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Parthia in the News - 2004

Click here to see index of all Parthia in the News articles


Religious Relics Unearthed Near Bam (20 Nov 2004)
Artifacts Are Found in Afghanistan 25 Years After Being Secreted Away (17 Nov 2004)
Ancient Nehbandan to be excavated (6 Nov 2005)
Cosmetics in ancient Iran (5 Oct 2004)
Historic site in Iran turned into garbage dump, official complains (25 Aug 2004)
Bam's Architectural, Residential Layers to be Explored (7 Aug 2004)
Ancient City Possibly Sleeping Under Behistun Plateau (4 Aug 2004)
Potteries from Bronze Age to Parthian Era Unearthed in Ardebil (31 Jul 2004)
Sleeping Parthian City to Awaken (16 Jul 2004)
New Season of Excavation to Kickoff in Takht-e Suleiman (8 Jul 2004)
Excavation Works to Resume in Arsaces' Major Capital (28 Jun 2004)
A Hoard of Gold That Afghanistan Quietly Saved (24 Jun 2004)
Secret of Parthian Aqueduct Remains Unraveled (16 Jun 2004)
Mold of Arsacid Prince's Sculpture Goes to Germany (11 Jun 2004)
World to See Afghanistan's Fabled Bactrian Gold (1 Jun 2004)
Restoration of Fortress of Babak Khorramdin to Continue (16 May 2004)
2000-year-old City Unearthed near Bam (6 May 2004)
The Oldest Iranian Arch (3 May 2004)
Remains of Ancient Qanats, Villages Discovered Near Bam (1 May 2004)
Mysteries of the most Important Capital of Parthian Dynasty to be Revealed (29 Apr 2004)
Big Statue Sign of Advanced Metal Works in Ancient Iran (25 Apr 2004)
Iran Ready to Restore Ctesiphon Palace (8 Apr 2004)
Data Bank of Takht-e Soleiman's Shards Set up (8 Apr 2004)
Layers from the Parthian Period Detected in Grand Mosque of Hamedan (27 Feb 2004)
Ancient Coins Studied, Documented in Mazandaran (25 Jan 2004)
Bam Citadel Gate Buried Under Rubble (11 Jan 2004)
Bam Citadel Expected to Enter UNESCO World Endangered Heritage List (10 Jan 2004)

Religious Relics Unearthed Near Bam

Tehran, 20 Nov 2004 (Iranian Cultural Heritage News Agency)

Excavating historical sites near Bam and Baravat, in Kerman province, Iranian archeologists have dug out religious relics dating back to the Achaemenid and Parthian eras.

Archeological studies as well as aerial and ground mapping of Bam have led to the discovery of archeological sites covering an area of 12 so km and Iran's oldest aqueduct, all of which are home to objects ranging from the Achaemenid era to the Islamic period, said Shahriar Adlsaid, an expert with the Bam Citadel project.

Four pairs of structures resembling prayer niches have also been unearthed in the area. Subsequent research on these prayer niches can throw light on the religious beliefs of the people who used to live in the region 2,000 years ago, he said, adding that the evidence gained from research studies reveal that these structures probably had religious application.

"Nevertheless, we have not yet managed to determine their exact usage, antiquity and the type of religion prevalent at that time," he noted.

The four pairs of prayer niche-like structures, which were dug within soft stones, each include a large prayer niche measuring 120 cm by 80 cm and a small one measuring 50 cm by 25 cm.

Highlighting the significance of the studies on the 12-square-kilometer site, Adl further said given lack of precise information on early life in Bam, research works can provide information on the development of life in the quake-stricken city from the Achaemenid era to subsequent periods.

The historical city of Bam is considered one of Iran's ancient cities. Archeologists have no clue when the city was first inhabited due to lack of research. (click here to read full article)

Treasure Trove of Culture:
Recovered Artifacts Are Found in Afghanistan 25 Years After Being Secreted Away

Thursday, 18 Nov 2004 (Washington Post) by Guy Gugliotta,  Staff Writer, Page A25

They were priceless artifacts, and the Kabul Museum curators wrapped them carefully, some of them in pink toilet paper, others in newspaper, and put them in metal boxes. Then government people, eight to 10 of them, signed pieces of paper that were glued to the locks. No box would be opened unless all the signers were there.

That was a quarter-century ago, during the Soviet occupation. But the pact held through the warlordism of the late 1980s and 1990s, through the xenophobic rule of the Taliban and the American invasion.

Kabul Museum artifacts
Archaeologist Fredrik Hiebert, second from right, watches with Afghan officials as a safe containing artifacts is forced open in April 2004.
(Kenneth Garrett -- National Geographic)

Many feared the treasures were lost forever, but yesterday archaeologist Fredrik T. Hiebert announced that a just-completed inventory showed that all but a handful had been recovered from hidden caches in Kabul's presidential palace complex and other "safe places."

The dramatic story of Afghanistan's artifact recovery bears a striking similarity to the reemergence of treasures spirited away by the staff of Iraq's National Museum before the U.S. invasion and the looting spree that followed the fall of Saddam Hussein.

But while Iraq's adventures are well documented, the Afghanistan story has faded with time: "Twenty-five years ago, there was a museum director and a minister of culture" who "realized that the museum was imperiled," Hiebert said. "They're long gone -- disappeared or passed away." When the boxes were recovered, "nobody knew exactly what was in them."

