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Iranian Archaeology Wouldn’t Grow Behind the Closed Doors


22 February 2005



The ancient sites of Iran were explored extensively by foreign archaeologists before the Islamic revolution of 1979. The work was surely advantageous; however, some Iranians were skeptical of their activities, believing that their cultural heritage was being looted to find a home outside the country - a sad experience that led the Iranian to form joint Iranian and foreign archaeology teams, in which the Iranian part worked as the watchdog to guarantee that no artefacts were exported to the other side of the borders, and no information was kept from the original possessors.

After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the archaeological activities and studies in Iran underwent a period of lethargy, while the science was revolutionized at the end of the 50s all around the world, creating a new domain called modern archaeology.

Today the world of archaeology is different from that of several years ago; it is no more based solely on objects discovered, and no archaeologist travels to some country just to bring home artefacts, and no one keeps his gained information for himself.

Despite all, some Iranian officials and experts are still opposing the presence of foreign teams in their country. Some base their opposition on the fact that Iranians suffice the domain both in number and expertise, and others bring up the same old fear of the historical objects being looted.

Abbas Alizadeh, an Iranian senior research associate in the Oriental Institute of the Chicago University who has for some time supervised foreign teams of archaeologists working in different parts of Iran, has talked to CHN of his view toward the matter.

He believes that following the 20-year-long recession in the archaeology of Iran after the Islamic Revolution, the presence of foreign experts in Iran has been a necessity. “During the end of Mohammad Beheshti’s time in Iran’s Cultural Heritage Organization, major steps were taken in this regard, and the first team to enter Iran was from the Chicago University, led by myself. International cooperations gradually expanded, with the officials in favor of new approaches, especially wanting the Iranian experts to be educated by their foreign counterparts,” he explained.

Archaeology of Iran, a country rich with ancient sites, has had its own problems, naming lack of experts and lack of knowledge of the new developments of the sphere. Moreover, the joint teams have faced some problems, such as those of language and lack of research facilities, yet the officials are becoming more aware that the Iranian archaeology wouldn’t grow behind the closed doors. “Even if all the Iranian experts were at an international level, considering the scientific and technical matters, they were not enough to fulfill the needs of just one province of the country,” said Alizadeh.

It is a while now that foreign experts are working on Iranian sites; however, it was the changes made in the Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization and the appointment of the new director general, Hussein Marashi, which boomed the cooperations significantly.

Alizadeh believes these cooperations will help the enthusiast Iranian students of the major and enrich the domain from several points of view: first of all, the foreign experts would expand their knowledge of Iran, and introduce the country’s archaeology to their students back at home; secondly, the foreign students working with the experts in Iran would return to their countries as Iranologists. As a result, studies of Iran would be revived once again around the world.

Lots of works should still be undertaken to pave the way toward virtually joint activities. For example, a proper definition of a joint team and its activities, and some regulations should be provided to facilitate the joint archaeological activities in Iran. Moreover, administrative conditions, such as visa endorsement, should be eased.

Alizadeh names the current times the transition era of Iranian archaeology, the advantages of which will appear in time if proper measures are taken.



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