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Latest Archaeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World


2000-year-old Parthian Anahita temple in Hamadan destroyed to built an Islamic prayer-place


30 August 2010



A. Mohammadi for CAIS  


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Erich Friedrich Schmidt, a German-American archaeologist from the Oriental Institute, the University of Chicago, during his visit to the site in 1937 visited the site.


LONDON, (CAIS) --  Remains of a Parthian dynastic edifice located on the hilltop of Mosalla tappeh (archaeological mound) was flattened to prepare the ground for the construction of a Mosalla[1].


The news of the destruction of Iranian heritage has angered the nation, particularly the cultural figures and heritage enthusiasts.


According to Mehrnush Najafi-Ragheb, the spokeswoman for Municipality Islamic Council of Hamadan, the remains of the Parthian edifice was destroyed over two years ago.


“Until two years ago the remains of the ruins of the fortress, which was possibly Parthian was standing and was destroyed when the construction of the Mosalla began”, said Najafi-Ragheb to the Persian service of CHN.


She added: “during 2006 council’s session, [the mound] was considered as a cultural and religious site and as a result construction for the Mosalla began.”


She failed to explain how the Islamic Republic destroying a 2000 year old monument, which was an important part of Iranian heritage and history, could be considered as ‘cultural’.


The site was fenced up and restricted to public for the past two-years under the pretence of protection of the ancient monument.


Artefacts recovered from the site in the past few decades, many kept in Hamadan Museum, suggest the mound was Parthian, with a strong possibility of a Median dynastic foundation. Some experts believe the destroyed monument was a Temple for the Zoroastrian deity, Anahita (ānāhitā).


Archaeologists believe in ancient times this 600x400 meter mound and the adjacent Hegmataneh (Ecbatana) were possibly connected and together formed the ancient and the original city. The famous Shir Sangi (Stone Lion) of Hamadan stands on the slope of the mound.


According to historical records, the Parthian edifice which was named as Tappeh Dokhtar (the Virgin’s Mound) was used as a defensive-structure and remained in its original format until 1791 when Aqa-Mohammad-Khan Qajar conquered Hamadan, destroyed the monument and left an abundant ruin.


The ancient Iranian monuments named ‘dokhtar meaning ‘daughter and virgin’ usually referring to the deity Anahita.


In 1978, the Imperial Ministry of Culture and Art planned the revitalisation of the ancient monuments in the city of Hamadan including commissioning extensive research on the three main historical mounds and finally their complete restorations, which was scrapped after the rise of Anglo-American orchestrated regime of clerics to power in 1979. [2]



Apart from the cultural and heritage catastrophes brought along by the Islamic Republic’s new Prayer ground in Hamadan, it has inflicted environmental devastation too.


According to the report over 400-trees were cut down to prepare the site for construction. It has been announced that more trees are expected to be cut down.


These destructions have taken place, while no detailed archaeological study has ever been carried out over the mound, and the rest of the ancient mound remains under the treat of further destructions.


Many voiced their objections, signifying there was enough lands in and around Hamadan which could have been used for the purpose of Mosalla construction, avoiding destroying Iranian heritage and cutting the trees which many consider them as the ‘lungs of Hamadan’. 




The city of Hamadan is one of the oldest capital city in Iran was the seat of the first Iranian dynastic empire, the Medes (728-550 BCE). It is believed the city was founded ca. 1100 BCE, while some historians argue it dates back to 3000 BCE.


According to historical records, there was once a castle in this city called Kohan-Dež (old-Fortress) which had thousand rooms and its grandeur equalled that of the Tower of Babylon.


The city kept its importance during the succeeding dynasty, the Achaemenids until 330 BCE when Alexander II, the Macedonian warlord invaded the city. According to the historical accounts, Hephaestion, Alexander’s male-lovers and companion died and was buried in Hamadan in 324 BCE.


The city was revived and gained its importance after the liberation of Iran by the Arsacid kings and the foundation of the third Iranian dynasty, the Parthians (248 BCE – 224 CE).


During the Parthian dynasty, although Ctesiphon was chosen as the political and winter capital of the empire, Hamedan was the summer capital and residence of the Arasacid King of Kinds.


The city kept its importance after the rise of new and the fourth Iranian dynastic empire, the Sasanians (224-651 CE). They built their summer palaces there.


After the battle of Nahavand in 642 CE, Hamedan fell to the hands of the invading Arab-Muslim army; the city was pillaged, most of the inhabitants were massacred and the survivors forced to accept Islam.


Avicenna (c. 980 - 1037 also Pur Sina, Ibn Sina), the foremost Persian physician, philosopher and one of the world's greatest polymath is buried in that city. He was born in Afshana, near the city of Bukhara in North-Eastern Iran (nowadays in Uzbekistan).

[1] From Arabic al-musalla (musallā) literally means a place where prayer is performed or where congregations are held, or worded differently, any temporary place in which worshippers congregate to perform their prayers.

[2] James Perloff, “Iran and the Shah: what really happened”, New America, May 12, 2009, [LINK]



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