Or where they had been for two decades, or when they had arrived at their final storage places, sometimes after enduring abuses that Hiebert could only guess at.

"Every time an object came out [of a box] there was a stab of fear, followed by a leap of joy," Hiebert said in a telephone news conference to announce the discoveries. "It was amazing these artifacts were in such stable condition. The boxes were dented . . . and there was evidence that animals had nested on them." Hiebert, funded by the National Geographic Society and the National Endowment for the Humanities, was originally invited by the Afghan government to inventory a hoard of 2,000-year-old Bactrian gold jewelry and ornaments, found intact in a bank vault in Kabul's presidential palace in 2003.

Hiebert's team finished this work -- 20,400 objects -- and announced the results in June. "To our surprise, though," Hiebert added, "the museum director said, 'Won't you look at these other boxes?' " There were six of them, Hiebert said; then there were 20, then 80, then perhaps 120.

In them they found more than 2,500 more objects, including 2,000 gold and silver coins depicting Afghan royalty back to 500 B.C., a collection long regarded as looted and missing. Next came plaster medallions, ivory water goddesses and intricately carved ivory plaques from the 2,000-year-old Kushan culture.

In all, the boxes contained 5,000 years of Afghanistan's history as a pivotal way station on the "Silk Road" between Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The recovered pieces also included cast bronze busts in the classical Roman style; Chinese lacquer bowls; and a glass bottle bearing the image of the Alexandria lighthouse. Hiebert said fewer than 100 objects from the museum's display collection remain unaccounted for.

Scholars regarded the Kabul Museum collection as small but exquisite, but the building in Darulaman, six miles south of the Afghan capital, was in the front lines of the war between Afghan mujaheddin and the Soviet troops that invaded Afghanistan in 1979, and raged on, with different casts of characters, for much of the next 25 years.

"Beginning in 1979, the museum was shelled, lost its roof, its windows, its door," Hiebert said. "All the inventory cards were destroyed by fire, and the museum was looted."

"The art market was waiting for stuff to start appearing, but it never did," said Ohio State University historian John Huntington, who photographed much of the Kabul Museum collection in 1970. "Where was it? Nobody knew."

Hiebert said the museum staff had packed up the collection in 1979 or 1980: "There was a whole variety of different boxes," he said. "Some were safes with keys, others looked like tin boxes with locks." But each one was packed "very carefully," he said, with newspaper, and sometimes pink toilet paper.

Then government officials signed a piece of paper that was glued over the lock holes in each box. When Hiebert's team went to open them, the original signers or their descendants had to be there.

It was then that Hiebert heard the yarns. "You can go to a dozen sources and get a dozen different stories," he said. "I love to leave the ending with three little dots . . ."  (Click here to read full article)

Ancient Nehbandan to be excavated

Tehran, 6 Nov 2004 (Mehr News Agency)

Different sections of houses, passageways, and the barrier surrounding the Parti Castle of Nehbandan, in northeastern Iran are to be unearthed and studied in a series of geophysical operations, the director of the Khorasan Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department announced on Friday.

According to Abolfazl Mokarramifar, archaeological excavations to identify several sections of the city and study the castle will be conducted later.

All that remains of the castle and the ancient city is a part of the barrier surrounding the castle, he added.

Archaeologists believe that the site is ruins of the Parthian era city of Neh.

Located 200 kilometers from Birjand in Khorasan Province, the mud-brick castle with its circle-shaped plan was surrounded by a barrier. Its gate opened to a large vestibule inside the castle leading to several alleys and passageways.

Artifacts dating back to the Parthian era and Safavid era shards discovered at the site prove that the area was continuously occupied for centuries.

Experts believe that the castle may date back to the 2nd millennium B.C., but the exact date and details of its construction have not yet been determined. (Click here to read full article)

Cosmetics in ancient Iran

Tehran, 5 Oct 2004 (Mehr News Agency)

Based on recent excavations in northwestern Iran, archaeological now believe that eye makeup has been used Iran since about 4500 B.C.

Other archaeological discoveries at Haft-Tappeh in Khuzestan Province indicate that women used to wear lipstick, rouge, and eye makeup in 2000 B.C. in Iran.

Achaemenid era religious texts say that the wives of the king spent a lot of time applying makeup and perfume before meeting the king.

The ancient Greeks admired the Achaemenid era Persians for their custom of wearing makeup and attributed the origin of the use of cosmetics to the East.

Iranians used several different types and styles of makeup in the Achaemenid, the Parthian, and the Sassanid eras.

Seven items were used in women's cosmetics in ancient Iran: sormeh (black powder used as eyeliner), henna to dye the hair and hands, qazeh (rouge powder for the cheeks), sefidab (powder to whiten the face), vasmeh (powder to darken and thicken the eyebrows), zarak (yellowish powder used to lighten the hair color), and khal (a beauty spot).

The number seven symbolized perfection in ancient Zoroastrian traditions and the number twelve symbolized virtue.

Cosmetics were common in ancient Iran but only married women were allowed to wear makeup. The style of makeup was also different than the style in the Islamic era.

Texts by Avicenna and Al-Biruni were the first Iranian sources describing women's use of cosmetics.

In his book "Social History of Iran", Ravandi quotes Avicenna and Al-Biruni as saying that women wore makeup to perfect their beauty. "Many things were used to add to women's beauty and there was no limitation in the use of cosmetics," he wrote.

