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Smugglers develop innovative method to plunder ancient Tul Talesh


25 October 2005

(MNA) -- Smugglers have recently developed a new method to loot the cemetery of the Tul Talesh ancient site, hardly leaving any trace for officials to track them, the Persian service of the Cultural Heritage News (CHN) agency reported on Sunday.

Covering an area of 350 hectares, the cemetery of Tul Talesh is located 140 kilometers northwest of Rasht in Gilan Province. It is one of Iran’s unique ancient burial grounds, dating back to circa 1000 BC.


In the method employed, smugglers dig a tunnel connecting several graves with each other and loot contents of the graves through the passageway which has one camouflaged opening.


Due to the use of the new method, it is difficult to accurately determine the number of illegal excavations carried out at the site, the director of the archaeological team working at the site said.


“In the new method, you find only one hole, but the depth of the catastrophe is revealed when the surrounding area is excavated. Every tunnel leads to five or ten graves,” Mohammadreza Khalatbari added.


Tunneling into the graves takes smugglers several days. Therefore, they camouflage the opening until they plunder the graves.


“We are dealing with a number of professional smugglers at this site. To stop or arrest them requires a permanent presence of police in the region,” Khalatbari said.


“Each of the graves is a page of our history. Since the smugglers only think about looting the contents of the graves, they destroy all other things and spoil any opportunity to conduct studies on the graves,” he lamented.


Skeletons of a man with military equipment and a woman wearing ornaments were unearthed from a dolmen at Tul Talesh. Archaeologists have also discovered a great number of skeletons at the site, which are believed to be the remains of warriors who were dismembered and killed in a battle.


In addition, they recently discovered a cemetery dedicated solely to horses in the area.