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By: Prof. Dietrich Huff



Prehistoric period

Only a few of the countless prehistoric mounds in the mountain valleys of Fârs have been investigated by archeologists; most of their activities have been concentrated on the Marvdašt plain, the heartland of Fârs: at Tall-e Bâkûn (Langsdorff and McCown), Tall-e Darvâza, Tall-e Jarî, Tall-e Gâp, Tall-e Moškî, Tall-e Teymûrân, Tall-e Šoghâ (Vanden Berghe, 1954; Sono, 1967; Nicol, 1970, pp. 19, 37; Fukai et al.; Egami et al.), Tall-e Nokhodî at Pasargadae (Goff), and Tall-e Rîgî at Fîrûzâbâd (q.v.; Stein, 1936, pp. 127 ff.). The vast ruin field at Tall-e Malîân (Malyân) on the northwestern Marvdašt plain is of outstanding importance, as it proved to be the site of the ancient city of Anshân (q.v.), center of the kingdom of Anshân, a component of the Elamite kingdom from the 3rd millennium B.C.E.; it encompassed approximately the same territory as the later Persian Pârs. Apart from Elamite strata with monumental mud-brick architecture, excavations also revealed remains of Parthian and Sasanian occupations (Sumner; Nicholas). Traces of Elamite rock reliefs under and beside the relief of the Sasanian Bahrâm II (274-93) at Naqš-e Rostam on the eastern edge of the plain and the impressive adoration reliefs at Kûrângûn high on a wall of the Fahlîân valley (Seidel) are the most conspicuous remains of that period in Fârs; most Elamite rock reliefs are in the westernmost ranges of the Zagros (Vanden Berghe, 1983).


A characteristic group of monuments is the cairn burials, which are also found in the neighboring eastern provinces. Their abundance and distribution have not yet been fully recognized, and, as they have scarcely been studied, their ethnic and cultural-religious context is unclear. They seem to have been used or reused until Sasanian times, but opinions about their dates of origin vary from the 3rd millennium B.C.E. until the late Iron Age (Boucharlat, 1989).


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  The Gate of all Nations, Persepolis

(Click to enlarge)

Achaemenid period

The most striking archeological monuments not only in Fârs but also in all Persia date from the Achaemenid period (559-331 B.C.E.), when the dynasty of this province ruled the most powerful empire in Persian history. Its founder, Cyrus the Great (559-30 B.C.E.), built his residence at Parsagadae, on the Morghâb plain; it consisted of a fortress or palace platform now known as Takht-e Mâdar-e Solaymân; an adjoining mud-brick fortification; and palace buildings set in a large, irrigated park. Cyrus' impressive freestanding tomb is located some distance to the southwest (see CYRUS v). The function of the tower-like Zendân-e Solaymân near the platform is still debated; the so-called "sacred precinct," with its two stone podiums farther west, has been tentatively identified as a place for royal fire worship (Stronach, 1978).


Darius I (q.v.; 522-486 B.C.E.) built a new residence, Persepolis, ca. 80 km southwest of Pasargadae, in the lower and more fertile Marvdašt plain. The ensemble of the platform, today called Takht-e Jamšîd, with its ruined columned halls decorated with reliefs; the adjoining fortification; and palatial, administrative, and cult buildings below the platform represents a considerably enriched but much more concentrated variation of the layout at Pasargadae (Schmidt, I; Tilia; Tajwîdî). Traces of Achaemenid palaces and engineering constructions were found in and around the plain (Tilia; Kleiss), whereas few have been found in other areas of Fârs, for example, at Borâzjân (q.v.; Sarfaraz) and Fahlîân/Jîn o Jîn (Atarashi and Horiuchi). The Elamite site of Naqš-e Rostam became a royal necropolis after Darius had created the type of the Achaemenid rock tomb, with its characteristic cross-shaped facade decorated with a standard design of reliefs. Other royal tombs were cut into Kûh-e Rahmat (Schmidt, III, pp. 99 ff.; Kleiss and Calmeyer; Boucharlat, 1979). Takht-e Rostam near Naqš-e Rostam seems to be a ruined copy of the tomb of Cyrus; another deteriorated replica, Gûr-e Dokhtar, stands in the Bozpâr (q.v.) valley south of Kâzerûn (Stronach, 1978, pp. 300 ff.). The enigmatic Ka´ba-ye Zardošt in front of the cliff at Naqš-e Rostam is a copy of the Zendân-e Solaymân at Pasargadae; it bears the later carved trilingual inscription of Šâpûr I (240-70 C.E.; Schmidt, III, pp. 15 ff.; Back, pp. 289 ff.).



