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Unprecedented Growth of Unauthorized Excavations in Mazandaran


30 July 2005


Unprecedented increase in unauthorized excavation in Mazandaran, north of Iran, has led the archaeology of the country toward a crisis which entails a catastrophe if not tackled properly.


The lately increase of illegal excavations in Mazandran province, north of Iran, has made the region a hub for heritage looters and illegal excavators.

Mazandaran is an ancient province with one of the most significant collection of antique items still unearthed. The discovery of archeological artifacts which date back to 400 thousand years ago proves the prominence of the region as one of the early settlements of humankind.

Archeological experts have recorded more than a 100 thousand illegal excavation in the province recently.

“This number of unauthorized excavation has been unprecedented so far,” said Ali Mahforuzi, the director of Mazandaran Cultural Heritage Research Center, “and such phenomenon indicates the crisis we are faced with in the field”.

“In a plot of land of one thousand square meters we have identified traces of more than 250 unauthorized excavations while along side the 100 km stretch from Sari, the capital of Mazandaran eastward, traces of almost 100 thousand illegal excavations were discovered and recorded” he mentioned.

According to this archaeologist, such massive number of illegal excavations was totally unheard of not only in Mazandaran province but also in the whole country.

Considering the massive lootings as an issue which has seriously raised the alarm, he indicated: “More sites will be damaged if cultural heritage special guards do not become active”.

He compared the extent of the crisis with Jiroft unauthorized excavations, four years ago and asserted that these excavations damaged the unveiled documents and will lead to irreversible egression of the artifacts which belong not only to the province but also to the country.

Mahforuzi pointed out the damages done to the sites and said that most of the damaged artifacts are rare and unique; therefore in many cases any restoration will be impossible.

Experts consider poverty and lack of any specifically trained guard to protect cultural heritage as main reasons of the spread of these illegal excavations.




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