Iranian archaeologist peered down upon the enemy
through stone portals that have withstood 2,500
years of weather and warfare. "See the
factories? See the pollution?" said Hassan
Rahsaz, who heads conservation efforts at Iran's
best-known relic of ancient Iran. "This may
be the biggest threat ever faced by
and urban life are marching toward the graceful
columns and tiered courtyards of "Pârsegerd"
(Persepolis - Greek for "city of
Persians") – like an invading desert army.
Winds carry the menace from a few miles away: car
exhaust, fumes from petrochemical plants, clouds
that spill acid rain.
thickening smog from Shiraz the provincial capital
of Fars province, and its gritty factories and
towns on its outskirts work like sandpaper on the
porous stone, experts say. They fear the stunning
details on its friezes and monuments could
disappear in decades if the growth continues
unchecked. "This was once a center of ancient
civilization. And now we are under siege by modern
civilization," said Rahsaz, whose father was
part of early excavations at the site 50 years
at the foot of craggy mountains 440 miles south of
Tehran, Persepolis was an awe-inspiring center for
ceremonies and worship during the Achaemenid
dynasty (550-330 BCE) – the second Iranian
dynasty after the Medes, and the first significant
empire of ancient world. Centuries later, its
fate is a matter that transcends archaeology,
touching on politics and questions about Iran's
identity in the wake of the 1979 Islamic
1979 revolution, not only no resources were
funneled toward Iran's many ancient sites, but a
policy of de-Iranianisation has set in motion –
particularly those predating the emergence of
Islam in the seventh century. At Persepolis, the
clerics expelled teams of foreign
this month, a group of Iranian lawmakers and
intellectuals issued an unusually blunt open
letter demanding the Islamic regime urgent
conservation efforts at Persepolis to avoid a
are fighting development and the pressure of a
growing population," said Mohammad Hassan
Talebian, a top researcher at the Iranian Cultural
Heritage Organization. "I'm very, very
worried about the future of Persepolis."
are seeking a buffer zone around the site and
appealing to factory owners to install better
pollution controls, said Talebian. "We can't
tear down the homes and factories. Trying to stop
them from coming closer is all we can do," he
is extremely sensitive to pollution. Much of the
stone is rich in calcite, which forms the basis
for limestone and marble. The acids in air
pollution directly attack the alkaline calcite.
is reporting to his master!
section of the site has been covered with a roof
to block acid rain and modify temperature
variations. But it also has built up damaging
are under way to identify the most damaging
pollutants and develop a protection strategy. It
is our duty to save Persepolis," Mosayeb
Amiri, the head archaeologist at the site.
"The name Persepolis is synonymous with the
name of Iran."
immediately after 1979 and rise of the clerical
regime to power, they have began a vigorous
campaign to cleanse all references to the Iran's
pre-Islamic past. In 1979, Khomeini's right-hand
man, the Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkhali, known as the
"hanging judge", in an unsuccessful
attempt tried to bulldoze Persepolis.
was known for his antipathy towards pre-Islamic
Iran as in 1979 he wrote a book "branding
king Cyrus the Great a tyrant, a liar, and a
homosexual" and "called for the
destruction of his mausoleum at Pasargadae.