Post-Achaemenid and Parthian periods (331 B.C.E.-224 C.E.)

Among the rare finds of the post-Achaemenid and Parthian periods in Fârs are the life-sized heads of a male statue from the Malîân area (Kawami, p. 222) and a statuette of Aphrodite from Fasâ (Stein, p. 140); the so-called "Frataraka reliefs" from Persepolis (Schmidt, I, pp. 51, 56); and the singular rock relief at Qîr (Huff, 1984). Most surviving Parthian rock sculptures have been found in the neighboring western province of ancient Elymaïs (Vanden Berghe and Schippmann).


Estakhr, near Naqš-e Rostam, developed into the capital of Fârs in this period, though excavations have not yet provided clear results (Whitcomb, 1979). Little is known about Parthian Dârâbgerd (see Dârâb ii); Fasâ, where late imitations of Achaemenid column bases were found (Stein, 1936, pp. 137 ff.; Hansmann; Pohanka); and Bayzâ (q.v.) near Malîân, residence of the pre-Sasanian petty kings of Fârs (Huff, 1991a). Excavations at Qasr-e Abû Nasr, ancient Shiraz, have uncovered mostly Sasanian layers (Whitcomb, 1985). A number of rock-cut chamber tombs, their facades clearly reflecting in various ways the nearby royal Achaemenid tombs, are datable before the Sasanian period: for example, those with dentate moldings at Estakhr, the higher ones at Akhor-e Rostam (von Gall), and Dâ o Dokhtar (q.v.) near Kûpân (for later examples, see below). Some of the rulers of this period left incised portraits on the walls of the "Harem" at Persepolis (Sâmî, tr., pp. 270 ff.; Calmeyer).



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  Firuzabad Aerial View

(Click to enlarge)

Sasanian period

The founder of the Sasanian empire, Ardašîr I (q.v.; 224-40), shifted the seat of power to the newly founded Ardašîr Khorra (Fîrûzâbâd; qq.v.), a circular city with palaces that are still preserved. His successor, Šâpûr I, built Bîšâpûr (q.v.) as his capital; a number of monuments are preserved there. Never theless, Estakhr remained the most important city of Fârs until Shiraz surpassed it after the Islamic conquest in the 7th century. Ardašîr's enthronement reliefs at Fîrûzâbâd, Naqš-e Rajab, and Naqš-e Rostam were the first in a series of rock reliefs that are generally reckoned the most splendid testaments of Sasanian royal art (Schmidt, III, pp. 122 ff.; Splendeur, pp. 71 ff.). With few exceptions all are in Fârs; eight are at Naqš-e Rostam, most of them carved below the Achaemenid tombs (Herrmann, 1977-89) and three more at nearby Naqš-e Rajab (Hinz, pp. 115 ff.). At Bîšâpûr (Herrmann, 1980-83) there are six reliefs and a larger-than-life-sized statue of Šâpûr I. Smaller groups or single reliefs are located at Dârâb, Sar Mašhad (Trümpelmann), Gûyom (Schmidt, III, p. 134), Sarâb-e Bahrâm, Sarâb-e Qandîl (Herrmann, 1983), and Barm-e Delak (q.v.; Hinz, pp. 217 ff.). All are of the early Sasanian period, before the reign of Šâpûr II (309-79). Aside from inscriptions accompanying reliefs, major Pahlavi inscriptions occur at Hâjîâbâd and Tang-e Borâqî (Gropp, in Hinz, pp. 229 ff.; Back, pp. 372 ff.).


