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Siraf, a Legendary Ancient Port


News Category: Arsacid Dynasty

 16 November 2005



(CHN) - David Whitehouse was the first archaeologist who carried out research on Siraf. He has described the site as far more marvelous and splendid than those of the legends.


According to his researches, the marine trade of the Persian Gulf and Far East lands flourished in Siraf.

Whitehouse, who due to an illness could not attend Siraf international conference, sent a message to the conference, which was delivered by Professor Iraj Nabipour, the research deputy of Bushehr’s medical university.

Whitehouse studies on the discovered Persian Gulf clays in Africa and Asian countries indicates that one of the main reasons of flourishing free trade in Siraf region was the vast expansion of its trade during ancient times. In his message, Whitehouse talked about the long history of Siraf, explaining about the method of archaeological excavations in the region,

Parts of his massage to the Siraf international conference read as follows:

“100 years ago, Sinbad tales were read to children. Sinbad completed 7 marvelous trips. Sinbad tales are a mix of myth and legend. But there stands a reality behind these legends. The first marine relations between the Persian Gulf and China occurred in AD 801, and Siraf port and its businessmen played the main role in this somehow legendary event. My word to you is about the archaeological explorations and discoveries of this historical port.

An international archaeological group with the cooperation of Iranians excavated the site for 7 continual winters.

The longest excavation season lasted for 14 weeks. The work started with 200 laborers and 20 experts. All the efforts were concentrated on diggings. In AD762, Baghdad was the capital of the Islamic world and the cities of the region were the main consumers of goods, therefore trade was initiated with other countries. In AD 801, Siraf port flourished and in 10th century, Estakhri introduced it as the busied port of the Persian Gulf. But little by little, long distance trade diverted to the Red Sea from the Persian Gulf, and Siraf collapsed; even its position was forgotten.

"… The only way to put down the information of the city was to provide its map …. The map revealed the location of more than 200 buildings and the whole perspective of Siraf glittered in front of us. This map helped us to excavate different aspects of the economic and social life of the port ….”

Explaining in details about the different structures and buildings found in Siraf, such as the palace-like houses of the millionaires whose wealth made the port a special location with regard to exploiting the African, Indian, and Far East resources, and the cemetery discovered there, Whitehouse continues to talk of the grandeur and significance of the port in the ancient times.

“Anyway, Siraf was a picture of wealth and activity during the ancient times such as those we witnessed in Hong Kong, Venice, and Boston later on. During its own time despite its simplicity, Siraf was one of the most successful ports of the world. Its successful trade resulted in its wealth and glory. Siraf port acted as an international terminal importing to and exporting goods from Persia and beyond the Persian plateau ….”

Now, the discovered archaeological articles in the house of Whitehouse are host to several archaeologists and historians of the world. Director of the ICTHO office of Bushehr, Ardeshir Mohammadi, announced the current seminar of Siraf just the beginning of the greater movement to revive the port in the world.

Following the seminar, the house of the first archaeologist who unburied the history of the ancient port, David Whitehouse, is announced by ICHTO officials be turned into Siraf’s research center, to be a starting point for making the name of Siraf well-known in the world, and a beginning for introducing this historical land to Iranians and to the whole world.

David Whitehouse is currently executive director and curator of Ancient and Islamic Glass at the Corning Glass Museum in Ithaca, New York.


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