Tuesday, May 30, 2006

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.

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