Archaeologists are digging against the clock in an
Iranian gorge, striving to learn as much as possible about sites around
ancient Persia's "Royal Road" before they are submerged by
Iranian archaeologists said on Tuesday
excavations in the Tang-e Bolaghi valley had unearthed a
cobbled stretch of the "Royal Road" that linked
ancient Persian cities from Persepolis the capital of
Achaemenid Empire in southern Iran to Sardis, west of the
Empire nowadays known as western Turkey.
pinpointed 129 sites of interest in the gorge along this
ancient highway, ranging from prehistoric finds to remains
from the era of the Qajar monarchy that fell in 1925.
The gorge will be
flooded when the Energy Ministry opens a dam there,
probably in February 2006, as part of the Islamic
Republic's plans to help farmers in parched southern Iran.
Many key sites will be flooded.
Talebian, director of the research group conducting the
"rescue archaeology", said the sites held a
wealth of information on Iran's past. "One clearly
sees the unspoken thoughts of past peoples in Tang-e
Bolaghi," he told Reuters. "We are not in a
position to say 'don't do that project', but we can delay
the construction process," he added.
The dam's opening
had been pencilled in for March 2005, but Talebian lauded
the Energy Ministry for rolling the start date back to
early 2006. He added this
would give eight foreign teams, including French and
Italians, an opportunity to work on the archaeological
blitz needed before the deluge.
people lived under Darius the Great
Many finds hail from the time of the
Achaemenid dynasty, the king og kings such as Darius the
Great and Xerxes, famed for their wars against Greece in
the early 5th century B.C.
Tourists flock to
Iran to see the imposing Achaemenid palaces and temples at
Persepolis but archaeologists feel the Tang-e Bolaghi
could offer more of an insight into everyday life under
the opulent long-robed monarchs. "Unfortunately
data related to the people has been very thin," said
archaeologist Shahram Zare, sensing clues on everyday life
in Achaemenid times could lie in the gorge.
described the region as mainly peopled by pastoral nomads,
building shelters shared between men and flocks that have
altered little over the last two and a half millennia.
structures have been found with capitals of columns that
suggest they may have been palaces or houses of important
officials. One will be lost under the 11 kilometer
(7-mile) square lake that swells to 13 kilometers square
The other will be
on the border of the new reservoir, the ground around its
foundations soaked by the waters.
director of archaeological research at the state Cultural
Heritage Organization was stoical about the flooding of
the valley, only a few kilometers from the tomb of 6th
century B.C. empire builder Cyrus the Great at Pasagardae.
losing irreplaceable human heritage here but we have to
take into account the fate of the country and people as
well," he said.
One of the
archaeologists was even more upbeat when asked whether he
was saddened by the impending flood. "Quite the
reverse, we are are happy to have been given this pretext
to investigate," Mohammad Taghi Ataee said.