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New Mining License Endangers Ancient Iranian Salt Mummies


07 February 2008




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Edited by Shapour Suren-Pahlav


LONDON, (CAIS) -- A renewed permit issued by the Islamic Republic’s mining industry to the private company have sparked new rows between the regime's and Iranian's cultural authorities over the ancient Chehr-Abad salt mines. 


The regime's ministry has claimed that they are obliged to renew the permit, since all the conditions stipulated in the previous contracts have been met by the company. The new permit will allow the mining company to continue its operations for another ten years, beginning this week.

If the archaeological groups lose their fights in revoking the new license, mining will begin and will endangers one of the most invaluable archaeological sites in Iran -- and it is very likely these precious artefacts, dating back from the Achaemenid to Sasanian dynastic eras, will be severely damaged or ultimately destroyed.

These salt men are among rare mummies discovered around the world that are mummified as a result of natural conditions. Since the salt men have been buried in salt for centuries, most of their tissues are well preserved. Special conditions of the salt mine which prevented the activities of micro-organisms caused the excellent preservation of organic and inorganic materials in the mine.


The news of discovery of four salt men in Zanjān’s Chehr-Ābād salt mine was widely broadcasted around the world and attracted the attention of archaeologists and cultural heritage experts. The first salt man was accidentally discovered by the miners in 1993. 


More than a decade later in November 2004, the body of the second salt man was discovered in the same salt mine. The year 2005 was the year of salt men discoveries and bodies of the third, fourth, and fifth salt mummies were unearthed in January, March, and December 2005.


Tests carried out by Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU) on the remains and clothing of first and second salt men, C14 assigned date to the late Parthian dynasty (±1745 BP). The remains of other three salt men known by numbers 3, 4 and 5, which were also victims of collapsed tunnels C14  testing have placed them in ±245 BP.



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