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Latest Archaeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World


Parthian Bistun Will Be Excavated


23 March 2010



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Bistun Plain


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King Balash bas-relief at Bistun


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Number of broken Parthian bas-reliefs scattered around Bistun

  (Click to enlarge)


LONDON, (CAIS) -- Archaeologists will be teaming up with the Kermanshah University of Science and Technology to carry out an archaeological research on the World Heritage Site of Bistun to unearth a settlement date back to the third Iranian dynasty, the Arsacids (Parthians – 248 BCE-224 CE), reported the Persian service of ISNA on Wednesday.


"Last [Iranian] year under the directorship of archaeologist Mehdi Rhabar we focused our research on the Sasanian dynastic palace, and the outcome will be published in due course. In the process we have carried out a survey and opened a number of trenches on the nearby slope, which have been proven to be Parthian and will be our research objective for the next year [Iranian year]", said David Daneshian, the director of Bistun Archaeological Research Centre.


With regard to the discovery of the Parthian site, Daneshian explained: "The slope is mostly situated within the boundary of Bistun's World registered heritage site, near the [historical] hillside and the Achaemenid inscription, which is confirmed to be a settlement dating back to Arsacid dynasty. A current survey as well as the previous research and recovered artefacts points out to the importance of the settlement during the Arsacids dynastic period in this part of the country."


The ancient site of Bistun has suffered extensively since 1979 and the rise of the clerical regime to power in Iran. Bistun like hundreds of other major pre-Islamic Iranian heritage sites has been faced with devastating treatment, as the result of totalitarian-theocratic regime’s hostility towards Iran’s pre-Islamic past.


The regime for over three decades has not only ignored the plundering and vandalism of the site, but has also caused extensive damages to the site, from cutting into the archaeological site for laying cables, constructing an industrial town, chemical factories, and road construction.


Back in 2006 the regime cut the site’s budget to force the Bistun’s staff and security in order to force them to leave the site and to be left unprotected. The courageous staff recognised the regime’s plot and worked for nearly a year without receiving any wages, to make sure no harm would come to this invaluable site. At the end, the Islamic Republic was forced to reinstate the budget.


The ancient site was registered on the World Heritage Site in July 2006.



Historical background:

Bistun, also Bisotun is located in western Iran, 30 kilometres northeast of Kermanshah on the foothill of a mountain by the same name, along the ancient trade route linking the Iranian high plateau with Mesopotamia. The ancient site features remains from the prehistoric times to the first Iranian dynasty, the Medians (728-550 BCE), and their heirs, the Achaemenid (550-330 BCE), Parthian (278 BCE-224 CE) Sasanian (224-651 CE) dynasties and Ilkhanid period.


The principal monument of this archaeological site is the bas-relief and cuneiform-inscription ordered by Darius the Great, when he rose to the throne in 521 BCE.


The bas-relief portrays the great king holding a bow, as a sign of sovereignty, and treading on the chest of a figure who lies on his back before him. According to legend, the figure represents Gaumata, an imposter to the throne whose assassination led to Darius’s rise to power. Below and around the bas-reliefs, there are ca. 1,200 lines of inscriptions telling the story of the battles Darius waged in 521-520 BCE against the governors who attempted to take apart the Empire founded by Cyrus the Great.


The inscription is written in three languages. The oldest is an Elamite text referring to legends describing the King of Kings and the rebellions. This is followed by a Babylonian version of similar legends. The last phase of the inscription is particularly important, as it is here that Darius introduced for the first time the Old-Persian version of his res gestae (things done).


This is the only known monumental text of the Achaemenids to document the re-establishment of the Empire by Darius the Great. It also bears witness to the interchange of influences in the development of monumental art and writing in the region of the Persian Empire. There are also remains from the Median dynastic period to post-Sasanian periods.



Original news bulletin published in Persian by ISNA  - translated and rectified by CAIS [*]




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