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Oil Exploration Threatening Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat


News Category: Elamite Period

26 October 2005


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The Iran's National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) has begun exploration near the 3250-year-old Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat in Khuzestan Province, southwestern Iran, the Persian service of the Cultural Heritage News (CHN) agency reported on Tuesday.

The operations are underway just 500 meters south of the ziggurat complex.


“The NIOC operations are not in coordination with the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (CHTO). Explosions in the wells dug near the site would cause irreparable damage to the ancient Iranian cultural heritage,” the director of the Haft-Tappeh and Chogha Zanbil Research Base, Mehdi Maddahi, said.


“Our base was informed about the operations by chance three days after the NIOC workers began the exploration work. We have asked the company officials to study the threats the wells pose for Chogha Zanbil along with some experts from the CHTO,” he added.


The research base and the Khuzestan Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department have called on the NIOC to halt the operations until further investigation can be carried out.


“NIOC experts believe that the region has no oil resources, however, they insist on carrying out the explorations,” Maddahi said.


The only surviving ziggurat in Iran, Chogha Zanbil is a major remnant of the Elamite civilization, which was constructed in the Elamite city of Dur Untash. It is located near Susa, the ancient capital of Elam, and was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1978.


Built about 1250 BC under the direction of the Elamite ruler Untash-Gal during the Middle Elamite period (c. 1500–c. 1000 BC), the complex was dedicated to Inshushinak (Insusinak), the bull-god of Susa. The square base of the ziggurat, 344 feet (105 meters) on each side, was built principally of brick and cement. It now stands 80 feet (24 meters) high, less than half its estimated original height.


Much of the ancient and historical Iranian cultural heritage has been threatened or destroyed by dam construction and other economic projects over the past few years.


In Khuzestan, the Karun-3 Dam’s reservoir was filled late last year, devouring most of the cultural heritage of ancient Izeh forever. Archaeologists had identified 80 sites in the region from the Epipaleolithic period (20,000-10,000 BC), including 13 caves and four rock shelters. The river valley also has a large number of rock-carved reliefs, graves, ancient caves, and other monuments and artifacts from the Elamite era.


The ancient site of Tang-e Bolaghi near Pasargadae in Fars Province will be another victim of the construction projects!


When the Sivand Dam comes on stream on February 1, 2006 at Tang-e Bolaghi, 129 ancient sites will be submerged under mud and water.


Once part of the renowned imperial route to Persepolis and Susa, Tang-e Bolaghi will be flooded by the Polvar River when the Sivand Dam is completed. Part of Pasargadae will be buried under mud, and even the mausoleum of Cyrus the Great is believed to be at risk. Tang-e Bolaghi contains sites from the Neolithic and Palaeolithic periods, the early, middle, and late Elamite era (2700-645 BC), and the Sasanid era (224-651 CE).


At the present time, the CHTO is involved in a legal dispute with the Isfahan Municipality on the Jahan-Nama Tower, which has been built near Naqsh-e Jahan Square. The historical square was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979.


The Jahan-Nama Tower spoils the horizontal view of the Naqsh-e Jahan Square . Therefore UNESCO has called on the CHTO to modify the tower before February 2006, otherwise the square will be added to the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger.




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