancient times. "Archaeology excavation team in Bolaghi Gorge has succeeded in discovery of five clay bake ovens in the area so far. Just like the clays found from the Bacon era, these ovens enjoy a very high quality," said Mojgan Seyedein, Iranian head of the joint Iranian-German archaeology team in Bolaghi Gorge.
She also talked about some other accomplishments in this historical site during the archaeological excavations in areas no. 119, 73, and 131 of Bolaghi Gorge such as discovering some constructions belonging to the Achaemenid era, residential areas of the people during the Bacon era (5th millennium BC), and discovering the remains of some 7000-year-old skeletons such as a girl who was buried on her side.
Barbara Helwing, German head of the joint Iranian-German archaeology team in Bolaghi Gorge also talked about the discovery of a settlement area in this historic site which belonged to some tribes who lived there during the Bacon era. "There were several hypothesis about the exact location of a residential area which was believed to have belonged to the Bacon era; however, our excavations ultimately revealed that it actually existed in area no. 131 near the Sivand Dam," explained Helwing.
Among other achievements of this team of archaeologists were finding the remains of several skeletons and a mass grave containing 6 skeletons discovered by digging some deep trenches.
Iranian-German joint team has continued its excavations in Bolaghi Gorge historical site since winter 2006 under the supervision of Mojgan Seyedein from Iran and Barbara Helwing from Germany. This team of archaeologists is working alongside other Iranian and foreign experts to save the remaining evidence of Bolaghi Gorge before they are drowned by inundation of the nearby Sivand Dam.

Signet Ring Found in a Sassanid Grave in Mazandaran

Tehran, 27 May 2006 (CHN) -- A grave belonging to the Sassanid era was discovered during sounding activities by archaeologists near Kangelou historical fortress in Mazandaran province in which a signet ring with Pahlavi-Sassanid script carved on it was found.
“This Sassanid grave was discovered during the sounding activities aimed at finding the pathway to Kangelou Fortress in Savad Kooh in the northern Iranian province of Mazandaran. This is a four-layer stone grave and the corpse was buried in a foetal position. In addition to the signet ring, some enameled clay dishes, metal, and glass relics have been found in this grave,” said Saman Sourtiji, member of academic assembly of Iran’s Archaeology Research Center of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department of Mazandaran province and head of the archaeology team in Kangelou Fortress.
According to Sourtiji, the grave was built with rubbles and mud mortar and the corpse was buried towards the west laid on its left side with hands near its mouth and knees bent.
This is a pre-historic burial method common before the Islamic period. However, this new discovery shows that this method of burial continued in Mazandaran province even after the Islamic era for over a century.
“The discovered ring in the grave is an opal ring which was used as a seal. An etched word can be seen on the opal which was decoded by Rasoul Bashash, master of ancient languages. According to Bashash, the word on the ring says “Farokhi” or “Farahi”, meaning luck or happiness, and it was believed that it would bring dignity and splendor for its owner,” explained Sourtiji.
According to Sourtiji, with this discovery, the Kangelou fortress archaeology team is determined to continue its excavations in the area to find the architectural remains of the people who lived near the fortress during the Sassanid era in order to learn more about the mysteries of this historical period in this area.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Achaemenid Irrigation Channel Discovered Near Persepolis

Tehran, 25 May 2006 (CHN) -- Archaeological excavations and geophysical studies by the joint Iranian-French team in Fars province led to unearthing of an irrigation channel belonging to the Achaemenid era (648-330 BC) in an area between Persepolis and the city of Estakhr (pool) in Fars province.
“The remains of an irrigation channel belonging to the Achaemenid era have been discovered in the northern part of Persepolis which according to geophysical studies must have continued to the Estakhr city. Archaeological evidence shows that this channel was constructed using natural elements. However, in some parts the channel was blocked by hard cliffs but the people of the time scraped the stone and by using rubbles they constructed the path of the channel to direct the water of Polvar (Sivand) River to Marvdasht Plain where the ancient palace of Persepolis is located,” said Mohammad Feizkhah, Iranian head of Iranian-French archaeology team in Marvdasht, Fars province.
Last year the remains of another irrigation channel had been discovered in Persepolis which was used to collect water in the palace. However, this new discovered channel is longer than the previous one. “This channel is 4 kilometers in length and is considered a long channel considering the time during which it was constructed and the limited facilities that were available at that time. The channel started from Polvar River with a steep slope and the closer it got to Persepolis, the less steep it became which indicates that the purpose of its constructors was to speed up the transferring of water to Persepolis during that time,” added Feizkhah.
Archaeological excavations in Marvdasht Plain in Fars province are currently being carried out by a joint Iranian-French team. Moreover, a geophysical map is being prepared by experts which would help the archaeologists to get more familiar with the area near Persepolis. Last year this team succeeded in discovering some residential settlement areas belonging to the Achaemenid era in this region. Discovery of a big dam belonging to the same period was one of the other prominent accomplishments of this team of archaeologists and experts in this historical area.

