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.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Wine Production was Well-Developed during Sassanid Era

Tehran, 7 June 2006 (CHN) -- Recent geophysical and archaeological studies in Bolaghi Gorge led to discovery of the biggest wine production workshops belonging to the Sassanid era (226–650 AD). This is the first time archaeologists have succeeded in discovering such a big wine production workshop. Prior to this, the remains of a wine production workshop belonging to the Sassanid era had been discovered during the archaeological excavations by the joint Iranian-Polish team in Bolaghi Gorge under the supervision of Ali Asadi and Barbara Kaim.
“Three wine production workshops had already been discovered in area no. 64 of Bolaghi Gorge historical site during archaeological excavations by the Iranian-Polish joint team. However, the recent geophysical studies have resulted in discovery of more than 10 other constructions which were used for producing wine. Two coins belonging to Qobad I, the Sassanid king, were also discovered in the architectural remains in this area which indicate that the area no. 64 and all its belongings must go back to the Sassanid era,” said Reza Heidari, the current Iranian head of the Iranian-Polish joint team in Bolaghi Gorge.
Babak Aminpour, head of the team of geophysical studies in Bolaghi Gorge, strongly believes that most of the unearthed constructions in area no. 64 of Bolaghi Gorge must have been workshops for producing wine. “Mortar dishes were used for producing wine and the grape juice was directed to bigger jars through a ditch which was built for this purpose. The remains of grain pits have also been discovered in this area,” explained Aminpour.
According to Heidari, considering that the main settlement area of the royal family was in the south of Fars province during the Sassanid era, discovery of these workshops in Bolaghi Gorge on the opposite side, north of Fars province, has raised new questions. All of these new discoveries indicate that the Persians enjoyed a high technology in producing wine during the ancient times, particularly the Sassanid era. The most ancient wine of the world seems to have been found in a vase in Ajjii Firuz Tepe in Iran belonging to 5000-5500 BC.
Bolaghi Gorge is one of the historical sites of the Pasargadae in Fars province. With the flooding of Sivand Dam which has been constructed in this gorge, hundreds of historical sites unearthed so far including area no. 64 will drown. With the cooperation of Sivand Dam authorities and Bolaghi Gorge salvation team, some joint teams from Iran and foreign countries are busy with archaeological excavations in the site to save the main remains of Bolaghi Gorge before inauguration of the dam.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

40 Skeletons Rested in Peace for 3000 Years in Narges Tepe

Tehran, 6 June 2006 (CHN) -- Archaeological excavations in Narges Tepe historical site in the Iranian northern province of Golestan led to the discovery of 40 skeletons, most probably belonging to the first millennium BC. Ali Abbasi, the head assistant of Narges Tepe excavation team reported, “40 skeletons and some architectural remains were discovered during the archaeological excavations in Narges Tepe. However, more studies are required to determine the exact date of these skeletons. The burial method used for these skeletons will also be announced after more accurate studies.”
Based on the previous excavations and according to what Mahmoud Rabiei, executive director of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department of Golestan province, had said about Narges Tepe, this historical hill dates back to some 3000 years ago. “Discovered relics such as clay jars in this historical site have strengthened the theory that Narges Tepe should have been a village during the first millennium BC,” explained Rabiei. According to Abbasi, previously only some soundings were done in this historical site and this is the first time a systematic archaeological excavation is being carried out in Narges Tepe. However, he refused to give more detailed information due to security reasons and referred further announcements to the end of the excavations in Narges Tepe. Archaeological excavations in Narges Tepe have been started since two months ago and will continue to 4th of July. However, Abbasi believes that these excavations will extend to August.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Identifying 18 Watermills in Khuzestan

Tehran, 3 June 2006 (CHN) -- Khuzestan’s water and energy organization succeeded in identifying 18 water millponds in city of Baghmalek in Khuzestan province. These watermills date back to between 100 to 700 years ago and all of them have Iranian traditional names. “Since the people of this region have many difficulties with transferring and watering these mills, they still use 1000-year-old methods such as tunnel mills, etc. However, since almost fifty percent of these mills have been destroyed over time, they are not usable any longer,” said Hamid Reza Farokhabadi, head of a department of Khuzestan water organization.
According to Farokh Ahmadi, this region enjoyed a rich technology from ancient times in using different irrigation methods such as constructing channels and digging tunnels for directing the water of Abolabas River, constructing man-made waterfalls, etc for watering their paddies which can be considered as one of the tourism attractions of the region.
It is important to know that Iran has some of the oldest and biggest dams in the world. The dam of Kurit was considered the biggest dam in the world up until the blossoming of the Western technology in the 20th century. There are about 75 ancient Dams in Iran, some as old as 6000 years old.
Farokh Ahmadi also explained that identifying these constructions is a new accomplishment which has been made by the water organization of Khuzestan province. “Those one which might be usable will be reconstructed to be revived in future,” added Ahmadi.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Pishva Historical Site on the Verge of Devastation