In ancient times, Iranian men also wore cosmetics. The famous Parthian commander Sorena always wore makeup. Some sources have also mentioned that Darius the Great used black eyeliner. (Click here to read full article)

Historic site in Iran turned into garbage dump, official complains

25 Aug 2004 (Tehran Times)

Tehran (AFP) -- One of Iran's main historical sites, the ancient Elamite capital of Susa, has been used for the secret nightly dumping of rubbish by the local municipality, a culture official in the area told AFP Tuesday.

"We have filed several complaints against the municipality, but it firmly denies its workers have ever done such a thing -- even though they have been frequently spotted by our guards," said the head of the Cultural Heritage Organization in Shush, the modern name for Susa.

But the official, Mahdi Qanbari, also complained that the municipality was also planning to build a bus depot near the string of historic sites -- a further blow following years of illegal excavations.

"The 16 hectare site has not been fully excavated. There are still thousands of precious objects to be unearthed." Qanbari complained, saying the planned bus depot would be situated near an ancient palace of the Persian king Darius the Great.

Susa was an important and flourishing city before the advent of Islam in Iran and the center of the Elamite Empire (around 2500-644 B.C.). It is situated in the far southwestern province of Khuzestan and adjacent to the border with Iraq.

The ancient city is also mentioned in Old Testament as the place where the prophet Daniel lived. He is also reputed to have been buried there.

Artifacts unearthed from the area include a plaque reputed to be the world's first constitution, currently preserved at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

"What we need is a much larger staff and a local station to safeguard the site. We do not even have night patrols," Qanbari said in a telephone interview. (Click here to read full article)

Bam's Architectural, Residential Layers to be Explored

7 Aug 2004 (Iranian Cultural Heritage website)

Click to view enlargementIn a bid to incorporate archeological data in the renovation project of the Bam Citadel, ruined last December in a devastating quake which killed over 26,000 people south of Iran, the Grand Archeological Plan of Bam would be adopted in a month.

Bam is one of Iran's most ancient residential cities and researchers believe that there has been little research on the exact date of settlement of its inhabitants. "The Grand Plan aims at finding answers to such questions as when people started dwelling in Bam? and what material they used to construct it?" said Eskandar Mokhtari, manager of the Bam Salvage Project.

He mentioned the earthquake, which almost completely ruined the city and its over 2,000-year-old citadel, has provided archeologists with a rare opportunity to study on different architectural and residential layers of Bam.

The Grand Plan consists of three stages: short-term, mid-term and long-term when archeologists deal with exploration, profiling and documentation and detecting different layers, respectively.

Situated in the desert on the southern edge of the Iranian high plateau, Bam developed as a crossroads of trade in silk and cotton. Its origins can be traced to the Achaemenid period (6th-4th century BC) and it reached its heyday from the 7th to 11th centuries. Bam grew in an oasis created mainly thanks to an underground water management system (qanāts), which continues to function. The site's main ancient remains are within a fortified citadel area (Arg), which contains 38 watchtowers, Governmental Quarters, and the historic town and its 8th or 9th century mosque, one of the oldest in Iran. This is the most representative example of a fortified medieval town built in vernacular technique using mud layers. As a result of the destruction, archaeologists have discovered new evidence of the history of the place in the Arg itself and in the surrounding territory. This includes remains of ancient settlements and irrigation systems, dating at least to the Parthian-Hellenistic period, 2nd century B.C.

Bam Cultural Landscape represents an exceptional testimony to the development of a trading settlement where various influences met in a desert environment in Central Asia. It bears an exceptional testimony to the use of mud layer technique (Chineh) combined with mud bricks (Khesht). The qanāts further provide an outstanding representation of the interaction of man and nature in a desert environment.

Click here for full article.

Ancient City Possibly Sleeping Under Behistun Plateau

4 Aug 2004 (Iranian Cultural Heritage website)

BehistunSuch telltale signs aqueducts, a unique stone quarry and potentials of urbanizations have led Iranian archeologists to believe that an ancient city lies beneath the 3,500-hectare plateau of Behistun.

The first stage of geophysical surveys in the flat terrain started last year, providing experts with detailed information on 500 sites. "The information would be processed and analyzed in 3 months by geophysics and geology experts," said Abdolazim A. Shahkarmi, project manager. He noted that his team tentatively believes there must have been a city buried under the Behistun plateau, 30 km east of the western province of Kermanshah. Near the surveyed area, there are remnants of a bridge, named Khosrou, over the Gamasiab River, having its source in the Behistun Mountain. Shahkarmi said there is a channel beside the bridge, functioning as an irrigation system.

The plateau is famous for housing the Behistun inscription, a royal proclamation carved by Darius I on the great cliff known as "Mountain of the Gods" to celebrate his initial victories when taking power and consolidating the empire. It is etched on a cliff face about 100 meters off the ground along the road between modern cities of Hamadan (Iran) and Baghdad (Iraq), near the town of Bisotun. It originally build on the trade route between Babylon and Susa.