Skeletons of a Mother & a Child Found at the Bolaghi Gorge

Tehran, 25 May 2006 (CHN) -- Latest archaeological excavations at the Bolaghi Gorge historical site in Fars province led to discovery of the skeletons of a mother and her child who were buried in a joint grave some 7000 years ago. With this new discovery, the number of the discovered skeletons in Bolaghi Gorge reached to eight.
“The skeleton of the mother was found buried on her side with the baby embraced in her arms. These skeletons belong to the Bacon era, some 7000 years ago, and were discovered in the residential area of Bolaghi Gorge. The gender of the mother was determined during our studies, however we are not yet sure about that of the child,” said Mojgan Seyedein, Iranian head of Iran-German joint archaeology team in Bolaghi Gorge.
Prior to this, the grave of a girl, a mass grave with disordered skeletons of three people, and the complete skeleton of a young man had already been discovered in Bolaghi Gorge. All of these graves date back to the fifth millennium BC.
According to Seyedein, with the discovery of the grave of the mother and her baby, the number of the graves discovered in Bolaghi Gorge reached the number eight. She also said that all the discovered skeletons have been transferred to Parse-Pasargadae Research Center for further studies.
Iranian-German joint archaeological team has continued its excavations in Bolaghi Gorge historical site since winter 2006 under the supervision of Mojgan Seyedein from Iran and Barbara Helwing from Germany. They discovered some areas belonging to the Bacon era which were settlement areas of the inhabitants of Bolaghi Gorge some 7000 years ago.
The 18-kilometer Bolaghi Gorge is located 9 kilometers from the world heritage site of Pasargadae and is considered part of its landscape. Archaeological excavations started in Bolaghi Gorge when it was announced that the inundation of the newly constructed Sivand Dam would pose a real threat to Bolaghi Gorge and all the archaeological evidence which have been unearthed so far in this historical site. The salvation project in Bolaghi Gorge started with the engagement of eight international teams more than a year ago and continues to this day.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Remains of Darius’ Palace Unearthed in Bolaghi Gorge

Tehran, 24 May 2006 (CHN) -- Following the discovery of the remains of a huge palace which is believed to date back to the Achaemenid era (648-33 BC) and is denoted to Darius the Great, by the Iran-French joint archaeological team at the Bolaghi Gorge in Fars province, archaeological excavations continued in the area which led to unearthing the remains of the palace.
“Prior to this, the remains of a summer residential palace belonging to the Achaemenid era was identified in area no. 85. However, archaeological excavations show that this palace was destructed due to the later constructions during the Sassanid and Safavid periods. Moreover, we were able to find the remains of an estimated 900-square-meter palace which for sure must have belonged to the Achaemenid kings and for some unknown reason was destroyed by bulldozers,” said Mohammad Taghi Atayi, Iranian head of Iran-France archaeological team in Bolaghi Gorge in the one-day Bolaghi Gorge archaeology seminar which was held today in National Museum of Iran with the attendance of heads of Iranian and foreign archaeological teams active at the Bolaghi Gorge.
Discovery of the base of a pillar and the platform of the palace assured archaeologists that this palace must have belonged to the Achaemenid era. According to Atayi, archaeologists have succeeded in saving some parts of the palace; however other parts of the palace such as the base of the pillars have been destroyed by bulldozers.
In this one day summit, Remy Boucharlat, the French head of Iranian-French joint archaeological team in Bolaghi Gorge, issued his report on their accomplishments in Bolaghi Gorge and the discovery of the Achaemenid palace in this historical site.
Among other participants in this one day seminar were heads of archaeological teams in historical sites of Kalat Qafkhaneh in Shahrud, Pardis Tepe in Varamin, Sang Tarashan in Khoram Abad, Chehr Abad salt mine in Zanjan, and Bandian Dargaz in Khorasan. The participants presented their reports on their archaeological findings across Iran. However, the main focus of this seminar was on the discoveries of the Bolaghi Gorge area, especially the newly discovered palace of Darius the Great.
Excavations at the Bolaghi Gorge started almost two years ago with the aim of saving the remains of archaeological evidence before the inundation of the nearby Sivand Dam. Currently, some groups from Italy, France, Germany, Poland, and a large number of Iranian archaeologists are busy on the site with the Bolaghi Gorge salvation project.

Discovery of an Ivory Scabbard in Lorestan

Tehran, 24 May 2006 (CHN) -- Discovery of a scabbard made of ivory was one of the most important achievements during the third season of excavations in Sangtarashan in Lorestan province. This is the first time a scabbard with such a material belonging to the end of the Iron Age has been discovered in this area.
“The third season of excavations led to discovery of two iron swords and an iron axe. What makes these swords unique among all the other discoveries in this historical site so far is that there is a thin layer of decorative bone, most probably ivory, between these two swords. It is believed that this layer is the remains of the scabbard of one of these swords. It is the first time an ivory scabbard has been discovered in Lorestan province. These swords were kept in an appropriate climatic condition and therefore the bone decorations of the handles have remained almost intact which provides us the chance to restore them,” said Mehrdad Malekzadeh, head of excavation team in Sangtarashan historical site.
Malekzadeh explained “50 other bronze relics including a wide variety of war instruments such as different kinds of swords in different sizes, battle axes, and some dishes such as teapots, pitchers, bowls and glasses have also been discovered during the excavations.”
According to Malekzadeh, one of the other unique discoveries during this season of excavations is a very beautiful bronze glass with a very delicate etching work on its body and the design of a lotus flower on its bottom. “Although this glass has been partly damaged over time due to humidity and other natural factors, the etching work on it show that it is a unique object and we have sent it to the restoration laboratory of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization of Lorestan province to be studied more,” added Malekzadeh.
Some 400 square meters have been excavated during three seasons of archaeological excavations in Sangtarashan and some 350 ancient bronze relics have been unearthed so far in this historical site which date back to the end of the Iron Age. However, no architectural evidence or cemeteries have been discovered in this historical site so far. “Although no architectural evidence has been discovered so far in this area, we still believe that a prayer house might have existed in this region, although its exact place has remained a question to us,” explained Malekzadeh.
Sangtarashan historical site is located 52 kilometers from Khoram Abad on the height of “80 Pahloo” and “Taf” mountains and is considered an important archaeological site in Iran.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

