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Latest Archaeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World


Persepolis will cease to exist in less than a two decades


03 May 2011



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LONDON, (CAIS) -- The stones of the ancient city of Persepolis requires urgent attention to be protected otherwise it will be destroyed in less than two decades and even possibly a decade.


The penetration of rainwater inside the platform, which has formed a large pool, as well as the severe damp have caused the stonework to crack and crumble, particularly in the recent months, and within a few years the whole platform will collapse.


This is mainly due to the fact that the sewages-channels constructed by the Achaemenid engineers to direct the excess waters outside the platform have been blocked. In addition, due to the increase of subterranean waters generated from the lake formed behind the infamous Sivand Dam has caused a severe rise in damp, to the extent that can be smelt and felt in the air.


In an interview with the Persian service of Mehr News Agency, an Iranian expert in the Cultural Heritage whose identity remains anonymous for his safety, revealed the extent of damages to Persepolis in the past few months.


“Rainfall is quite heavy in the area and apart from the yearly rain falls over the platform, the rainwater from Mount Rahmat located in the northern section of platform also flows into Persepolis. As the result, year after year, these rain waters have gathered and turned the 120,000 sq.m., platform into a massive water reservoir. In addition, the subterranean waters have increased and since the waters inside the platform have no where to go, they have begun to penetrate the foundation of the structures built over the platform and then evaporate trough the stonework”, said the expert.


The dampness has caused chemical weathering that has brought corrosion and decays, caused the stone masonry walls to crack and gradually crumble. Lichens growing and salt residues have appeared on the stones throughout Persepolis, particularly in the Treasury Hall and south western section of the structure peculiarly called the Harem. In addition the mud-brick structures also act as sponge and are totally wet.


As a whole, the water and dampness have caused serious damage to stone-structure; and their erosions have affected the detailed features, carvings of the bas-reliefs friezes the surfaces of which have been gradually worn away layer by layer, and in some instances have weakened and already broken away.


“In the Harem section there is no system to take the water away, as the result, every year we are witnessing further destruction and no one cares to do anything about it”, said the expert.


The expert added: “another main reason for damp in the foundation is that the pebbles have been spread over the platform so that the visitors do not walk in the mud during the winter. As the result less water can evaporate trough the surface.”


He emphasised: “there are a number of solutions to tackle the problem. First, clean and reopen the blocked ancient sewage system, then create small water-channels throughout the platform to direct the water towards them to take the water outside the platform. Also, to separate the stonework from the mud bricks, though it is a massive task, it will be effective to prevent passing the water to each other.”


“There is a team present at Persepolis consisting of four geologists, conservator and restorer experts.  However, the problem is that they are good at the theory but when comes to practical works they have no experience, and so they cause more harm than good. For instance, the damages that have been caused to one of the parapets of the Tripylon Hall, during the moving for repairs it was dropped and broken to pieces, and rather than restoring it properly, they used stone glue to put them together”, expert lamented.


In December 2010 another expert expressed his concerns about the alarming state of Persepolis. He warmed that the atmospheric effects and stone decay of the outer-wall situated on the left side of the main stairway leading to the Persepolis Platform has caused three cracks to appear.


He emphasised that strengthening the wall and restoring it is a matter of utmost urgency, since a small tremor will cause the outer-wall to collapse. No measure has been taken to rectify the issue.


Experts warned the twenty-five century old citadel with its grandiose palaces will be destroyed less than a decade, if no immediate measures are taken against the environmental and manmade threats.



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 Pictures CAIS image archive and courtesy of Shahin Sepanta, (Iran-Nameh), Mehr News Agency (Click to enlarge)


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