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8/11/04

Iranian Archeologists to Explore Buried City of Parse

In a bid to scrutinize the 2,500-year-old city of Parse, the Achaemenids' capital, Iranian archeologists are going to conduct geophysical surveys on a 400-hectare patch of the historical site, Iranian Cultural Heritage News Agency reported on Wednesday.

Dating from the Achaemenid era (559-330 BC), Parse consists of a thorough set of structures and relics, including Persepolis, palaces, fences and utility services. It is believed the city was built on the orders of Darius I in 518 BC. Parse in general and Persepolis in particular have been extensively excavated over the last century, though there are many unexplored areas in the site.

"Geophysical surveys will begin in a month in order to draw up a complete map of the city," said Mohammad Hassan Talebian, head of Pasargadae and Parse project, indicating the new series of studies would be carried out by Iranian experts alone.

The exact date of the founding of Persepolis is not known. It is assumed that Darius I began work on the platform and its structures between 518 and 516 B.C., visualizing Persepolis as a show place and the seat of his vast Achaemenid Empire.

He proudly proclaimed his achievement; there is an excavated foundation inscription that reads, "And Ahuramazda was of such a mind, together with all the other gods, that this fortress (should) be built. And (so) I built it. And I built it secure and beautiful and adequate, just as I was intending to."

But the security and splendor of Persepolis lasted only two centuries. Its majestic audience halls and residential palaces perished in flames when Alexander the Great conquered and looted Persepolis in 330 B.C. and, according to Plutarch, carried away its treasures on 20,000 mules and 5,000 camels.

From the time of its barbaric destruction until A.D. 1620, when its site was first identified, Persepolis lay buried under its own ruins. During the following centuries many people traveled to and described Persepolis and the ruins of its Achaemenid palaces. Many of their observations were later condensed and published by George N. Curzon in Persia and the Persian Question (London and New York, 1892).

But scholarly and scientifically planned work was not undertaken until 1931. Then Ernst Herzfeld, at that time Professor of Oriental Archaeology in Berlin, was commissioned by James H. Breasted, Director of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, to undertake a thorough exploration, excavation and, if possible, restoration of the remains of Persepolis.

Thus, Herzfeld, in 1931 became the first field director of the Oriental Institute's Persepolis Expeditions. In 1931-34, assisted by his architect, Fritz Krefter, he uncovered on the Persepolis Terrace the beautiful Eastern Stairway of the Apadana and the small stairs of the Council Hall. He also excavated the Harem of Xerxes. When Herzfeld left in 1934, Erich F. Schmidt took charge. He continued the large-scale excavations of the Persepolis complex and its environs until the end of 1939, when the onset of the war in Europe put an end to his archaeological work in Iran. During the last years of excavating, the University Museum in Philadelphia and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston had joined the Oriental Institute in order to cope with the tremendous work at hand.

What early historians wrote about the wealth of Persepolis certainly was not exaggerated. Thus we learn from the reports of the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus that Persepolis was the wealthiest city under the sun and her houses were full of gold and silver and all sorts of riches. On the basis of his and others' accounts, one would have expected the Oriental Institute's expeditions to find an enormous yield of objects. Unfortunately, Alexander and his army did a very thorough job of looting and burning Persepolis in 331/30 B.C. What the Oriental Institute recovered were objects either overlooked or dropped accidentally by the Macedonians.

By far the largest number of finds were from the royal storehouse in the Treasury. Additional objects-far fewer-came from other buildings of the Terrace. Many of these finds were pieces of booty from wars with foreign nations, such as Greece, Egypt, and India, or tokens of tribute from the subject nations of the empire. Some native objects clearly show foreign cultural influences. We know from excavated tablets that Darius I had called to his court many foreign artists and workers whose skill and inspiration were utilized, but never copied, by the Persians.

... Payvand News - 8/11/04 ... --



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