King Road does not pass near the Bolaghi Gorge

Tehran, 23 May 2006 (CHN) -- Last week it was announced that the remains of a gigantic palace believed to have belonged to Darius the Great, the Achaemenid king who ordered the construction of Palace of Persepolis in Shiraz, was discovered during the archaeological excavations in Bolaghi Gorge. This very interesting news attracted the public attention and roused a lot of interest among the people both inside and outside the country.
This new discovery disproved some old theories about this ancient site. Prior to this, it was supposed that Bolaghi Gorge was the location of the King Road- the ancient major road built by order of Darius to connect Pasargadae to Persepolis and Susa. However, the recent geophysical studies prove that King Road never passed through Bolaghi Gorge and what was believed to have been the King Road is in fact only the remains of an ancient wall surrounding the Bolaghi Gorge which collapsed over time. Moreover, Mohammad Taghi Atayi, Iranian head of Iranian-Italian joint archaeology team in Bolaghi Gorge said that the fact that this wall was used as a shell keep to enclose Bolaghi Gorge and discovery of the remains of the palace of Darius in Bolaghi Gorge and many other evidence all indicate that Bolaghi Gorge was used as a hunting ground by Darius the Great and other Achaemenid kings some 2500 years ago.
“Last year we conducted a sounding measurment in some parts of what we thought was the King Road to examine the materials used in its construction. During our studies, we found adobe material with a large amount of white grits which for sure could not have been used for strengthening the road,” added Atayi.
According to Atayi, the white grits were not found in other parts of Bolaghi Gorge and most probably they were used for strengthening an important construction.
Archaeological studies on this road show that due to its narrow width and the fact that some parts of it do not have the characteristics of Achaemenid constructions, this part of Bolaghi Gorge which was believed to have been the King Road was used for other purposes.
Rejecting of the theory that Bolaghi Gorge was the location of King Road has brought up two new theories which have been proposed by Atayi and Remy Boucharlat, the French head of Iranian-French joint archaeology team in Bolaghi Gorge. Atayi believes that what was formerly believed to have been the King Road was a long wall which surrounded the valley and discovering the remains of an Achaemenid palace in this historical gorge proves that King Road was in fact a shell-keep for enclosing the area and Bolaghi Gorge was the hunting ground of Achaemenid kings.
On the other hand, Boucharlat believes that King Road was originally an irrigation channel. However, since no remains of sediments have been seen throughout this road yet, this idea has been suspended for now.
“Studies on the path of this road led to new findings about its real identity. What was known as the King Road started from the beginning of the Bolaghi Gorge and after covering the entire valley it ended in its original place. Now the question is, what kind of a road could it be that started and ended in the same place? On the other hand, these excavations resulted in discovery of several walls on the path of the road which in some parts have remained almost intact up to a height of 5 meters. All of these evidences show that ‘King Road’ was only a defensive wall for protecting the area of Bolaghi Gorge,” explained Atayi.
Atayi strongly believes that this discovered palace belonged to Darius the Great and the “King Road” is the remains of the shell-keep of Bolaghi Gorge and this area was used as a hunting ground by Achaemenid kings.
“Discovery of the palace’s pedestal with the Achaemenid-style floorings and its construction on a platform assured us that there must have been a palace belonging to the Achaemenid era in Bolaghi Gorge long before the actual discovery of the palace of Darius the Great. On the other hand, discovering the remains of a large number of clay canteens indicate that this palace was a temporary residential area for the Achaemenid kings who spend a short time there during the hunting season. The remains of clay objects in the area also show that some food reservoirs were established in this palace for the soldiers who guarded the palace. Today, we can strongly claim that Bolaghi Gorge was once the hunting ground of Achaemenid kings. Environmental evidence show that this area was much greener than what we see today and some animals used to live here during the ancient times.
Bolaghi Gorge is an endangered historical site in Fars province, near the ancient site of Pasargadea, threatened by the Sivand Dam built in its vicinity. Although the dam is not flooded yet, it is clear that inundation of the dam will drown this historic site almost completely. A large number of archaeological groups from different countries have rushed to the site to save this historic heritage as much as possible. At present, some groups from Italy, France, Germany, Poland, and a large number of Iranian archaeologists are busy on the site with the Bolaghi Gorge salvation project.

University of Pennsylvania to Translate History of Jiroft

Tehran, 23 May 2006 (CHN) -- University of Pennsylvania is translating papers presented at the International Conference of Jiroft and will publish them in a single book. Adding to this announcement, Yousef Majidzadeh, head of the archaeology team in Jiroft, said: "These papers will be published in Persian and English in two volumes."
He added that translation of these articles will lead into a better understanding of the discoveries on the Eastern civilization in the world and will allow further study of this unknown culture. Furthermore, it will draw the attention of many scholars to the Halil Roud area.
Majidzadeh said that many of the scholars and archaeologists have learned about the recently discovered inscriptions in Jiroft and showed interest. He also said that he was invited by several universities in different countries such as Italy and Spain to participate in conferences relating to the subject, but due to financial issues he was unable to attend, adding that "it is a pity having to leave talks on these subjects at international conferences and seminars to foreigners like, say, an Italian."
The extensive excavations at Halil-Roud and the Konar Sandal sites close to the city of Jiroft have so far revealed some of the earliest places of urbanization with historical evidence dating back to as early as the third millennium BC.
Until now, the excavations at the northern and southern areas of Konar Sandal have led to the unearthing of a fortress, the oldest stone staircase in the world, inscriptions and graves. It is the hope that these discoveries will attract the attention of many scholars around the world to the missing civilization of Eastern Iran.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Delay in Excavation to Ruin Gilvan Prehistoric Site