The Estakhr area is the center of a diverse group of Sasanian funerary monuments. The lower rock-cut chamber tombs at Akhor-e Rostam (see above) and one at Kûh-e Ayyûb are probably Sasanian ossuaries (astôdâns, q.v.; Stronach, 1978, p. 304; Huff, 1988; idem, 1991a). Christian chamber tombs of the period are particularly frequent on Khârg island but also occur in Fârs proper (Haerinck; Huff, 1989). Most niche astôdâns, representing a reduced type of chamber tomb, are concentrated in the mountains around Naqš-e Rostam. They are dated to the late Sasanian and early Islamic periods by funerary (dakhma) inscriptions on some of the slightly decorated or undecorated facades. Identical inscriptions on rock-cut troughs, the majority in the same area, identify the latter as coffin or box astôdâns, more or less contemporary with the chambers and niches (Huff, 1988, pp. 164 ff.).


A number of monuments generally regarded as fire temples, like the Nûrâbâd tower (Huff, 1975), or fire altars, like the twin monuments at Naqš-e Rostam and examples at Kûh-e Šahrak, Darra-ye Barra (q.v.), Tang-e Karam (Vanden Berghe, 1959, pp. 24 ff.; Stronach, 1966), QanâtÂ-e Bâgh, and Pangân are more probably elaborate reliquary astôdâns, formerly closed by vaulted or domed lids (Vanden Berghe, 1984a; Huff, 1992; idem, in press; Splendeur, pp. 60 ff.). The impressive rock-cut cemeteries of Sîrâf are mostly of Islamic date, though excavation of a Sasanian fort at the site proves the importance of this early center of maritime trade (Whitehouse; Tampoe).


The chahârtâq (q.v.), a building with a central domed square, is especially common between Dârâb and Bîšâpûr but also occurs as far north as Yazd-e Khúâst (see: Schippmann, pp. 82 ff.; Vanden Berghe, 1984b). Major examples like those at Konâr Sîâh and Tang-e Chakchak (Vanden Berghe, 1961, pp. 175 ff.) seem to have been Sasanian fire temples, but some may have been Zoroastrian sanctuaries of the Islamic period or even Islamic mausolea. The date and function of the so-called "Sasanian palace" near Sarvestân, one of the most famous monuments in Fârs, are also under discussion; its layout does not correspond to that of a palace, and its advanced architectural forms and decoration seem to belong after the Sasanian period (Bier).


Among the innumerable mountain fortresses Qal´a-ye Dokhtar at Fîrûzâbâd, the medieval Qal´a-ye Gabrî near Fasâ, Qal´a-ye Dokhtar near Estahbânât, Qal´a-ye Safîd near Fahlîân, and Šahr-e Îj (Stein, 1936, pp. 122 ff.; idem, 1940, pp. 27 ff.) are of special historical and architectural importance.




(for cited works not found in this bibliography, see "Short References"):

K. Atarashi and K. Horiuchi, Fahlian I. The Excavation at Tape Suruvan 1959, Tokyo, 1963. 

M. Back, Die sassanidischen Staatsinschriften, Acta Iranica 18, Tehran and Lieàge, 1978. 

L. Bier, Sarvistan. A Study in Early Islamic Architecture, Philadelphia, 1986. 

R. Boucharlat, "Le monument rupestre de Qadamagah," Iranica Antiqua 14, 1979, pp. 153 ff. 

Idem, "Cairns et pseudo-cairns du Fars," in L. de Meyer and E. Haerinck, eds., Archaeologia Iranica et Orientalis II, Ghent, 1989, pp. 675 ff. 

P. Calmeyer, "Synarchie," AMI, N.S. 9, 1976, pp. 63-95. 

Ebn al-Balkhî, Fârs-nâma, tr. G. Le Strange as Description of the Province of Fars, London, 1912. 

