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Ancient Bistun Has Lost its Chance to be Registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List


23 July 2005





Experts believe that Iran’s ancient site of Bistun has lost its chance to be registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List because a petrochemical factory is being constructed by the Oil Ministry nearby, the Persian service of the Cultural Heritage News (CHN) agency reported on Thursday.


“The Oil Ministry constructed the factory without asking the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (CHTO) for permission, so the factory is in violation of the regulations of the organization,” CHTO official Mohammad-Hassan Mohebali said.


CHTO experts recently submitted the dossier of the site to UNESCO to register it on the World Heritage List. A number of experts of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) will soon travel to Iran to survey the dossier, but CHTO officials are concerned that ICOMOS will reject the application due to the proximity of the petrochemical factory.


Located 30 kilometers east of the provincial capital city of Kermanshah , Bistun contains a number of unique ancient sites from the Median, Parthian, Seleucid, Achaemenid, and Sassanid eras.


The Bistun Inscription, probably the most important monument of the site, is a trilingual statement of Darius I in Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian. The inscription, which is approximately 15 meters in height and 25 meters in width, is located on a relatively inaccessible cliff 100 meters above an ancient road connecting the capitals of Babylonia and Media, Babylon and Ecbatana . However, the site can easily be viewed from below.


It is said that Darius ordered the inscription carved on the inaccessible cliff so that it would stand the test of time.


The inscription bears a life-sized bas-relief of Darius, two servants, and ten one-meter figures representing conquered peoples, with the god Ahura Mazda floating above, giving his blessing to the king. One figure appears to have been added after the others were completed, as was (oddly enough) Darius' beard, which is a separate block of stone attached with iron pins and lead.  




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