Below the inscription are two Parthian reliefs, those of Mithradates II and Gotarzes II. These are badly worn and have been defaced by a later Safavid inscription. (click here for full article)

Potteries from Bronze Age to Parthian Era Unearthed in Ardebil

31 Jul 2004 (Iranian Cultural Heritage website)

Click to view enlargementArcheological excavation in 12 sites and one cemetery in the northwestern province of Ardebil has rendered some potteries ranging from the Neo Bronze Age to the Parthian dynasty (247 BC-226 AD). "The decorations on these potteries are more or less similar in patterns, indicating a consistent cultural line from the Neo Bronze Age to the Parthian era," said Hassan Akbari, an archeological doctorate student. He also noted most ancient burial places in the province are located near castles and other concentrated habitats. (click here for full article)

Sleeping Parthian City to Awaken

16 Jul 2004 (Iranian Cultural Heritage website)

Iranian archeologists are seeking for public funding to explore the ruins of a vast urban citadel, left from the Parthian dynasty (247 B.C.-226 A.D.), in Khorasan Province, east of Iran.

"The Nahbandan citadel, like that of Bam, is made of mud-brick, thus vulnerable to natural elements such as rain and gusts. Some parts of the fort have already been ruined, making the buttressing of it more urgent," said Majid Karimzadeh, head of the Cultural Heritage Organization in Birjand, in the eastern province.

Archeologists have so far managed to buttress half of the citadel, but they need 30,000 euros to go ahead with the project. They also hope to unearth more artifacts in this ancient city of 17 thousands square meters.

Experts believe they fort used to have several gates, but now just its eastern one has survived. It was built during the Parthian empire and was inhabited until the Safavid era (1500-1722). (click here for full article)

New Season of Excavation to Kickoff in Takht-e Suleiman

8 Jul 2004 (Iranian Cultural Heritage website)

Click to view enlarged imageThe latest season of excavation in the northern gate of Takht-e Suleiman, a Zoroastrians' ancient fire temple northwest of Iran, is scheduled to begin next week, aimed at unraveling some mysteries about the Sassanid dynasty (224-642 A.D.).

Located in a mountainous area of northwestern Iran and 42 kilometers north of Takab, Takht-e Suleiman (the ‘Throne of Solomon') is one of the most interesting and enigmatic sacred sites in Iran. Its setting and landforms must certainly have inspired the mythic imagination of the archaic mind. Situated in a small valley, at the center of a flat stone hill rising twenty meters above the surrounding lands, is a small lake of mysterious beauty. Brilliantly clear but dark as night due to its depth, the lake's waters are fed by a hidden spring far below the surface. Places like this were known in legendary times as portals to the underworld, as abodes of the earth spirits. "Our main aim is to find some answers to our questions about civil works and construction methods during the Sassanids and Ilkhanian eras," said Ebrahim Haidari, archeologist and head of the project.

Archaeological studies have shown that human settlements existed in the immediate region since at least the 1st millennium BC, with the earliest building remains upon the lake-mound from the Achaemenid culture (559-330 BC). During this period the fire temple of Adur Gushasp (Azargoshnasb) was first constructed and it became one of the greatest religious sanctuaries of Zoroastrianism, functioning through three dynasties (Achaemenid, Parthian, Sassanid) for nearly a thousand years.

In the early Sassanid period of the 3rd century AD, the entire plateau was fortified with a massive wall and 38 towers. In later Sassanid times, particularly during the reigns of Khosrow-Anushirvan (531-579 AD) and Khosrow II (590-628), extensive temple facilities were erected on the northern side of the lake to accommodate the large numbers of pilgrims coming to the shrine from beyond the borders of Persia. Following the defeat of Khosrow II's army by the Romans in 624 AD, the temple was destroyed and its importance as a pilgrimage destination rapidly declined.

During the Mongol period (1220-1380), a series of small buildings were erected, mostly on the southern and western sides of the lake, and these seem to have been used for administrative and political rather than religious functions. The site was abandoned in the 17th century, for unknown reasons, and has been partially excavated by German and Iranian archaeologists in the past 100 years. (click here for full article)

A Hoard of Gold That Afghanistan Quietly Saved

24 Jun 2004 (PakTribune online)

The Bactrian gold - 20,600 pieces of gold jewelry, funeral ornaments and personal belongings from 2,000-year-old burial mounds - has emerged from hiding intact, a shimmering example of the heights scaled by ancient Afghan culture.  Through the years of civil war and Taliban rule, its existence was kept secret by a handful of unassuming museum and bank workers, even as other priceless pieces of Afghanistan's cultural history were destroyed.

Click here for the full article. [The hoard includes a gold Parthian coin plus several silver drachms.]

Secret of Parthian Aqueduct Remains Unraveled

16 Jun 2004 (Iranian Cultural Heritage website)

The inadvertent destruction of an aqueduct, dating back to the Parthian dynasty, robbed Iranian archeologists of a rare opportunity to unraveling the secret behind its use.

Oil development workers with Khuzestan Oil Company, based south of Iran, were constructing a pipeline when they bumped into the historical construct. They alerted archeologists from the Cultural Heritage Organization (CHO), though it was too late, since their bulldozer had already damaged a great part of the aqueduct, made of bricks and pottery slabs. Researchers are still working on the site, but their hope to decipher the secret has been dented.

