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Latest Archaeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World


Sasanian Iwan-e Karkheh on the verge of total destruction


09 December 2010


By: T. Ebrahimi from Khuzestan for CAIS


LONDON, (CAIS) -- Four hundred hectares ruins of the Sasanian city of ‘Erān Gerdī-ī Shapūr’, today known as Iwan-e Karkheh (also Ayvan-e Karkha) is in danger of total obliteration.


The ancient city is located in Iran's southwestern province of Khuzestan near the ancient city of Susa and 18 kilometres from the city of Dezful along the banks of the Karkheh River.


In the Elamite period, Karkheh was covered with palm groves and its woods were so famous that Ashurbanipal referred to it as the ’sacred Elamite woods’. 


The ancient city possibly had pre-Sasanian foundations, but the actual construction is denoted to Shapur I the Great (r. 240/42 - 270/72) who named it Êrân-Gerd-i Šâbûhr (Aryan/Iran built of Shapur), using Roman POWs as the workforce. Shapur II (r. 309-379), renamed the city Êrân-xwarrah-Šâbûhr (Aryan/Iran the Glory of Shapur) to serve as the provincial capital of Êrân-xwarrah-Šâbûhr-šahrestân, which Susa was a part of the province. The city was also expanded and surrounded by large fortifications 1 kilometer in width and 4 kilometres long. 


At one point in time the area was the habitat of the Persian lion that disappeared as the result of hunting in the last century.


During the 1950's excavation, a large building presumed to be a palace section with massive ramparts was discovered, which had an elaborate arrangement of brick constructions. The walls were covered with plaster-paris and stucco decorations and the building itself was surrounded by a charhr-bagh (Persian Garden). The palace hall contained an innovative transversal barrel-vault that was adopted and became popular in the Christian churches.


Like other Iranian cities in the 7th century Iran, Erān Gerdī-ī Shapūr’ fell into Arab hands after a long and bloody siege. The city more or less had the same fate as the rest of Iran during the Arab occupation; it was pillaged, most of the male population were slaughtered, children and women were taken into slavery and most of the city was totally destroyed.


The remains of the city with its backed-brick constructions that once stood there before the coming of the Islamic Republic to power, is a testimony to its glorious past. In the past few years however, the destruction of the remains has been reinitiated as the current regime's ancestors did not finish the job in 7th century. The city has witnessed a series of destructive actions, including the installation of over 60 electricity-poles, construction of two 50,000 tonne silos, road constructions, excessive farming, Islamic Azad university building construction and turning 100 hectares into an agricultural scientific research laboratory, Military exercises by the Revolutionary Guards and Basij militia, as well as the ongoing illegal excavations by looters.


The provincial branch of the Iran Cultural Heritage and Handcraft Organisation (ICHTO) blames the lack of funding for the bad state to the site. This is while the ICHTO's Tehran branch spent approximately US$1,000,000 (IR8,900,000,000) to publish an eighty page glossy special edition of a religious journal called "Forsat-e Asemani" (the Divine Opportunity) to commemorate the Islamic holy month of Ramadhan, a fraction of which could save this important Iranian site from total obliteration.


Iwan-e Karkheh was registered on the Iran National Heritage List in 1931, registration number 47. The Islamic Republic is in the breach of the registration' rules and regulations. 



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Iwan-e Karkha before 1979 and the Islamic Republic

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Iwan-e Karkha today
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Picture courtesy of TARIANA Picture courtesy of Mehr News Agency

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