N. Egami et al., "Tal-i Jarri A," Orient 13, 1977, pp. 1 ff. Mohammad-Nasîr Forsat Šîrâzî, Â, Bombay, 1314/1896. 

S. Fukai et al., Marv Dasht III: The Excavations at Tall-i Mushki 1965, Tokyo, 1973. 

H. von Gall, "Neue Beobachtungen zu den sogennanten medischen Felsgräbern," in Proceedings of the 2nd Annual Symposium on Archaeological Research in Iran, Tehran, 1974, pp. 139 ff. 

C. Goff, "Excavations at Tall-i-Nokhodi 1962," Iran 2, 1964, pp. 41-52. 

G. Gropp, "Bericht über eine Reise in West- und Südiran," AMI, N.S. 3, 1970, pp. 173-230.

E. Haerinck, "Quelques monuments fune‚raires de l'île de Kharg dans le Golfe Persique," Iranica Antiqua 11, 1975, pp. 134-67. 

J. Hansman, "An Achaemenian Stronghold," in Monumentum H. S. Nyberg III, Acta Iranica 6, Leiden, 1975, pp. 289 ff. 

G. Herrmann, The Sasanian Rock Reliefs at Naqsh-i Rustam, 2 vols., Berlin, 1977-89. 

Idem, The Sasanian Rock Reliefs at Bishapur, 3 vols., Berlin, 1980-83. 

W. Hinz, Altiranische Funde und Forschungen, Berlin, 1969. D. Huff, "Nurabad," AMI, N.F. 8, 1975, pp. 167-209. 

Idem, Das Felsrelief von Qir, AMI, N.F. 17, 1984, pp. 221 ff. 

Idem, "Zum Problem zoroastrischer Grabanlagen in Fars I," AMI, N.F. 21, 1988, pp. 145-76. 

Idem, "Ein christliches Felsgrab bei Istakhr," in L. de Meyer and E. Haerinck, eds., Archaeologia Iranica et Orientalis, Ghent, 1989, pp. 713 ff. 

Idem, "Beiza," in Y. Kiani, ed., Iranian Cities IV, Tehran, 1991a, pp. 46 ff. 

Idem, "Observations at Minor Monuments in the Persepolis Area," in Me‚sopotamie et Elam, Actes de la 36eàme Rencontre Assyriologique internationale, Ghent, 1991b, pp. 197 ff. 

Idem, "Zum Problem zoroastrischer Grabanlagen in Fars II. Das Säulenmonument von Pengan," AMI, N.S. 25, 1992, pp. 207 ff. 

Idem, "'Fire Altars' and Astodans," in Proceedings of the International Conference on Parthian and Sasanian Themes in Iranian Art, London, in press. T. Kawami, Monumental Art of the Parthian Period in Iran, Acta Iranica 26, Leiden, 1987. 

W. Kleiss, "Dammbauten aus achaemenidischer und aus sasanidischer Zeit in der Provinz Fars," AMI, N.S. 25, 1992, pp. 131 ff. Idem and P. Calmeyer, "Das unvollendete achaemenidische Felsgrab bei Persepolis," AMI, N.S. 8, 1975, pp. 81-98.

A. Langsdorff and D. McCown, Tall-i Bakun, Chicago, 1942. 

S. Matheson, Persia. An Archeological Guide 2nd ed., London, 1976. 

S. Mostafavi, The Land of Pars, tr. R. N. Sharpe, Chippenham, U.K., 1978. M. Nicol, "Excavations at Darvazeh Tepe," Bâstân-šenâsî o honar-e Îrân 5, 1970, pp. 19-22, Pers. tr. pp. 37-41. 

Idem, "Darvâzeh Tepe," Iran 9, 1971, pp. 168-69. I. M. Nicholas, The Proto-Elamite Settlement at TUV, Malyan Excavation Reports 1, Philadelphia, 1990. 