Tehran, 22 May 2006 (CHN) -- Nearly one month has passed since the accidental discovery and later identification of Gilvan ancient site in northern Iran. However, emergency excavations to save this prehistoric site have not started yet, the fact remains that this area is being gradually destroyed due to the very limited attention it receives from the authorities and this worries many people.
Last month, construction workers accidentally discovered a number of ancient artifacts in the village of Gilvan located in the Iranian northwestern province of Ardabil. It turned out that this place was the location of an ancient cemetery. Among the discovered artifacts were three gold coated metal daggers, 25 pieces of clays, ornamental beads, and several armaments plus the remains of a number of skeletons. Soon after, Iran’s Archaeology Research Center sent a team of its experts to examine the area and prepare a report. It was expected that some measures be taken right away to save this newly discovered site, but no major step has been taken yet.
Yahya Naghizadeh, head of the Cultural Heritage Police Department of Ardabil province, has repeatedly announced his concern over the present improper condition of these ancient artifacts. He blamed two main factors, rainfall and intense sunlight, that are causing most of the damages to this site and its artifacts. Naghizadeh said, “After archaeology experts visited this area and wrote their report we were hoping that an emergency excavation campaign be launched to save these invaluable ancient artifacts. Unfortunately, despite the fact that these experts had emphasized the importance of immediate excavations in this area in their report, the cultural heritage authorities have not yet announced their approval.”
Naghizadeh also mentioned that Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department of Ardabil province has established a temporary security station to safeguard this area and added, “Our experts are ready to take the responsibility of protecting this ancient site permanently but as long as nothing is announced by the cultural heritage authorities, this is all we can do.”
Pointing out to the locals’ increasing concerns over the fate of this ancient site, head of Ardabil’s Cultural Heritage Police Department said, “Aside from the natural factors which threaten this area, one of the major problems we have is that the owner of the land in which this ancient cemetery was found claims his share of the discovered artifacts. Considering all these factors, we urgently need the Archaeology Research Center to get involved and do anything that is needed immediately.”
Archaeologists have now confirmed that this ancient site and all the discovered artifacts in its vicinity belong to the first millennium BC or before.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Recent Archaeological Discoveries in Babak Fortress

LONDON, May 20, 2006 (CAIS) -- Following the recent excavations in Babak fortress and removal of debris, some important parts of the fortress, which had previously been unknown, were unearthed. Archaeological excavations in Babak Fortress started in 2002, and some parts of this fortress were unearthed. The most important discovery has recently been made in this historical site which was finding of a staircase dating back to the beginning of Post-Sasanid period.
The main activities of the excavation team were excavating and restoring the western part of the main staircase. Due to the large number of Iranian pilgrims, this part of the staircase was not in a good condition and if nothing had been done to preserve it, it would have suffered a real harm in the future.
A 4.5x5.5 meter room with two windows, which must have been a guard room, was discovered during latest excavations in. There is a 35-meter corridor beside the room. This corridor leads to two towers which have already been unearthed. The discovered staircase and the two-floor building at the back of the corridor and towers all belong to the beginning of the Islamic era. Experts believe that this building might have been a reservoir or food storage.
Stonework with mortar was used in the construction of this double-floor building, except for the staircase. This was a common architectural style during the Sasanid dynastic era. Therefore, it cannot be said for sure that the staircase and building were constructed during the same historical period. Babak fortress is one of the most important historical sites of Iran, located in a mountainous region in north-west of the country.
This fortress also called the Eternal Fortress was built during the Sasanid dynastic era; however, it is famous for the 23-year Iranian residence and resistance of Persian hero Babak Khorramdin who fought against the Arab invaders.
One of the most dramatic periods of Iranian history occurred under Babak’s leadership from 816 to 837 CE. Eventually Babak, his wife, and his warriors were forced to leave their command post at the fortress under very difficult circumstances after 23 years of struggle.
During Babak’s martyrdom, the caliph's henchmen first cut off his legs and hands in order to convey the most devastating message to Iranians. Legend has it that Babak bravely rinsed his face with the blood pouring out of his wounds, thus depriving the caliph and the rest of the Arab invaders the opportunity to see that his face had turned pale due to heavy bleeding.
Every year in July, Iranians pilgrims visiting the place to hail their Persian hero, Babak, as the symbol of Iranian resistance against foreign and dictatorship rules. The pilgrims reading poetry including Shahnameh (the Book of Kings - Iran’s most famous epic) and playing traditional Persian music. They also lit up bonfires to follow traditional rituals of ancient Iran.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Safavid City to be Unearthed after 400 Years

