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Latest Archaeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World


Sasanian city of Rustam-Kavadh, newest victim of development projects in Kuzestan Province


07 September 2010



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  The ruins of Rustam-Kacadh and some potsherds scattered over the site - Pictures courtesy of Persian service of Mehr News (Click to enlarge)


LONDON, (CAIS) -- Another pre-Islamic Iranian heritage site is under threat of total obliteration as the result of looting and the authorities’ negligence. This latest victim is the ruins of the Sasanian city of Rustam-Kavadh located near the village of Band-Qir in Khuzestan Province.


The ancient city of Rustam-Kavadh is one of the most important archaeological sites in Iran that has remained unknown, since no study has ever carried out on the site.


The damages to the city is being caused as the result of the authorities development projects, lack of protection from the flooding of the Gargar River, and turning a blind eye to ongoing Illegal excavations by smugglers and agricultural activities by the locals.


The site was registered on the National Heritage List along with another six ancient sites in 1931. Although the ancient site has not been demarcated yet, it is registered on the national Heritage List and any construction in and around the historical site should is prohibited.


Some sections of the ruined city have already been totally destroyed in the past ten years, as the result of the construction of a town of Rāmin, newly constructed to meet the housing shortage of the city of Ahvaz.


In addition, some other sections of the sites been damaged as the result of the construction of a new road passing over, laying main water pipes as well as agricultural activities by local farmers.


According to Gahestuni, the spokesman for Khuzestan Cultural Heritage Enthusiasts Society (Taryana), the government declined to provide about $60,000 for demarcation of the site last year.


Since 1979, the inclusion of the archaeological and historical sites on the National Heritage List and observing its guideline has been nothing more than bureaucratic paperwork. As a result, destruction of the pre-Islamic cultural heritage of the country continues unabated. However, the leading law-breaker that causes the destruction of pre-Islamic Iranian archaeological and historical sites beyond any salvation is the government itself.


The ruins of the city with its complex water and sewage systems are a testimony to its importance and the prosperity during the ancient times, which deserves more than bulldozers and agricultural ploughs.




The city of Rustam-Kavadh also known as Rostam-Ghobad was a prosperous city during the Sasanian dynastic era (224-651 CE). The city kept its importance during the pot-Sasanian period, until it was finally abanded in 11th century.


According to Maqdassi as well as Hamdullah Mostofi, 13th century Persian geographer and historian, the city of Rustam-Kavadh, had formed as the result of the creation of the Gargar River (Sasanian Ardashirkān), by King Ardashir the founder of Sasanian dynasty.


According to these reports, Ardashir divided the waters of the province and ordered a number of waterways to be dug-out, including the Ardashir-kān (Gargar) river. At the mouth of the river he constructed a dam called Band-i Qir (Bitumen Dam) and a village.


During the reign of Sahpur II (241-272 CE), the village expanded and turned into a city he named burg-i Šāpur (the tower of Shapur). Shapur placed two concealed-water-reservoirs large enough to provide drinking water to the city’s inhabitants, constructed on both sides of the city.


The city went under a major phase of reconstruction and expanded during the reign of Kavadh I (r. 488-531) and was renamed Rustam-Kavadh.


According to the historical accounts, there were eight farsang (48 km) journey by river to the city of Hormuz-Ardashir (modern Ahvaz).


Rustam Kavadh fell to decline after Arab forcers invaded it in the 7th century, and it more or less had the same fate as the rest of the Iranian cities of the time, as those inhabitants who resisted accepting Islam were slaughtered and their wealth were taken away as booty.


In late Arab sources the destroyed city was referred to as Askar[1] Mokarram (camp of Mokarram), named after the Mukarram bin Maza Harith, one of the commanders of al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf al-Thaqafi (661-714) the Umayyad’s Governor of Iraq[2]. Apparently, “while Mokarram was in pursuit of the Kharijite escapees, camped in the ruins of a Sasanian city which Persians knew it as Rustam-Gavadh, and Arabs called it ‘Rastaqobadh’ hence, the name Askar Moharram.”


It seems the city was revived once again and became well-known until its final fall in the 10th century. During that time, the ancient city and its ruins witnessed a number of resistances and uprisings against the Arab invaders and twice particularly used as a command-centre by both later dynasties of the Saffarids (861-1002) and the Buyyids (932-1056).


During the ancient times, Rustam Kavadh was renowned for its sugar-productions of various colours as well as its textile industry and silk productions. According to Islamic sources, the New-Persian term of abrišam-e āskari refers to a high quality silk that was only produced in Rustam-Kavadh possibly for the military class of the Sasanian society.

[1] The Arabic word askar is a loanword from Middle-Persian laškar, meaning army.

[2] Al-Hajjaj which is more often called cruel, draconian and savage, like his compatriots, despised Iranians, and was not happy with the prevalence of the Persian language. He initially ordered the administrative language of Khvārvarān province (Iraq) to be changed from Middle-Persian (Pahlavi) to Arabic. Then he went further and ordered not only the records of administrative documents (dīwāns) of the Eastern-Islamic Empire transferred from Pahlavi to Arabic, but also the dīwān as well as the official language of the conquered lands to be replaced by Arabic.



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