R. Pohanka, Zu einigen Architekturstücken von Tell-i Zohak bei Fasa, Vienna, 1983, pp. 255 ff. 

´A. Sâmî, Šîrâz. Šahr-e Sa´dî o Hâfez, šahr-e gol o bolbol, Shiraz, n.d., 1959; tr. R. N. Sharp as Shiraz: The City of the Poets Sa´adî and Hâfez, the City of Flowers and Nightingales, Shiraz, 1958. 

Idem, Gozarešhâ-ye bâstân-šenâsî, 1338 Š./1959. 

A. A. Sarfaraz, "Borazjân," Iran 11, 1973, pp. 188-89. 

K. Schippmann, Die iranischen Feuerheiligtümer, Berlin, 1971. 

E. F. Schmidt, Persepolis, 3 vols., Chicago, 1953-70. 

U. Seidel, Die elamischen Felsreliefs von Kurangun und Naqš-e Rustam, Berlin, 1986. 

T. Sono, "Recent Excavations at Tepe Gap, Marv-Dasht," in Survey of Persian Art XIV, Oxford, 1967, pp. 2940-46. 

Splendeur des Sassanides: l'empire perse entre Rome et la Chine (224-642), Brussels, 1993. 

A. Stein, "An Archaeological Tour in the Ancient Persis," Iraq 3, 1936, pp. 111-230. 

Idem, Old Routes of Western Iran, London, 1940. 

D. Stronach, "The Kuh-i Shahrak Fire Altar," JNES 25, 1966, pp. 217 ff. 

Idem, Pasargadae, Oxford, 1978. W. M. Sumner, "The Proto-Elamite City Wall at Tal-i Malyan," Iran 23, 1985, pp. 153-61. 

A.-A. Tajwîdî, Dânestânîhâ-ye novîn dar bâra-ye honar o bâstân-šenâsî . . . Takht-e Jamšîd, Tehran, 1976.

M. Tampoe, Maritime Trade between China and the West. An Archaeological Study of the Ceramics from Siraf, Oxford, 1989. 

A. B. Tilia, Studies and Restorations at Persepolis and Other Sites of Fars, 2 vols., Rome, 1972-78. 

L. Trümpelmann, Das sasanidische Felsrelief von Sar Mašhad, Berlin, 1975. 

L. Vanden Berghe, "Archaeologische Navorsingen," Jaarbericht Ex Oriente Lux 13, 1954, pp. 394 ff. 

Idem, L'arche‚ologie de l'Iran ancien, Leiden, 1959. 

Idem, "Re‚centes de‚couvertes de monuments sassanides dans le Fârs," Iranica Antiqua 1, 1961, pp. 163-98. 

Idem, Bibliographie analytique de l'arche‚ologie de l'Iran ancien, Leiden, 1979; Suppl. I, Leiden, 1981; Suppl. II, Leiden, 1987. 

Idem, Reliefs rupestres de l'Iran, Brussels, 1983. 

Idem, "L'autel du feu de Qanat-i Bagh," Acta Iranica 23, 1984a, pp. 511 ff. 

Idem, "Le chahâr tâq de QanâtÂ-i Bâgh (Fârs) et l'inventaire des chahâr tâqs en Irân," Iranica Antiqua 19, 1984b, pp. 201-25. 

Idem and K. Schippmann, Les reliefs rupestres d'Elymaïde (Iran) de l'e‚poque parthe, Ghent, 1985. 

D. Whitcomb, "The City of Istakhr and the Marvdasht Plain," in Akten des VII. Internationalen Kongresses für Iranische Kunst und Archäologie, AMI Ergänzungsbd. 6, Berlin, 1979, pp. 363-70. 

Idem, Before the Roses and the Nightingales, New York, 1985. D. Whitehouse, "Excavations at Sîrâf. Sixth Interim Report," Iran 12, 1974, pp. 1-30. 

D. Wilber, The Architecture of Islamic Iran. The Il Khanid Period, Princeton, N.J., 1955. 

Idem, The Masjid-i Atiq of Shiraz, Shiraz, 1972.



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