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Sivand Dam Threatens Pasargadae


25 July 2004



By: Mohammad Samadi


The Bolaghi Gorge, a significant part of the plain of Pasargadae, the Achaemenid dynasty's first capital, is on the brink of submersion when the construction of a new dam is to be completed in the south of Iran.

The 18-km-long gorge is just 4 km away from the historical city, just inscribed on UNESCO’s prestigious World Heritage List in June. Archaeologists believe the gorge was part of the renowned Achaemenid Imperial Route, driven by mounted couriers to deliver royal messages from Pasargadae to Persepolis and Susa. 


The gorge also houses some residential caves, dating from the prehistoric to the Islamic period.


The dam construction began in 1992 by the 'Sakou Company' which belongs to the Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Guards. Iran Cultural Heritage Organisation was not informed about the dam construction.

“The construction project of the Sivand Dam threatens to flood part of the historical site of Pasargadae, washing away many ancient and invaluable artifacts, mostly undiscovered,” warned Dr Masoud Azarnoush, head of the archaeological research center at Iran’s Cultural Heritage Organization (ICHO).

The dam will be operational in 2 or 3 years, inundating a stretch of over 8 km of the gorge, noted Babak Kial, head of the Pasargadae site. He called for accelerated efforts to salvage the would-be-submerged areas.

However, it seems this is a 'negative-rumor' propagated by the Islamic Republic to divert attentions from main threat to Pasargadae and Persepolis, which is the effects of humidity on the edifice, generated from the artificial lake behind the dam. The extent of damage as the result of humidity is currently unknown.


Shapour Suren-Pahlav of CAIS believes the construction of the dam also threats the monuments at the Pasargadae including the mausoleum of Cyrus the Great and Persepolis as the result of high humidity as well as an increase in subterranean waters. 


Suren-Pahlav, warns the main objective of the construction of such a dam is to finish the job that Mr Ruhollah Khomeini and his right-hand man Mr Sadeq Khalkhali were unable to finish in 1980 -  the destruction of Pasargadae and Persepolis.


Pasargadae covered an area of almost 1.5 miles in length and included palaces, a temple and the tomb of the king of kings. The city was built on the site where King Cyrus defeated his grandfather, and the last king of the Median dynasty, Astyages, in 550 BCE.

The heart of Pasargadae is the citadel, which is known as Tall-i-Takht or 'throne hill', overlooks a garden in the south. The palace itself is complex, it consists of two smaller units: the residential palace and the many columned audience hall. The audience hall or 'Apadana' can be approached from the south-east; the visitor first has to pass a gate and then has to cross a bridge over the river Pulvâr.

The mausoleum of Cyrus the Great is situated a little to the southwest. It was venerated by later rulers, the Macedonian king Alexander, who ordered restorations in January 324 BCE. The tomb of Cyrus' successor Cambyses was never finished.

Even though Darius the Great built a new capital, Persepolis, 43 kilometers downstream along the river Pulvar, Pasargadae remained an important place, probably as the religious capital of the Achaemenid Empire where the inauguration of the kings took place.




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