Iran News ...


Good Work Deserves Good Reporting

By Kam Zarrabi


Dating Iran's cultural history four thoudans years prior to the existence of Iran or the Iranians; or giving wrong figures for the dimensions of a Parthian town, may damage the credibility of an otherwise praiseworthy organization.


The Iranian Cultural Heritage News Agency is providing an important service by reporting the news of archaeological excavations and new discoveries in Iran by Iranian and foreign scholars. The website is very attractively designed and is kept meticulously up to date.


As a history and archaeology buff, I have been monitoring the CHN site on a regular basis and remain appreciative of the time and energy that goes into every page of its contributions.


There are, however, some points that I feel compelled to address, only to offer what I expect to be viewed as constructive criticism, in the hope that the CHN site may gain an even better credibility in the academic domain.


In general, there are three types of error that tend to detract from an otherwise worthwhile thesis or scientific article: Typographical errors such as in spellings and punctuations in the original draft are corrected in the proofreading process before the text is offered for print. Syntactic or grammatical errors, usually due to improper translation from one language to another, should be caught during the editing phase. Scientific errors, misinterpretations, miscalculations and mistaken conclusions, however, must be rectified by a knowledgeable scientific panel before the rough draft is accepted in the first place.  


The report in CHN a week ago on the work being done at the site of the remains of a Parthian circular city in Nehbandan, Southern Khorasan, contained gross errors in the figures given about the diameter and the area of this site. The aerial extent and the dimensions of the site are vitally important bits of information for any reader or enthusiast. Hoping to find the correct figures in the Farsi text, I did find a different set of numbers; erroneous figures, again!


I have submitted my comments about this, as well similar problems I found in two previous articles in CHN, to the management of that organization, and have received no response thus far. That is very disappointing, indeed.


In the most recent article featured in payvand, "7000 years of Iranian art....." we read near the end of the article, "The collection includes porcelains from the Achaemenid era, ceramics from the early Islamic period, jewels, bronze tumblers and statues which represent 7000 thousand years of Iranian art."


We can forgive the obvious proofreading oversight of "7000 thousand years", which should be 7000 years; but what are we to think when we read "7000 years of Iranian art?"


This is a scientific or academic error in the field of history or archaeology. A few month ago, an archaeologist had reported in her article in CHN, that Iranian artisans were creating decorative pottery dating back 5000 years. As I commented then, there were no Iranians on the plateau we call Iran today to have been making pottery 5000 years ago. That pottery was not done by the Iranian people; just as the fossil bones of the prehistoric Neanderthals that were found somewhere in the Zagros Mountains were not Iranian people, either.


Now we read about "7000 years of Iranian art"! Academically, what can be correctly called Iranian art must, by definition, refer to the art created by the Iranian people. The Iranian people, as far as our archaeological and historical records can take us, began to arrive on the land that we call Iran today, no earlier than about 3500 years ago.


We may refer to the artifacts dating back 5000 or 7000 years ago as ancient pieces excavated in Iran by Iranian archaeologists, or, prehistoric artifacts uncovered in Iran. But, we cannot refer to such finds as Iranian art. Similarly, we cannot call such art Islamic art, either, since there was no Islam five or seven thousand years ago.


The artifacts found in the Americas, whether in North America, Mexico, Argentina or Peru, which date back before the arrival of the populations from Europe and elsewhere, are referred to as "Pre-Columbian", meaning before Christopher Columbus, and not as Peruvian or Mexican art.  


To most specialists the issue does not need clarification; but to the average reader such errors could be quite misleading.


The point here is, an institution's credibility and image suffers when simple but important academic issues such as these are not properly addressed and rectified. Fortunately, such errors can be avoided with little additional effort and attention.


I hope somebody is listening!

... Payvand News - 1/16/05 ... --

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