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Latest developments in Bam Salvation Project


31 August 2005



Bam Citadel, world’s famous adobe structure that got even more famous after the devastating earthquake of December 2003, is still a venue of domestic and international salvation attempts.

On 26th of December 2003, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.6 on the Richter scale hit the city of Bam, and its historical citadel, in Kerman province at 5:26 AM local time. Most of the modern city was destroyed and Arg-e Bam (Bam Citadel) that was one of Iran’s key tourist drawers was reduced to chunks of brick and straw, killing tens of thousands of people.

The Citadel and its cultural landscape were later on registered on UNESCO World Heritage List in 2004.

In a press conference yesterday, Eskandar Mokhtari, head of Bam Salvation Project, talked of the latest achievements and efforts in the project to revive the historical site.

According to Mokhtari, studies carried out after the removal of debris have proven that the devastated Citadel and its ruins enjoy a resistance higher than the ruins of Pompeii in Italy.

Archaeological achievements during the excavation work have been significant, including the unearthing of some 120,000 potsherds, which have provided experts with new information on the history of the place and its relation to Southeast Asia. Around 61 baby corpses have also been discovered in white coffins leading experts to believe that the citadel was under siege for one year during which people had to cope with difficult living conditions.

“The site is still haunted by many mysteries,” Mokhtari says.

The adobe laboratory set up in the historical site is one of the best in Central Asia, trying to combine local, traditional, and modern findings to provide the best material for reconstructing the citadel, Mokhtari asserts.

Since the first day that the old city collapsed, foreigners joined Iranians to care for the fate of Iran’s devastated heritage. Bam Salvation has been an international project, both financially and scientifically throughout all these months.

However, as Mokhtari puts it, Iran is more eager for the scientific cooperations than for the financial support: “We are in need of the knowledge and technology to preserve what has remained after the earthquake. We are eager for international dialogues,” he says.

France’s Ministry of Culture and Communication is helping in providing a map of the Citadel with a 60,000 dollar aid through Shahryar Adl, archaeologist, and the NIR Institute of Japan is cooperating with Iranian experts for providing a 3D map.

The largest financial help has been contributed by Japan’s government, including one million three hundred thousand dollars for purchasing mechanical equipment and another 500,000 dollars through UNESCO for sending in international experts to Bam and holding educational programs.

Italy has also cooperated in the project, sending a team of experts for restoration of part of the Citadel, probably tower no1 which as been proposed by Iranian experts as the starting point of their work. The team is going to arrive in Iran on 11th of September.

Prof. Kunio Watanabe of Saitama University, Japan, Prof. Yasuyoshi Okada of Kokushikan University, Japan, Randolph Langerbach, and Stefan Simon from Getty Conservation Institute, USA, are among noteworthy foreign experts taking part in the project, the international activities of which are supervised by Junko Taniguchi, UNESCO program specialist in culture, Tehran Cluster Office.

“Our real success would be in completing the preservation and restoration project while having the attention and support of the world, not just in reconstructing the ruined structure of Bam Citadel,” believes Mokhtari.

The attempts of Iranian and international forces in Bam have been praised by UNESCO twice so far and as Mokhtari says boastfully, “all foreign delegations who have traveled to Bam have been happy to see the attempts and the Iranian government backing such a project. ‘If we were in the same situation, we could not have done more,’ they say.”




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