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Lafurak Ancient Cemetery, Next Victim of the Islamic Republic Dam Construction


12 February 2007




Edited by Shapour Suren-Pahlav


LONDON, (CAIS) -- As the time to inaugurate Alborz Dam in the Iranian northern province of Mazandaran is getting closer, a number of Iranian cultural heritage experts have voiced their concern regarding the possible consequences of dam inauguration to the historic Lafurak cemetery, which they believe enfolds enormous invaluable information about the civilization that populated northern Iran during the Iron Age.


While archaeological excavations in this historic cemetery have remained incomplete, the Islamic Republic dam authorities as usual have shown no interest in preserving pre-Islamic Iranian heritage, and the importance of this historic site and are preparing the dam to be inaugurated as previously planned.


“First season of archaeological excavations in this ancient cemetery revealed that the cemetery dates back to some 3000 years ago. Archaeologists also succeeded in identifying three unique burial methods in this cemetery belonging to the Iron Age (1500 to 500 BCE). However, excavations in the area were left incomplete by archaeologists to resume their work later. For this reason, we have requested Mazandaran Regional Water Organization to give us another chance to open up a new excavation season in the region. However, the Organization has not announced its agreement yet,” said Mehdi Abedini, head of excavation team in Lafurak historic cemetery to Persian service of CHN.


According to this archaeologist, Islamic Republic’s Regional Water Organization was expected to pay for excavations in Lafurak cemetery based on previous agreements reached with the Iranian cultural heritage organization; however, the provincial dam authorities have thus not so-surprisingly failed to honour their obligation and all the expenses have been paid by Iran’s Archaeology Research Centre.


Abedini also expressed his regret that a great deal of invaluable information about Iron Age in ancient Iran would be lost due to submerging of Lafurak historic cemetery and stressed the necessity to resume excavations behind the dam in the shortest time.


Archaeological studies behind Alborz Dam indicate that in addition to Lafurak cemetery, five other ancient cemeteries alongside 9 historic villages and a number of historic mausoleums will be submerged by inundation of the dam. 


Located near Savādkūh in the Iranian northern province of Mazandaran, Lafurak is a unique cemetery belonging to the Iron Age. Previous excavation in the area resulted in unearthing graves covered with a layer of special kind of earthenware, containing skeletons with hyperdolichocephalic skulls (long and narrow head with a cephalic index of less than 70), which were unique in this part of the country. Archaeologists have also found gold and silver earrings in this cemetery.


In the recent years large numbers of historic sites have fallen victim to developing projects such as dam construction in Iran. The infamous Sivand Dam in Bolaghi Valley, Fars province can be taken as the most sensational example which has evoked strong objections by the national and the international communities. In 2003, the United Nations issued an appeal for world archaeologists to rush to Bolaghi Valley to unearth and record the historical remains before the dam’s reservoir is filled.


The pre-Islamic sites behind Karun-3 Dam in Khuzestan province and Mullah Sadra Dam in Fars are among many ancient suites in the Islamic Republic target list waiting to be destroyed.



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