Tehran, 18 May 2006 (CHN) -- 400 years ago, a massive earthquake struck northern Iran and destroyed major parts of its cultural heritage site of Haft Daqnan. Archaeologists believed that there used to be a city with the same name in this historic site belonging to the Safavid era (1501–1736) which was buried after the earthquake hit the region. Now with the start of the second season of archaeological excavations in this historic site, archaeologists are determined to unearth the whole city.
The historic city of Haft Daqnan is located at a distance of 55 kilometers from the township of Someh Sara in northern Iranian province of Gilan. This ancient city was first excavated three years ago and its name has been inscribed in Iran’s Natioanl Heritage List.
“Historical texts show that this Safavid city was destroyed 400 years ago after a massive earthquake hit the present-day Gilan and was abandoned since then. During our first excavation season, archaeologists were able to unearth the remains of two clay bridges, a number of old buildings, ancient hills, an old public bath, and a watch tower all buried in the 60 hectare area of this historic city,” said Vali Jahani, head of the excavation team at the ancient site of Haft Daqnan.
According to Jahani, the purpose behind the start of the excavations in this historic site was to determine its limits and unearthing some historic relics left from the time the city was an active center. Archaeological evidence show that the city was circular in shape and its residential areas were bound by two rivers connected together through two clay bridges.
Regarding the findings of the year 2003 which was the first time archaeologists examined the area, Jahani said, “We accidentally ran into 17 clay and porcelain dishes dumped in a garbage pit at a depth of only three meters from the ground level. It seems that the residents of this city discarded their clay dishes when they imported chinaware from China to Iran.”
Jahani also said that 40 percent of this city was destroyed due to construction of a road close to it while the remaining 60 percent is buried by forests. In addition, parts of this Safavid city were destroyed as a result of illegal excavations by the smugglers.
Since most of the excavations in Gilan province have taken place in the mountainous area and very few focused on the plains, excavations in the city of Haft Daqnan would answer a lot of questions about the Islamic era in this province.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Stolen Pillar Capital of Persepolis Returned Home

Tehran, 16 May 2006 (CHN) -- A pillar capital which was stolen from the palace of Persepolis in Fars province and found kilometers away in its neighbor province, Kerman, was returned by Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department of Kerman Province to where it belongs.
“This pillar capital was seized by the police department in an armed conflict with a number of drug smugglers who were intending to cross the border with this precious object. Luckily the police acted right away and confiscated this pillar capital and gave it to the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department of Kerman Province. The Department then returned it to its original place a few days ago,” said Hossein Rashidzadeh, head of the cultural heritage police department of Kerman.
Along with this pillar capital, a large number of guns, explosives, and some stolen vehicles were seized from these drug smugglers by the cultural heritage police department of Kerman province.
According to Rashidzadeh, the city’s court is currently considering what charges to press against these smugglers and is going to release a statement soon.
Persepolis Palace Complex is one of the most prominent and splendid historical sites of Iran which dates back to the Achaemenid era (648 BC–330 BC). The exact date of its construction is unknown, but it is assumed that Darius the Great, the Achaemenid king, began working on the platforms and the structures of Persepolis between 518 and 516 BC as the seat of his vast empire.
The construction of Persepolis took almost a century. However, the splendor of Persepolis lasted only two centuries before its majestic halls and residential palaces perished in flames when Alexander conquered and looted this palace in 335 BC and according to Plutarch carried away its treasures on 20,000 mules and 5,000 camels. However, Alexander was not the only one who plundered Persepolis, although he is responsible for most of the damages caused to this historical heritage of Persia. During the past centuries, smugglers have repeatedly stolen parts of the palace of Persepolis and have sold them to several museums and private collection owners outside the country. Iran’s Cultural Heritage Police Department is trying hard to save the remaining of this gorgeous looking palace, which was once the capital of the Persian Empire, from being plundered again.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Palace of Darius the Great Discovered in Bolaghi Gorge

Tehran, 15 May 2006 (CHN) -- Iranian-French joint archaeology team at Bolaghi Gorge succeeded in discovering and identifying the remains of a gigantic palace, believed to be from the Achaemenid era (648 BC–330 BC), during their second season of excavations in the area.“Before the start of this season of excavations, our geophysical tests in area number 33 of Bolaghi Gorge had revealed to us the possible existence of a huge building near the Sivand Dam. Clay artifacts found in this area showed that this building used to be the residential palace of the Achaemenid kings.
With the start of the new excavation season, we resumed our excavations in area number 33 with this attitude,” said Mohammad Taghi Ataee, head of the Iranian-French joint archaeology team at Bolaghi Gorge.“After we started our excavations in the historic hill where this monument is located, we realized that it consisted of one historic layer only. Since no other layers were constructed on top of this layer, archaeologists were hoping to unearth the entire palace intact. However, after they made their trenches they got to a number of wells which had been dug by illegal smugglers and also traces of bulldozers which had caused serious damage to this ancient Achaemenid palace,” said Ataee.
Plundering of archaeological sites by the smugglers has become a common issue in archaeology. However, according to Ataee, archaeologists believe that illegal diggers cannot be held responsible for destroying the palace by bulldozers, and it was a deliberate act by an unknown person or group of people who intended to devastate this place for a reason that is not clear for archaeologists.
“The archaeology team kept removing the debris caused by the bulldozers until they got to the base of a pillar similar to those used in the construction of the palace of Persepolis in Fars province, although smaller in size. The base of this pillar which looks like an inverted bell is built by the same stones used in the construction of Persepolis. The stone is so carefully varnished that one may clearly see the reflection of oneself in it,” added Ataee.
The height of this discovered base is 35 centimeters and it has a diameter of 50 centimeters. There are signs on this base which were meant to level it off, a method commonly practiced during the Achaemenid era.
“Based on the evidence, this palace must have belonged to either Darius the Great, the Achaemenid King who ruled between 521 and 486 BC and built the famous Palace of Persepolis, or the kings who preceded him. However, it is more likely that the palace belonged to Darius,” said Ataee.
In addition to this pillar base, the royal seat of this palace, built using soil and condensed sand, several pieces of clay bricks, and three clay walls constructed in a row were discovered by the archaeologists. The top of the walls has been destroyed by bulldozers; however, archaeologists are hoping to find the construction plan of this palace by studying these walls more carefully. Regarding the size of these clay bricks, Ataee said, “These clay bricks are in different size, some are 35 by 33 cm, some 17 by 33, and some others are 33 by 33 centimeters. They were probably used to cover the floor.”
Bolaghi Gorge is an endangered historical site in Fars province, near the ancient site of Pasargade, threatened by the Sivand Dam built in its vicinity. Although the dam is not flooded yet, it is clear that with its inauguration Iran will say farewell to one of its most valuable cultural heritage sites. Although Ataee announced that inauguration of the Sivand Dam will not directly affect this Achaemenid Palace since it is located in an area which is relatively far from the Sivand Dam, the humidity caused by the dam will certainly destroy this palace in a long run. The Iranian-French archaeological team will continue its excavations at the Bolaghi Gorge until June 5 to save this ancient site as much as possible before the inauguration of the dam, the date of which has not been announced yet.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Putting an End to Explosive Activities near Sassanid Castle