"Oil workers mistakenly ruined a huge section of the aqueduct, thus now we are not able to assert how the Parthian used it," Abdolreza Paymani, research officer of the CHO bureau in Khuzestan Province.
Arsaces (of the semi-nomadic Parni tribe), whose name was used by all subsequent Parthian kings, revolted against the Seleucid governor in 247 B.C. and established a dynasty, the Arsacids, or Parthians. During the second century, the Parthians were able to extend their rule to Bactria, Babylonia, Susiana, and Media, and, under Mithradates II (123-87 B.C.), Parthian conquests stretched from India to Armenia. After the victories of Mithradates II, the Parthians began to claim descent from both the Greeks and the Achaemenids. They spoke a language similar to that of the Achaemenids, used the Pahlavi script, and established an administrative system based on Achaemenid precedents. (click here for full article)

Excavation Works to Resume in Arsaces' Major Capital

20 Jun 2004 (Iranian Cultural Heritage website)

The archeological excavation in the Iranian historical city of Sad-Darvazeh (Hektumpolis), Arsaces' major capital city, would erase much of current ambiguity about the history of Damghan and its neighboring areas.

Sad-Darvazeh was one of the most thriving cities of the Arsaces dynasty, which has raised a lot of doubts about the era (c. 247-211 B.C). "The exact location of the city is contentiously disputed. Some believe it is located near the village of Ghoshe, whose developments had gradually wiped off the ancient city. The presence of some caravansaries and aqueducts support the theory,' said Majid husseini, head of Damghan's Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization. "Others believe that the city of Sad-Darvazeh is located near today's Damghan, while others maintain Damghan was built on its ruins."

Arsaces I was the first king of the Parthians. Arrian reported Arsaces I was descended from Arsaces, son of Phriapites, and that his brother was Tiridates. Confusion exists among historians as to whether Arsaces I or his brother Tiridates ruled until 211 B.C., but it is generally accepted today that Arsaces I was the king and Arian's references to Tiridates should be attributed to Arsaces.

Arsaces I overthrew Andragoras, the Seleucid governor of Parthia and was crowned in 247 B.C. in Asaak (Arshaak), the capital city of Astauene. Arsaces I had to deal with attempts by Antiochus III to recapture lost Seleucid territories, but evidently succeeded in consolidating control of Parthia, Hyrcania, Herat and Astauene (and possibly Nisaia). Early in his reign of 36 years he invaded and conquered Hyrcania and then, on the death of the elder King Diodotus in Bactria, formed and alliance with Diodotus II. About 228 B.C., Seleucus II Calinicus (247-226 B.C.) gathered an army in Babylon with which he marched east to reclaim the lost satrapies.

Arsaces I retreated before him and eventually sought refuge among the Sakae, but circa 227 B.C. he returned victorious to Parthia when other troubles in Syria diverted Seleucus II. Following his death, Seleucus II was succeeded by his elder son Seleucus III Soter who ruled only three years until his murder, to be succeeded in turn by his younger brother Antiochus III (the Great) in 223 B.C. While Antiochus III was concerned with rebellion by two of his generals, the brothers Molon and Alexander, Arsaces continued to consolidate his position, increase his army, build forts and establish new cities such as Apaortenon, an almost impregnable position. (click here for full article)

Mold of Arsacid Prince's Sculpture Goes to Germany

11 Jun 2004 (Iranian Cultural Heritage website)

German experts have finished molding a precious statue of an Arsacid prince in Iran's National Museum and would take it to Germany to copy another statue.

The statue, known as Shemi, is one of the artifacts earmarked to be displayed in an exhibition on 7,000 years of metalwork arts and mining of Iran in the Bochum museum in Germany. Iran did not agree to allow Germans take the original statue, given its priceless value and colossal weight. A reputed copying institute was thus, hired to make two true-to-life copies of that, one of which will be later given to Iran's National Museum.

"The exhibition on 7,000 years of metalwork arts and mining of Iran is scheduled to be held in Germany next year and the figurine is one of the cornerstones of the exhibit. Lending it would have cause some sort of vacuum in our museum, but foreign visitors have also a right to watch valuable and crucial art works of Iran, so we decided to have a copy of it made for the German museum," said Mohammad Reza Kargar, the director of Iran's National Museum.

The Arsacid prince's statue is made of bronze and is 1.94 m in height. Arsaces (of the semi-nomadic Parni tribe), whose name was used by all subsequent Parthian kings, revolted against the Seleucid governor in 247 B.C. and established a dynasty, the Arsacids, or Parthians. During the second century, the Parthians were able to extend their rule to Bactria, Babylonia, Susiana, and Media, and, under Mithradates II (123-87 B.C.), Parthian conquests stretched from India to Armenia. After the victories of Mithradates II, the Parthians began to claim descent from both the Greeks and the Achaemenids. They spoke a language similar to that of the Achaemenids, used the Pahlavi script, and established an administrative system based on Achaemenid precedents. (click here for full article)

World to See Afghanistan's Fabled Bactrian Gold

1 Jun 2004 (Reuters) by Mike Collett-White

Preparations get under way to exhibit some of the 20,000 or so pieces that make up the country's most important ancient treasure trove, found in Tillya-tepe shortly before the Russian evacuated Afghanistan. Dates and locations have yet to be finalized but the United States, France, Germany, Japan and Greece, are among countries interested in hosting the exhibit.

Restoration of Fortress of Babak Khorramdin to Continue

London, 16 May 2004 (CAIS)

The consolidation and restoration of the fortress of the great Persian warrior Babak Khorramdin, located in the mountains of Kaleybar in the northwestern province of East Azarbaijan, are to be completed in the upcoming restoration season.

