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New Dam Threatens Pasargadae


The Ballaghi Gorge, a significant part of the Achaemenids' first capital of Pasargadae, is on the brink of submersion when the construction of a new dam is completed south of Iran, Iranian Cultural Heritage News Agency reported on Sunday.

The 18-km-long gorge is just 4 km away from the historical city, just inscribed on UNESCO's prestigious World Heritage List in June. Archeologists believe the gorge was part of the renowned Imperial Route, driven by mounted couriers to deliver royal messages from Pasargadae to Persepolis and Susa. The gorge also houses some residential caves, dating from the prehistoric to the Islamic period.

"The construction project of the Seevand Dam threatens to flood part of the historical site of Pasargadae, washing away many ancient and invaluable artifacts, mostly undiscovered," warned Masoud Azarnoush, head of the archeological research center at Iran's Cultural Heritage Organization (CHO).

The dam would be operational in 2 or 3 years, inundating a stretch of over 8 km of the gorge, noted Babak Kial, head of the Pasargadae site. He called for accelerated efforts to salvage the would-be-submerged areas.

Other experts believe the dam threat looms large not only for the gorge but also all structures and monuments in the site including the mausoleum of Cyrus the Great. Prior to his death, he founded a new capital city at Pasargadae in Fars and had established a government for his Empire. Pasargadae covered an area almost 1.5 miles in length and included palaces, a temple and the tomb of the king of kings. The city was built on the site where King Cyrus defeated the leader of the Medes, Astyages, in 550 BC.

The heart of Pasargadae is the citadel, which is known as Tall-i-Takht or 'throne hill'. It overlooks a garden in the south, and the palace complex itself. This consists of two smaller units: the residential palace and the many columned audience hall. The audience hall or Apadana can be approached from the south-east; the visitor first has to pass a gate and then has to cross a bridge over the river Pulvār.

The small tomb of King Cyrus is situated a little to the southwest. It was venerated by later rulers, the Macedonian king Alexander the Great, who ordered restorations in January 324 BC. The tomb of Cyrus' successor Cambyses was never finished.

Even though King Darius built a new capital, Persepolis, 43 kilometers downstream along the river Pulvar, Pasargadae remained an important place, probably as the religious capital of the Achaemenid Empire where the inauguration of the kings took place.

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