Tehran, 14 May 2006 (CHN) -- It had been 30 years that the Sassanid fortress of Da va Dokhtar in Khuzestan province was being rocked by a series of explosions set off in its vicinity by a plaster company. However, following a complaint submitted recently to the court by the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department of Ramhormoz, the support received by the governor’s office, and the visit of some officials from this fortress, Iranian cultural heritage authorities ordered the plaster company of Ramhormorz to stop its explosive activities since they were found to be detrimental, causing irreplaceable harm to this ancient Sassanid building.

“Da va Dokhtar Fortress dates back to the Sassanid era (226–650 AD) and was constructed according to the ancient Roman architectural style. This historic fortress is located 5 kilometers north of the city of Ramhormoz in the southwestern province of Khuzestan and is built on the mountain-skirts of a gypsum mountain. Explosive activities of a plaster company in this mountain over the past 30 years to extract plaster for construction purposes resulted in the destruction of this ancient fortress to a large extent. Therefore, a lawsuit was filed which is still in process to stop the activities of this company. Later on, the governor’s office asked the owners of the plaster company to either stop their blasting operations or find an alternative for exploiting plaster from this mountain which would not pose any threat to the ancient Sassanid fortress of Da va Dokhtar. As a result, the company owners accepted to seize their activities until a safer way is found to extract plaster from the mountain,” said Fardin Bigdeli, Director of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department of Ramhormoz.

Prior to this, continuous explosions caused by this plaster company had not only resulted in the increasing destruction of the Da va Dokhtar Fortress, it also resulted in environmental problems in the area. The plaster company has therefore been asked to pay compensations for the damages caused to both the natural environment and cultural heritage of the region. The compensation will be used for renovation of the Sassanid fortress.

According to Bigdeli, the explosions which occurred in this mountain over the past 30 years account for much of the damages caused to the Da va Dokhtar Fortress. “This fortress was consisted of two parts, one of which has completely been ruined. There used to be a wall connecting the two parts of this fortress which was 4 meters in height and had 30 defense stations, from which not much has remained,” added Bigdeli. He also noted that the fortress was built to watch over caravans carrying merchandize to Susa from Pasargadae. Palace guards in the area were stationed in this fortress.

“The plaster company had previously announced that its activities are conducted in an area far from the fortress and therefore pose no threat to this ancient citadel. However, after the cultural heritage authorities visited the Da va Dokhtar Fortress, they realized that the explosive activities of the plaster company actually take place only 400 kilometers from this fortress; thus immediate actions must be taken to prevent the fortress from further destruction,” said Bigdeli.

Although no statement has been released by the court ordering the stop of activities of the plaster company, the governor of Ramhormoz and the city’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department have asked the company to seize its activities until the court announces its decision officially.

“Da va Dokhtar”, literary meaning “mother and daughter”, is a major tourist attraction in Ramhormoz and several thousand tourists visit this city to see the monument each year. Six years ago, this fortress was registered as a national cultural heritage site and thus it is the responsibility of Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization to preserve this unique Sassanid heritage.

The Core of Daqyanous City Appeared

Tehran, 13 May 2006 (CHN) -- Latest excavations in city of Daqyanous, north of Jiroft in Kerman province, led to the discovery of the core of this city including a mosque, bazaar, industrial areas, cemetery, and irrigation channels. Discovery of jars and enameled, lapis, and golden bowls indicate the proper economic situation of the people of Daqyanous city during the Middle Islamic period and their interests in keeping luxurious articles.

“Excavations revealed that the minaret of the Jame (Grand) Mosque of the ancient Daqyanous city was four meters in diameter and was constructed from brick, mortar and plaster and there is a spiral staircase on its northern side. We also succeeded in unearthing the main parts of the public bathroom, the bazaar, the passageway, and the city square at a distance of 340 meters southwest of the Jame Mosque. These excavations show that the shops in the bazaar were constructed to face the open areas and the storage places were somewhere in the back of the bazaar connected to each other through narrow passageways. In addition, we discovered an architectural building, but its usage is not yet known for us,” said Hamideh Choobak, head of archeology team in city of Daqyanous.

According to Choobak, some clay ornaments in circle and square shapes with the arabesque design of flowers and bushes, a piece of a round stucco decoration of a red flower, and a broken piece of clay on which a prayer was written with black ink were the other discoveries during the third season of excavations in the city of Daqyanuos.

Prior to this, some statuettes of men and women and the statue of a torso of an instrumentalist woman were discovered in the ancient public bathroom of Daquayous. “The dress style and the design of the necklace of the woman belonged to the Parthian-Sassanid era which indicates the continuation of the pre-Islamic art style to the Seljuk era (900 years ago). Considering that it was common during the Parthian and Sassanid era to carve images of instrumentalist women on silver dishes, by studying the new discoveries in Daqyanous city we can see how they were used in the decorations of the buildings during the Seljuk era as well,” explained Choobak.

