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Archaeologists fighting against time to save ancient sites from waters of Karun-4 Dam


News Category: Cultural Disaster

18 December 2004 



LONDON, December 2005 (CAIS -- Edited by Shapour Suren-Pahlav) - As Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (CHTO) has been rendered helpless by dam construction projects in the regions of ancient sites, the director of the study project of the Karun-4 Dam said here on Saturday that saving potential ancient sites that would be flooded by the reservoir of the dam will be the next mission for Iranian archaeologists.


Archaeologists of the CHTO should participate in the study projects and oversee construction of the Karun-4 Dam, said Yahya Rowhani.


The dam is currently being constructed on the Karun River, four kilometers from where the Bazoft and Armaneh rivers meet on the border of Chahar-Mahal-o Bakhtiari and Khuzestan provinces.


The feasibility studies began in the 1960s and construction started in June 2003; some parts of its power plant have also been installed and the dam will become operational by 2008, Rowhani said.


The CHTO is studying the case in order to send teams of archaeologists to the region, he added.


Meanwhile, Ja’far Mehrkian, the head of the archaeological team tasked with saving the cultural heritage at the ancient site of Izeh in Khuzestan Province, which is threatened by the rising waters of the reservoir of the Karun-3 Dam, said their operations in the Mord Bajul region have been interrupted due to lack of funding. The Karun-3 Dam became operational on November 8, 2004.


The team of archaeologists had already identified 18 sites from the Epipaleolithic period (20,000-10,000 BCE), including 13 caves and four rock shelters in the region. The river valley also has a large number of rock-carved reliefs, graves, ancient caves and other remains from the Elamite era (2700 BCE-645 BCE), many of which are now underwater.


Four other dams, all in advanced stages of construction, have been identified as threatening Iran’s ancient sites.


Several months ago, the Gilan Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department announced that 16 historic sites would be submerged by a dam that is to be constructed on the Pol-Rud River near the city of Rudsar in Gilan Province.


In addition, construction of the Sivand Dam has begun in the region of Teng-e Bolaghi, four kilometers from Pasargadae, the ancient capital of the Achaemenids. The dam is scheduled to be completed by March 21, 2005 and afterwards a part of the ancient city will be buried under tons of mud from the Polvar River. Pasargadae was registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage List last July.


Archaeologists have also said that the Gilan-e Gharb Dam is threatening a number of ancient sites dating back to the first millennium BCE in Iran’s western province of Kermanshah.


Over ten ancient sites, some from the fifth millennium BCE, near Hashtrud in East Azerbaijan Province are to be submerged by the Sahand Dam, which will become operational next year.


It seems that there is an iron will to destroy every trace of the country’s pre-Islamic Iranian cultural heritage, through dam construction projects, which the regime in Tehran, claims they are a seminal part of the process of industrialisation and modernisation and regularly hyped by some government organisations.



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