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Destruction of one of the Pasargadae’s Holy Staircases


News Category: Cultural Disaster

 17 December 2005



Pasargadae_Holy_Staircase.JPG (139884 bytes)By: Shapour Suren-Pahlav


Looters have destroyed some parts of the staircase of the “Holy Area” of Pasargadae in order to find a treasure promised in an alleged manuscript found earlier. The staircase of the Achaemenid’s “Holy Area”, is located outside the historical site of Pasargadae.


Pasargadae is one of the most important historical sites of the country located in Fars province. This marvelous monument has been constructed by the order of Cyrus the Great, the founder of Achaemenid dynasty, and has been registered in UNESCO’s List of World Heritage Sites. 


“Six months ago, one third of the staircase of the “Holy Area”, which is located outside the preserved area of Pasargadae, was destructed by the illegal diggers. The evidence indicates that they were most probably looking for some treasure mentioned in an old manuscript,” said Babak Kial, head of Pasargadae Research Center.

According to Kial, although the case was reported to the police department of Fars province for preserving the historical sites immediately, and the director of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization of Fars province asked for immediate measures to be taken in order to follow the case, nothing has been done in this respect yet.

The Limestone staircases, about seven feet high, stand solitary in a section of Pasargadae known as the “Holy Area”. It was erected by Cyrus the Great around 545 BC. 


Scholars speculate that the monarch ascended the stepped alter (above picture, foreground) and in attitude of devotion faced the other structure in form of a raised platform, which held a sacred fire. Confirming this theory are imperial carvings at Naqsh-e Rustam, which present the sovereign and a sacrosanct flame on similarly opposed platform.


This “Holy Area” is not located in the vicinity of Pasargadae Complex; thus there are no security systems in the area to protect it from illegal diggers and smugglers. Nevertheless, this historical site is as important as the Persepolis and palaces of Pasargadae; and the destruction of the staircase can be compared to the loss of one of the pillars of Persepolis.

“The case went under investigation as soon as it was reported to the police department of the province,” said Mehdi Saffari, deputy director of the Cultural Heritage Police Department of Fars province.

He also explained that it is the first time such a depredation has taken place in the historical site of Pasargadae; and the police department is doing its best to arrest the smugglers.

The historical site of “Holy Area” is now claimed to to become protected by the police department to prevent such depredations in the future.


In recent decades the ruling clerics in Iran not only are negligent, but even purposely ignore the securities of the pre-Islamic Iranian sites. The authority are claiming that the lootings and destructions have been committed as the result of lack of manpower and current financial difficulties in Iran, while five million Iranians are suffering from unemployment, and US$2.5-billion was spent for constructing a tomb for the the leader of Islamic revolution near Tehran.


Since 1979, while Islamic structures and even recently built minute mosques are benefiting form superb security, unlimited funds, care and attentions, the real Iranian heritage left unguarded to be rubbed and destroyed by looters and those who claim that Iranian history began in 7th century after the invasion of Iran by Arabs.


In 1981, one of the vanguards of Islamic revolution and the head of Islamic Revolutionary Courts, Ayatollah Khalkhali, tried to demolish and flattened Persepolis; if was not because of people of Shiraz, who laid down front of bulldozers, the Persepolis would have been lost forever.





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