The fortress, also called the Eternal Fortress, dates back to the time of the Parthian and Sasanid dynasties, also functioning as the seat of government of Babak Khorramdin who defied the invasion of the Arabs for long.

Seventy percent of the restoration has been completed during the previous seasons of work and the remaining thirty percent is expected to be completed in the upcoming one, scheduled to start on 21st of May, explained head of the restoration workshops of East Azarbaijan, Firooz Biroun Ara.

According to him, due to the drastic local weather conditions and the fortress' location on the high ground, the restoration work is difficult and expected to take some two years.

Registration of the architectural remains of the monument, restoration of the walls, and building guards for the safety of visitors around the prayer houses are just some parts of the project.

The fortress of Babak Khorramdin is a the unique heritage of East Azarbaijan, built on 2300-2600 meter heights, with valleys 400-600 meters deep all around. Just one narrow dusty road leads to the fortress, and to reach it one has to pass a temple which is in the from of a 200-meter hallway.

2000-year-old City Unearthed near Bam

London, 6 May 2004 (CAIS)

An old city of 2000-year-old was discovered 6 kilometers out of the earthquake shaken city of Bam, near Baravat village.

The historical mud brick city of Bam is considered one of the oldest cities of the country. However, has not so far been exactly dated due to lack of research on the matter; however, based on the existing archeological remains of the area, most importantly Bam Citadel, experts date it probably back to the time of the Parthian, Sassanid dynasties, or even earlier.

The newly discovered historical city covers an area more than 20 hectares and preliminary studies and first pottery found there dates it back to pre-Parthian era, explained head of Bam restoration project Mohammad Hassan Talebian.

He believes that the new finding and more studies that are to be carried in the area can help set an exact date for the beginning of residence in Bam.

Some other villages and qanats dating back to 800 years ago were also discovered one kilometer east of Bam when aerial pictures were taken for Bam restoration project.

The Oldest Iranian Arch

London, 3 May 2004 (CAIS)

Studies in Haft Tapeh in Khozestan province show the arch of the tomb of Tepti-Ahar, the Ilamite King, as the oldest arch in Iran.

Archeologists so far believed that Ctesiphon (Kisra) arch, belonging to the Sasanid era, is the oldest arch in Iran, but more research on the old arches of the country has proved them wrong, determining the arch of Tepti-Ahar’s tomb as the oldest.

According to head of the archeology team of Haft Tapeh, Hamid Fadai, no such important arch has ever been discovered in other parts of Iran. The arch lacks specific techniques and has a simple primitive form in comparison to other arches in Chogha Zanbil area that enjoy more detailed works, however, they are built 150 years after the Tepti-Ahar’s.

The first excavations in Haft Tapeh go back to pre Islamic Revolution time when architectural remains and items dating to the fourth millennium B.C. were discovered by Dr. Negahban.

Those studies also led to the discovery of two hills, actually two clay structures or as Negahban says two ziggurats, belonging to the Ilamite era.

Throughout the past year archeological activities were carried out in the site, explained Fadai: the trenches made in the previous studies which were causing damage to the site were filled by clay, the ditches made for excavation were also filled to make the exact documentation of the area possible, its documentation was completed and some preservation works were carried out.

According to Fadai, the coming year’s programs will focus on preservation of the historical site, and based on geophysics data, some limited excavations will also be made to provide the experts with information on unknown corners that will help the task of preservation.

Tepti-Ahar tomb is the most significant structure of Haft Tapeh and the only one that has so far been unearthed intact. A large number of the historical structures of the area, however, remain a mystery to be solved by experts and archeologists.

Remains of Ancient Qanats, Villages Discovered Near Bam

London, 1 May 2004 (CAIS)

Landslides occurring after the recent earthquake in Bam have unveiled remains of an elaborate network of ancient villages and qanats around the city. They were discovered one km east of Bam, having escaped the watchful eyes of archeologists so far.

Shahryar adl, an expert and member of the Bam citadel recovery committee who came across the evidence said aerial photography and archeological explorations led to the discovery of a highly organized system of qanat irrigation and ancient villages near Bam. Describing the discovery as significant, Adl remarked his findings suggest a population concentration east of what is now bam.

“They had to leave the villages and move inside the citadel in the face of attacks by the Ezz tribe and then the Mongols,” he explained.

Adl pointed out the qanat network was unique in that they drew on a difference in ground level. Bam residents dug pools near faults that water would gather in, creating aqueducts to lead water to farms.

The system was destroyed as sediments piled up and no dredging was carried out. The historical Bam town is among the old cities in the country, which according to archeologists was founded in the Sasanid era or even earlier in the Achaemenid era.

In addition to the citadel, the city used to be surrounded by numerous villages, where a major part of agricultural, manufacturing and economic activities were concentrated. As the qanats dried up and villages were abandoned, the residents had to move to near the 2,000 year old citadel, triggering a rise in construction in the citadel since some 800 years ago, which reached its height in the Qajar era.

The Bam citadel was leveled to the ground in an earthquake, which shook the area last December.

Mysteries of the most Important Capital of Parthian Dynasty to be Revealed

London, 29 Apr 2004 (CAIS)

To reveal the mysteries of the Parthian dynasty, Sad-Darvazeh, located in the central province of Semnan and considered the most important capital of the dynasty, will be excavated by Iranian and foreign experts.

