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Latest Archaeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World


Ancient Persepolis Under the Lichens Invasion


08 March 2010



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  A lichen is spreading over a lotus bas-relief of Persepolis. (Photo courtesy of Mehr News Agency)


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Winged Man of Pasargadae thought to be the presentation of Cyrus the Great

(Photo: CAIS Archive)

(Click to enlarge)


LONDON, (CAIS) -- The lack of attention form the authority, the bas-reliefs and the surfaces of the stones of Persepolis are increasingly being damaged by the growth of lichens.


The bas-reliefs of lotuses and the Achaemenid soldiers are the main target of the multinucleate organisms, reported the Persian service of the Mehr News Agency (MNA).


The lichens grow slowly on the bas-reliefs, but they can cause a major catastrophe at Persepolis.


“The lichens cause damage to the stone structures physically and chemically,” said Parisa Mohammadi a microbiologists from the Tehran’s Azzahra University.


“In the physical form, the lichen’s root penetrates into a stone structure and breaks up the surface by the mechanical pressure it applies,” she said.


She added: “The chemical destruction of the stones by the lichens is more complicated. The organisms exude acidic synthetics, which decay the surface of the stones.”


In a recent report said that the wooden covers, which were made in 2006 to protect the stone stairways of Persepolis is also causing damages to the great Achaemenid site. The wooden covers trap moisture underneath, creating ideal conditions for growth of various types of fungus, lichen and plants.


Lack of planning for removal of rubbish dumped by the tourists at the site has also accelerated the growth of the organisms.


In addition, another Achaemenid stone bas-relief, known as 'The Winged Man of Pasargadae'  is also suffering from damage caused by lichens and funguses.


In 2005, a number of experts had said that the Winged Man should be transferred to a museum in order to prevent it from being damaged by the elements. However, nothing has been done to save the artefact.  


The Winged Man, thought to be Cyrus the Great by some archaeologists and historians, is a stone bas-relief of a standing man with four wings who is praying. He is also wearing a crown with two horns on it. Some scholars say that that Cyrus the Great is Zulqarnain, whose story is told in the Quran, because Zulqarnain means “the one with two horns” in Arabic.


The bas relief was inside a glass-casing with semi- environmental control, which was destroyed after the 1979 revolution. Since then, a crude cover made of a rusty metal sheet with four scaffolding posts is the only protection that this invaluable historical piece has.






Original news bulletin published by Mehr News rectified and edited by CAIS [*]




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