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Latest Archeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World


Discovery of Six Residential Units in Parthian Fortress of Yazdegerd


08 May 2008



Parthian Yazdegerd Fortress.jpg (34845 bytes)

  Yazdegerd Fortress (Click to enlarge)


LONDON, (CAIS) -- The first season of archaeological research at Parthian Qal'eh-ye Yazdegerd (Yazdegerd Fortress) has ended with unearthing six residential units dated to the late Arsacid (Parthian) dynastic era, reported Persian service of CHN on Monday May 01.


Archaeologists after four decades of absence in the fortress of Yazdegerd began their first season of archaeological research in November 2007, with the aim of gaining a better understanding of late-Parthian dynastic period of Iranian history.


“after few decades of absence we have began our first season of archaeological research in Yazdegerd Fortress, with the aim of better understanding of the [Arsacid] government”, said veteran Iranian archaeologist, Dr Masud Azarnoush director of Archaeological research team at Yazdegerd Fortress.


Azarnoush expressed that not enough research has been carried out in this part of the country which has left gaps in our understanding of Iran’s history during the Arsacid dynastic reign.


He also expressed his dissatisfaction with the poor standard of research, and inadequate knowledge of Iranian archaeologists and researchers about one of the greatest Iranian imperial dynasty.


“Despite the extensive researches that have carried out by international researchers in Iraq and Syria about Iran’s Parthian dynasty, our archaeologists and researchers’ knowledge is inadequate”, said Azarnoush.


The Yazdegerd Fortress is one of the greatest ancient defence structures in Iran-proper situated in the north of Sar Pol Zohāb, 18 kilometres from Reejāb – Sar Pol Zohāb junction in Kermanshah Province.


  Two intertwined dragons from Qal'eh- i Yazdigird ( after Keall 1977: pl. III, b)

(Click to enlarge)


There is a possible connection between Yazdegerd Fortress and Haftan Bokht ‘the lord of worm’, one of the villains of the Karnamak-i Ardashir-i Papakan (the deeds of Ardeshir Papakan). 


Haftan Bokht and his connection with the "worm" may be seen from the intertwined dragon motifs in the fortress's capitals. Haftan Bokht was a Parthian local ruler and pagan (possibly a Mihtraist) who opposed Ardeshir's sovereignty and fought him to death. Haftan Bokht insignia was dragon, hence Sasanian-Pahlavi kirm (Worm) is a condescending term used by Sasanian instead of aždahāk (dragon).


Also archaeological research have confirmed that the fortress itself was abandoned in the late Arsacid dynasty, however, the Sasanian constructions including the fire temple at the foothills of the fortress, currently situated in Bān-Gombad village, could be seen as confirmation that the fortress had belonged to Haftan Bokht ,as Ardeshir ordered its destruction: 

"Ardashir commanded that the fortress should be razed to the ground and demolished, while on its site he ordered the city which they call Guzaran to be erected. In that quarter he caused the Atash-i-Vahram to be enthroned" (Karnamak-i Ardashir-i Papakan, Chapter VIII).


The 40 hectare Yazdegerd archaeological site is complex and consist of a palace, fire temple, prayer hall (chapel), residential sector, garrison and defence structures. These were mainly constructed during the Arsacid dynastic era (248 BCE – 224 CE) and expanded and used during the Sasanian dynastic (224-651 CE), and post-Sasanian periods.


The walls and columns of the complex once were covered with stucco moulds and had carved in coloured patterns of repetitive figural compositions that mimicked wall-hangings. Surfaces were divided into flat panels and bands of repeat designs suggestive of textile ornament, and the relief designs were painted in bright, even gaudy colours and executed in varying scales.


Unfortunately, most of the stucco decorations and statues were destroyed by locals, as they were reused as building materials. 


The use of plaster rendering on walls and columns in Iran developed during the Arsacid dynastic era. Parthian art which was the continuation of Achaemenid dynastic art and was used as a template for the art of the succeeding dynasty. Parthian stucco decoration and motifs also anticipate Islamic art by several centuries.




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Portions of this news have been excerpted from Persian service of CHN and translated and modified by CAIS. [*]




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