Dr. Stronach, a German archeologist who was excavating the area for some seasons before the Islamic Revolution, is supposed to travel to Iran to continue the job left unfinished, declared deputy head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage Organization for research, Jalil Golshan.

Findings from the Parthian times have so far been rare in the country and therefore many corners of life then are unknown to historians and archeologists, making the upcoming studies of notable value, explained Golshan.

The joint team of Iranian and foreign experts who are to work on the site are of different expertise of architecture, surveying, archeology, etc.

Sad darvazeh (the city of one hundred gates), or Hektampolis, is the most important capital of the Parthian dynasty and based on historical documents has been the most thriving city of its time considering business, economics, politics and governmental matters.

Before 1979, some excavations were carried out in the area leading to discoveries of architecture remains and historical items from the Parthian times.

Big Statue Sign of Advanced Metal Works in Ancient Iran

25 Apr 2004 (Iranian Cultural Heritage website)

Click to enlarge A valuable historical object in the national Iranian museum is the Parthian prince statue, described by a leading Iranian art critique as a one unique among the few Iranian large statues.

Aydin Aqdashlu noted the statue was among world's bronze masterpieces. It was found by farmers in the village of Ahami on the Karun river banks in the Khuzestan province. It was among a number of other artifacts.

The statue is all but intact except for both of his hands. His left hand is cut from the wrist while his right arm is cut beneath the shoulder.

Aqdashlu describes it in this way: "it is standing upright. His facial features include short beard, long moustache and attractive, solid eyes. His hair is tied with a head band. He is wearing a necklace, while his large eyes and upright nose exhume a certain power. He has an athletic posture with wide shoulders. Generally speaking, the facial features and unique body embodies an Arsacid fighter."

The French experts carried out extensive research on the statue and concluded its body and head were made in different places. They figured the head might have been built outside of the Arsacid Iran.

Its attire includes two pieces, one a long coat and a pair of pants. Its wearing a belt with metal plaques. The severed arm precludes any suggestion on what it held. An Iranian historian Vesta Sarkhosh speculated the statue was built in the reign of Orod ii some 38-57 B.C.

A replica of the statue, a sample of the advanced stage of the metal works industry in ancient Iran, was displayed in the 7,000 years of Iranian arts exhibition in Europe. (click here for full article)

Data Bank of Takht-e Soleiman's Shards Set up

London, 8 Apr 2004 (CAIS)

The data bank of the clay pieces of the invaluable historical site of Takht-e Soleiman, located in northwest Iran, has been set up and the documentation of the relics discovered in the area is completed, declared head of the excavation team Ibrahim Heidari.

According to Heidari, numerous pottery shards and pieces of tile from the Sassanid and Islamic period were discovered in the recent excavations of the area, which necessitated documentation and categorization.

The clay data bank provides a technical certificate for each item, documents its various features such as color, material, form, and decorations, and renders the researchers and scientists with the necessary information.

Other works in the vast historical site include preparing technical documents as a means for collecting more information and analyzing the construction map of the area, which will lead to a better understanding of its architecture, said Heidari, adding that right now the team is trying to safeguard the discovered remains of the monument and to point the excavated areas.

Takht-e Soleiman, registered on the World Heritage List in 2003, is considered the most important worship house and fire temple of the Sassanid era in Iran. During the time, people worshipped water and fire and the fire in the temple was kept on burning.

Clay data banks are so far set up just for two archeological sites of Takht-e Soleiman, in West Azarbaijan, and the Burnt City, in Sistan va Balouchestan province.

Iran Ready to Restore Ctesiphon Palace

London, 8 Apr 2004 (CAIS)

Click to enlargeIran’s Cultural Heritage Organization (ICHO) announced its readiness to restore the Ctesiphon palace in Khwarvaran province, today known as Iraq, which is developing cracks. The palace boasts the highest single-span brick arch in the world.

The Deputy ICHO Director Mohammad Moheb Ali said the monument is a prominent Iranian heritage site now located in modern Iraq.

“The ICHO is ready to send experts to consider the conditions of the monument and restore it after coordination with the foreign ministry,” Moheb Ali said. AFP recently filed a report on the worrying conditions of the palace and cracks in its brick arch.

Located on the northeast bank of the Tigris River, 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Baghdad, Ctesiphon was founded on the site of an older town, Opis, in the second century BC by Parthian Emperor Mithridates the Great. Later Ctesipon was the first Sasanian foundation in this urban zone, named Veh-Ardashir, “the beautiful (good) city of Ardashir,” after its founder, the Sasanian king of kings Ardashir I (AD 224-241). Ctesipon was the royal residence, imperial and administrative center, and a commercial and agricultural hub of the empire in the densely populated Sasanian province of Khwarvaran, Babylonia/Asoristan. Although Ctesiphon served only as a winter residence for Sasanian Emperors who spent summers in the cooler highlands of the Ianian plateau, it remained the capital and coronation city of the Sasanian empire from its foundation by Ardashir I until its conquest by Muslim armies in AD 637. In 637, Arabs after the massacring the Iranians they looted Ctesiphon and the other Iranian cities. This was the beginning of their conquest of Iran.

Ctesiphon owes its fame to the remains of its grand vaulted hall, the Taq-i Kisra, with a span of 25.5 meters (84 feet), a depth of 48 meters (158 feet) and a height of 37 meters (122 feet), a record for a single-span brick arch.