Choobak also explained that researches and studies on Daqyanous historical site indicate that this city flourished at the beginning of the Islamic period. “In the ancient times, Jiroft had relations with some important civilizations such as China, India, Mesopotamia, Khorasan, and Fars and its glory lasted to the Seljuk era,” added Choobak.

Choobak believes that the archeological excavations in Daqyanous show the dignity and high economical situation of the city during the ancient times and the urban facilities indicate that its people enjoyed a high quality urbanization and lifestyle during that period. Due to its prosperous economical situation, this ancient city was always plundered by invaders.

The Islamic city of Daqyanous, located north of the city of Jiroft in Kerman province, is the only city dating back to prehistoric times which was registered as a national heritage some 70 years ago. Considering its 40-kilometer area, this city is considered one of the biggest Islamic cities, although its central part is only 12 kilometers.

The third season of archeological excavations in Daqyanous city, otherwise known as the Old Jiroft, started from 17th of March 2006 and continued to 30th of April.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Another Dam Construction, Another Crime Against Iranian Heritage

LONDON, May 10 2006(CAIS) -- Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) has said that with the commissioning the newly-built dam ’Jareh’ in Ramhormuz, Khuzestan province, whose construction has shown 80 percent progress, an 1,700-year old Sasanid Hormuz Dam, will be submerged. According to the Persian daily ’Iran’, the Sasanid dam, which is 19 meters high and has a crown of 80 meters, is situated 20 kms from Ramhormuz on the Zard (yellow) River. The ancient dam has aqueducts as well as sewers and an ancient laundry is located nearby. The dam also used to irrigate surrounding farmlands.
Director of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department in Ramhormuz, Fardin Bigdeli said that Ministry of Energy has built a reservoir dam in the area without conducting relevant studies and coordinating the operations with the ICHTO. He said that several farmers have been forced to abandon the area because of the construction of the new dam. That is why no one can claim that the dam would benefit agriculture, Bigdeli added.
“Ministry of Energy on behalf of of the regime is responsible for conducting research on every project before implementing them, but, they did not do so in the case of Jareh Dam. After the ICHTO objected to the ministry against the project, they agreed to hire consultants to study the complaint but practical steps have not yet been taken in this respect.“
He praised the skills of the Iranians during the Sasanid dynasty which culminated in the construction of the dam. “The Iranian engineers during the Sasanian dynasty conducted studies before selecting the location of the dam. Modern science and technology will also confirm the correctness of their decision,“ he stated.
Bigdeli said that the construction of the 1,700-year dam is arduous enough given the strength of construction materials applied in the structure. He said that egg yolks have been used in the material in addition to plaster and lime. He stated that houses built in the neighborhood of the ancient dam relate to the Safavid dynastic era (1502-1736 CE) and all these structures will go under water once the newly-built dam is filled with water.
The official noted that the Sasanid dam was registered on the ICHTO cultural heritage list in 1999 and the organization is responsible for its protection. He said that experts believe that superior technology is required to save the Sasanid dam, but the Ministry of Energy acting on behalf of the government has prevented photography in the area.
The ministry has promised to hire consultants to look into ways of prevent the ancient dam from being submerged, but, since no action has been taken yet, the ICHTO will recruit consultants for the purpose at the expense of Ministry of Energy, he concluded.

Dashtestan Achaemenid Quarry to be Safe Forever

Tehran, 10 May 2006 (CHN) -- Following an announcement by experts concerning the gradual destruction of Puzeh Palangi stone mine in Dashtestan, a city in the southwestern province of Bushehr, Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization of this province has taken measures to save this ancient quarry which is believed to have been a valuable source for construction purposes during the Achaemeid era (648 BC–330 BC). Puzeh Palangi historical quarry is an ancient and unique stone mine which is considered to be one of the most important ancient mines due to its special characteristics. Studies on this mine’s strong stones showed that they are very similar to those used in the construction of Bardak Siah Castle, which was once the royal residence of the Achaemenid kings.
Prior to this, it had been announced that this ancient mine is under threat as some parts of it were destroyed due to the activities of a cement company built nearby and also the ignorance of some cultural heritage authorities.
Last month, CHN attracted the attention of authorities of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization to the Puzeh Palangi Quarry when it published several reports about the present conditions of this endangered historical mine. Ardeshir Mohammadi, director of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization of Boushehr province, said that the Organization is determined to save this ancient mine, and that in a near future it would no longer be threatened provided that some security measures be taken right away.
“According to the owner of the mine, only some basic excavations were carried out in the region, which were stopped immediately by the order of ICHTO and Ministry of Industry and Mine,” said Mohammadi.
Mohammadi also declared that cultural heritage guards will be settled in the area to protect the mine and they are also determined to prepare a full file on the Pouze Palangi mine to register it in the list of Iran’s National Heritage. This way the mine would be safe forever.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Accidental Discovery of Ancient Armaments in Ardabil

Tehran, 8 May 2006 (CHN) -- Widening the road of Gilvan village in Ardabil province led to the accidental discovery of some ancient graves and historical relics. Soon after this discovery, a group of experts from Iran’s Archaeology Research Center were dispatched to this region to examine these relics. “As soon as we learned about this accidental discovery, we sent a letter to the Archaeology Research Center and informed its experts of the case and asked them to send some of their specialists to the region as soon as possible to study these ancient objects in detail and continue excavations in the area if necessary,” said Yahya Naghizadeh, head of the Cultural Heritage Police Department of Ardabil province to CHN.
After the archaeologists settled in the area, they started their excavations which resulted in the discovery of large numbers of historical relics including three gold coated metal daggers, 25 clay pieces, ornamental beads, and metal armaments.
“For the time being, all construction activities have been stopped in the area to bring it under strict protection until the Archaeology Research Center decides what it wants to do with this historic site,” added Naghizadeh.
Considering that the raining season has already started in the area, Naghizadeh believes that the rainfall might in fact cause serious damage to this historical site, and therefore it is necessary to take an action within the shortest time.
“After visiting the site, the expert team will prepare a report on the situation of this historical site and then the final decision will be made by the Archeology Research Center,” explained Karim Alizadeh, head of the dispatched team to Gilvan historical site. Based on the historical evidence unearthed so far in this site, archaeologists believe that the history of Gilvan goes back to at least first millennium BC.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Discovery of Large Number of Ancient Relics in Minab