Tehran, 1 June 2006 (CHN) -- While the historical site of Pishva, which contains a large amount of historical relics belonging to different periods of time, is on the verge of complete destruction by bulldozers, no real measure has yet been taken by authorities to prevent this cultural disaster. “Some people who claim to have certificate from the municipality of Pishva for construction activities in the area, have already started the destruction of Pishva historical site by bulldozers. No measure has been taken yet by authorities to prevent this destructive activity in the area which contains a large amount of clay relics,” said Mohammad Mir Eskandari, head of the archaeology team of Pishva Azad University.
According to Mir Eskandari, Pishva Tepe is considered a very important historical site for completing the studies about the history of the Central Plateau of Iran and its destruction would cause irrecoverable harm to a part of the ancient history of the Central Plateau of Iran. Although the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization of Iran had already declared about the harm which is threatening Pishva historical site several times, it seems it was neglected by the other organizations.
On the other hand the authorities of Pishva municipality have denied the destruction activities in the area and claim that the lands in the vicinity of Pishva historical hill are not belonging only to Pishva’s Municipality and they belong to the Ministry of the Housing and Urban Development, and Azad University as well. Besides, according to the municipality of Pishva city, the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department of Tehran have not determined the vicinity of this historical hill exactly yet.
Prior to this the news about the destruction of some historical sites in Pishva historical Tepe was announced and confirmed by the authorities of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization of Iran such as destruction of historical cemetery belonging to the Iron Age, and illegal excavations in this historical site. However, it seems it caused no change in the trend of illegal and destructive activities in this historical site.
While according to the article no. 558 of Islamic punishment regulations of Iran, whoever causes any kind of harm to any cultural, historical or religious sites which have been registered in the list of Iran’s National Heritage, should not only compensate for the loss, but also will sentence to one to ten years imprisonment. However, it seems this act does not work with Pishva clay hill which since few months ago is under illegal excavations and seems to be on the verge of devastation and no legal action has been made in this respect to prevent these destructive activities. Pishva is a city located in Tehran province. It is situated in the south-east of this province. The history of this hill dates back to the fifth millennium BC. Pishva clay historical hill is one of the registered sites in list of Iran’s National Heritage.
What is more disappointing in this respect is that it is not the first time that constructional and development activities are a hazard to one of the historical sites in Iran and it has changed into one of the major concerns of the cultural heritage enthusiasts. Maybe, this problem rises from lack of a comprehensive and executive regulation about how to protect the historical sites and also lack of information about the importance of cultural and historical sites. Implementing a determined regulation for protecting historical site, increasing the public knowledge about the importance of historical sites as a national heritage, and creating a coalition between different organizations and between organizations and people would be the best way to put an end to this controversy.

Discovery of Jar Burials and Bronze Arrowheads in Khuzestan

Tehran, 1 June 2006 (CHN) -- Some jar burial with a bronze hair pin belonging to the Parthian era, and some arrowheads dating back to the Achaemenid era were discovered during the archaeological excavations at Sanjar Tepe in the city of Dezful, Khuzestan province. “During the recent archaeological excavations in satellite hills of Sanjar Tepe, we succeeded in discovery of some arrowheads. The form of these arrows indicates that they must have belonged to the Achaemenid era. We also found some jar burial graves belonging to the Parthian era with a stone seal and a bronze heir pin inside one of the graves,” said Mostafa Abdolahi, member of the excavation team in Sanjar Tepe.
According to Abdolahi, the excavations in Sanjar historical hill have been started to determine the history of the hill, its relation with the other pre-historic settlements of the area, determining the vicinity of this hill, providing the archaeology map of the area, and carrying out lithographical studies in this historical site.
First season of archaeological excavations in Sanjar Tepe has started by the students of Dezful Azad University under the supervision of Dr. Pour Derakhchandeh. Some important historical relics including a cylindrical seal with the design of a winged horse on its end, and clay, bronze, and iron relics have been unearthed so far during the archaeological excavations in this historical site.
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, it is believed that this city must have existed near the Sanjar Tepe.