Layers from the Parthian Period Detected in Grand Mosque of Hamedan

London, 27 Feb 2004 (CAIS)

Courtyard of Grand Mosque of the central city of Hamedan have led to interesting findings from the Ancient and Islamic eras.

According to head of the archeology team of the monument Mohammad Rahim Ranjbaran, the studies resulted in the identification and registration of architectural layers belonging to different historical periods – from the Arsacids, Sassanids up to the modern times.

There is a workshop for purification and storage of plant oils in the northern section of the building, where some terracotta of the 11th and 12th centuries were discovered.

The architecture of the Mosque also shows that during this time the bazaar had been set up in the current location of the courtyard. So it can be said that after the 9th century the bazaar was destroyed, part of the facilities of the current Mosque were built in their place and annexed to the old sanctuary.

Ancient Coins Studied, Documented in Mazandaran

London, 25 Jan 2004 (CAIS)

A collection of 53 Parthian and Sasanian coins in a museum in the Mazandaran province were studies and documented.

All the king of kings of three Iranian dynasties, the Achaemenids, Parthians (Arsacids/Ashkanian) and Sasanids, which the governed Iran for more than 1000 years, forged coins. Many experts believe coins from the Arsacid and Sassanid are more significant since they prove important sources regarding the history, culture, art and economy of the time.

These coins were in circulation for more than 900 years and left an indelible mark on the world. The Huns and the Kushanis used the same coins as the Sassanids did.

The Sassanid coins continued to be circulated until the first century of the Islamic rule. The Arab rulers used the same coins which depicted Sassanid kings and Zoroastrian symbols. They were in circulation in parts of Iran, including Sistan and Tabarestan.

The coins were also taken out of Iran to Byzantium and other parts of Europe by merchants.

The studies carried out on coins as evidence of the craftsmanship of the time suggest the sphere of rule of each king. In addition, the Sassanid coins give an account of the history of the dynasty's 30 kings, since the crown of each king was different.

Bam Citadel Gate Buried Under Rubble

London, 11 Jan 2004 (CAIS)

The gate to the collapsed historical Bam Citadel, the world biggest mud brick structure, thought to have been looted, was confirmed to have been buried under the rubble and most probably broken to pieces.

An experienced tour guide well-informed on the ruined ancient monument and Deputy Head of Bam Cultural Heritage Association Mahmoud Towhidi in Bam, told IRNA that pieces of the gate were unearthed while bulldozers were retrieving the corpses of two of the citadel's guardsmen.

Meanwhile, Towhidi pointed out that the gate doesn't have any historical origin. "The gate originally belonging to the historical Ganj-Ali Khan Complex had been presented to Bam Citadel in 1972 to protect it," he added.

According to him, though 75 percent of the citadel has been demolished, it is repairable. He referred to the protection of the historical monument's remains by the Cultural Heritage Guards ever since the earthquake destroyed it as a timely measure to preserve it.

"According to the latest excavations at the site, 13-cm mud bricks dating back to the Ashkanid (Parthian) era proves that the Citadel is about 2,250 years old. Stressing that Bam Citadel can be restored, he confirmed the death of most of the laborers involved in the excavation process and that the experts and architects are safe and sound. The author of 'A report on Bam Citadel', Towhidi reiterated that the restoration of the monument should be expedited.

The Citadel, purported to be the second largest and most glamorous historical complex in the country after the Persepolis was a heritage in which every Iranian could take pride.

A number of cultural heritage lovers, arriving at the site on the third day following the catastrophe in Bam to inspect the collapsed citadel, regretted the calamity once they observed how grave it was. The destruction of Bam Citadel is a dual major catastrophe occurring simultaneous with the big toll taken by the disastrous quake.

The seriously-harmed 20-hectare citadel originally founded under the rule of Sassanids (224-637 AD) consisted of four interconnected fortifications with 48 watchtowers.

Some of its structures dated back to pre-12th-century period mostly built during the Safavid period (1502-1722). Looking like a gigantic sand castle, it was a major attraction for film buffs and tourists.

Bam Citadel Expected to Enter UNESCO World Endangered Heritage List

London, 10 Jan 2004 (CAIS)

In the wake of the devastation of the world-renowned Bam citadel in a strong quake that flattened the town of Bam and killed tens of thousands of people, efforts are underway to rally international support for reconstruction of the citadel.

Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization (ICHO) say the officials in the UNESCO's World Heritage Committee have expressed readiness to place what is now the largest mud brick ruins in the world in the World Endangered Sites List.

ICHO International Affairs Director Abdorrasul Vatandust said the UNESCO's World Heritage Committee has agreed in principle to inscribe the Bam citadel on the list of Endangered Sites as a matter of urgency in its next meeting in China in June.

The inscription will make the citadel eligible for receiving certain financial and expert assistance for reconstruction, he noted.

"The Bam citadel file will be handed over to UNESCO for inscription in the next meeting of the World Heritage Committee in China in June," Vatandust remarked.

Some 80 percent of the Bam citadel was destroyed in a 6.7 earthquake that shook Bam on December 26. A remainder of the Parthian period, the citadel used to be the world's largest mud brick structure. It included entire neighborhoods, bazaars, mosques, ramparts, etc.

In its last meeting in France, the World Heritage Committee inscribed Ashur in Iraq and Bamiyan statues in Afghanistan on the Endangered Heritage List.

This page last updated 13 Mar 2021

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