Tehran, 7 May 2006 (CHN) -- During their latest excavations in Minab and Roudan in Hormozgan province, southern Iran, archaeologists succeeded in discovery of 15 ornamentations such as opal necklaces, bronze bracelet, and bronze arrow heads dating back to 3000 years ago as well as 40 Islamic coins.“40 coins have been discovered so far during the archaeological excavations in Minab and Roudan historical sites. Since the coins were covered by a thick layer of sediment over time, and due to the humidity of the region, it is not easy to determine the exact time of their coinage. However, studies on these coins indicate that they must have belonged to the Ilkhanid era (1256-1353 AD) to the Safavid period (1502-1736 AD) and it is believed that they belonged to the governors of ancient Hormoz. These excavations have also resulted in discovery of some opal beads, a bonze bracelet, and bronze arrow heads which belong to the first millennium BC together with some clay dishes belonging to the Safavid period,” said Siamak Sarlak, archaeologist and head of the excavation team in Minab and Roudan.
Prior to this discovery, archaeologists succeeded in finding the place called “the forgotten Hormoz” which was the location of the Old Hormoz lost for 700 years. After the collapse of Siraf Port, the old Hormoz Port became a booming trade center among the Persian Gulf regional states. Following the invasion of Mongols it became abandoned and lost its dignity and was forgotten for almost 700 years. The major part of the historical Hormoz Port was discovered during the recent archeological excavations. Until this discovery, Minab was believed to be the place of the ancient Hormoz but recent archaeological excavations indicate that it was only used as a summer settlement area for the old Hormoz settlers.
Minab Plain is located near the town of Minab in the southern province of Hormozgan. A large number of historical and cultural evidence such as a 3000-year-old cemetery were discovered in this plain during excavations by archaeologists.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Skeletons of Pre-Historic Children to be Examined in Britain

Tehran, 4 May 2006 (CHN) -- In a joint project, experts of Iran’s Archaeological Research Center and the archaeo-anthropology department of University of New Castle in Britain will study in detail the skeletons of the children belonging to the pre-historic periods which have been unearthed in different archaeological sites found during the past few years.
“Discovery of a large number of skeletons of children during archaeological excavations in different sites of Iran indicates the high rate of child death during the pre-historic periods. Considering the importance of these archaeological discoveries, we decided to examine them in more detail and to study their pathology in order to determine the reasons for their early death. Therefore, Iran’s Archaeology Research Center corresponded with the University of New Castle in Britain to perform a joint study with the archaeo-anthropology department of this university on the skeletons of the children which have been discovered so far. These studies would result in discovery of the condition of their growth, nourishment, and the reasons for their death,” said Farzad Forouzanfar, head of the anthropology department of Iran’s Archaeology Research Center.
Most of these skeletons were unearthed in the pre-historic site of Burnt City in Sistan va Baluchestan province. Recent archaeological excavations revealed the skeletons of 11 children and a large number of embryos in this historical site.
According to Forouzanfar, aside from the skeletons found earlier, some skeletons of children have recently been discovered in Qoli Darvish historical site in Qom province which can be added to the list. “Discovery of a jar burial in the floor of one of the houses belonging to the third millennium BC shows that we should expect more similar methods of burials in this pre-historical site,” added Forouzanfar.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Discovery of 12 Forges in Lengeh Port

Tehran, 3 May 2006 (CHN) -- Archaeological excavations in Lengeh Port in Hormozgan province led to the discovery of 12 forges similar to those which had already been discovered in Iran’s Central Plateau especially in Kerman and Yazd provinces. The discovered forges in the Central Plateau belong to the third to first millennium BC and the beginning of urbanization. However, so far archaeologists have not been successful in determining the exact age of these new discovered ones. Considering that urbanization started from the third millennium BC in Kerman province, archaeologists are hoping to trace the starting point of urbanization in Lengeh as well, said Davud Abian, head of archaeology excavation team in Lengeh Port.
Based on the archaeological studies, during the third millennium BC when urbanization gradually came into existence in the Central Plateau of Iran, the civilization of Halil Rud was spread to Kahnouj and Jazmourian regions. On the other hand, the culture of Hirmand civilization was stretched between Zabul in Sistan va Baluchistan province and Kabul in Afghanistan and continued to Sind River in Pakistan. Also from the west side, the Burnt City was somehow connected through Jiroft’s civilization to the civilizations formed in Khuzestan, Mesopotamia, and regions of West Asia .
Now with this new discovery in Lengh Port, archaeologists believe that evidence of Halil Rud civilization in Jiroft can be traced in Lengeh Port and this way the lost chain of the relations between the civilizations of the southeast with those of the west of Iran would be found. Considering the importance of shipping during the Achaemenid era, archaeologists are looking to find traces of the Achaemenid and Sassanid cultures in Lengeh Port.
Bandar-e-Lengeh (Lengeh port) coastal zone is part of the Persian Gulf and is located about 220 kilometers west of Bandar Abbas in Hormozgan province, southern Iran.