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Latest Archaeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World


Thieves have Robbed and Destroyed a Section of Persepolis


19 January 2009



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  Pictures the courtesy of Dr Afshin Yazdani (Click to enlarge)


LONDON, (CAIS) -- The very first grave discovered in Persepolis dated back to the Achaemenid dynasty was robbed and with all its’ contents taken away. The grave is situated only 100-meters away from Persepolis Security Office, reported Persian service of ISAN today.


“In continuation with the search for the Achaemenid water-wells at the bottom of the Persepolis platform, archaeologists have come across a brick construction 2 x 1.5-meter in diameters covered with bitumen – after excavation it became clear it was an Achaemenid grave. The skeleton in the grave was quashed due to the pressure from the layer of brick covering the grave, but contained number of artefacts”, said Afshin Yazdani, director of Archaeological research team.


Yazdani explained “the grave is north-south direction, and the body was placed on his side in an embryonic position facing the west. The brick floor was covered with bitumen and there was a beaker placed in the front of the deceased, with his head placed over a burner.”


The beaker and the burner date to early Achaemenid dynasty and therefore the grave belonged to one of the early residence of the city of Parsa (beside the Persepolis platform).


“The beaker was a presentation of ‘water’ and the burner a symbol of ‘light’, both were considered as sacred elements in Iranian culture. The presence of both artefacts could be taken as a pass to the next world”, said Yazdani.


‘Water’ and ‘fire’ are considered to be the most sacred elements in Zoroastrian religion; -this discovery is another affirmation that the Zoroastrian religion was widespread and firmly anchored in the west of Iranian plateau and the Achaemenid Iran (550-330 BCE) was a Zoroastrian state.


He added “this is the first time that we have discovered a grave belonging to one of the residence of Parsa. The usage of such a dense bricks, covered with bitumen, and offerings in the grave demonstrate that the deceased was high up in his community.”


“Over 70 years ago Professor Erich Schmitt has discovered number of graves north of Persepolis but that was nearly 1.5 kilometre far from Persepolis, and was dated to the late Achaemenid or early post-Achaemenid period – also the style of burial was different. The bodies were placed on their back, in a two-piece ceramic coffins, covered with ceramic cover”, asserted Yazdani.


 “When we were excavating the grave, after removing two layers of bricks, we saw the mouth of a beaker. In order not to damage the beaker since it was too dark we left it for the following day to uncover. Unfortunately when we returned yesterday morning we realised the grave had been robbed and we saw that the beaker had been stolen after removing a few bricks. Thankfully, the robbers didn’t discovered the burner”, said Yazdani


In the process they destroyed some other ceramic objects – the pieces were scattered next to the grave.


Regarding the skeleton Yazdani explained “the diseased was nearly 170metres to 180metres tall and we cannot verify its’ sex, due to some sections being badly damaged during the robbery, to the point that some of the bones have turned to dust”


He lamented “the Persepolis Security Unit is responsible for safeguarding the site, which unfortunately they failed to carry out their responsibility. The Security Unit was aware of our excavation, and the grave is only 100-meters away from their station. Now after the robbery the Unit has deployed a soldier to guard the site.”





Original News bulletin published in Persian by ISNA , and translated and modified by CAIS [*]




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