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Bolaghi Gorge and Biggest Salvation Project of Iran's Heritage

Tehran, 4 October 2005 (CHN) - Bolaghi Gorge is to be immersed under water once the Sivand Dam is inundated, however, its salvation project, the biggest one in the history of Iran's archaeological activities, has engaged the presence of several archaeological teams from 8 countries and spending of hundreds of thousands dollars.

Day-in-day-out excavations in every inch of the site all through the year and the domestic and international efforts in King Road have made the project a global one, which represents the crucial importance of the site and its Achaemenid artifacts.

The activities in the site which will soon submerge due to inundation of Sivand Dam nearby has revealed more than 130 ancient remains so far.

The event can be considered a tragicomedy which originates in the unfortunate fate of the site, but is now providing a suitable opportunity for archaeological experts from all over the world to gather around for salvation of ancient sites and artifacts in the site.

In early 2003, 10 years after the construction of Sivand Dam started on the location of the ancient King Road, a team of experts from the Parse-Pasargadae Research Center was sent to study the site. They found out that the Bolaghi Gorge was not only the bed of the King Road but also the land in which numerous monuments and artifacts were buried.

"Initially, Iran's Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) was not aware of these artifacts existence and thought that the only important aspect of the region was the existence of King Road there, but further studies revealed astonishing news," said Babak Kial, director of Pasargadae historical complex.

Since the team did not include archaeologists, a local archaeologist, Farhad Zareyi Kordchuli, was asked to survey and study the will-be-watered region of Bolaghi Gorge. His excavations showed that the Bolaghi Gorge is far more invaluable than it was thought to be and in addition to the King Road and the ancient roosts (Khereft Khaneh), there are lots of more hidden treasures beneath the region's soil.

It turned out that the Sivand Dam inundation will drown all, not only the King Road but also the probable Achaemenid artifacts in the site. The altitude of the dam from the sea level is 1819 meters and the depth of the lake behind it varies in different places.

"It was after the registration of the Pasargadae site on the UNESCO World Heritage List [in 2004] that the Sivand Dam and Bolaghi Gorge's historical remains attracted worldwide attentions," said Kial.

In the same year, the officials of Parse-Pasargadae Research Center asked international archaeologists, through a public recall, to engage in the site salvation project. "Regarding the emergency situation and the importance of the site," said director of the Center, Mohammad Hasan Talebian, "ICHTO asked international experts for participation in both phases of the salvation project; salvation of the historical remains before the watering of the dam and proposing strategies for preventing the influence of the dam on the Pasargadae Monument in the long run."

Several experts from Germany, Italy, France, England, Australia, Poland, and Japan announced their readiness to engage in the project.

Mounir Buchenaki, Assistant Director General for Culture section in UNESCO, making a speech for the revelation of Pasargadae world registration plaque, ensured the safety of Cyrus' tomb from Sivand Dam threats and said, "you must try to assert the cultural importance of the site to the government officials. I would also try on my behalf to inform UNESCO's managers."

The formation of an international strategic committee was the next step took by Iran's Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization. The supervision of UNESCO over the committee attracted even more experts and archaeologists to the region.

The joint Iranian-Italian archaeologists' team was the first one that began its activity in the early 2005. Their first achievement was the discovery of an Achaemenid village near the King Road.

"With further explorations," indicated Alireza Asgari, head of the Iranian expert of the joint Italian-Iranian team, "we came to the conclusion that the site can be as old as post-Achaemenid era, but the excavation of more than 5000 tiles led us to the discovery of an Achaemenid village."

The results attracted 3 more archaeologists' team from Germany, Poland, and France which began their work in joint teams with Iranian experts.

The Polish-Iranian joint team excavated a wall which surrounded a part of Bolaghi Gorge and could probably have been a defense wall for the village. Also, a ceramic furnace belonging to 7500 years ago and a huge vessel, more than a meter high and weighing 120 kgs, were among the important discoveries there. Further explorations of the team near the King Road led to discovery of a village and its graveyard which belongs to the late Sassanid era and the early Islamic period. The Polish archaeologists' team moreover succeeded to find a structure used for producing alcoholic drinks.

The French-Iranian joint team, also, began its studies on the revetment along the King Road. During these explorations, the team found the skeleton of an adult man, on which studies are still going on. According to Atayi, head of the Iranian experts of the joint French-Iranian team, anthropological studies on this finding can inform us about the physical characteristics of the ancient inhabitants of the area. The team has succeeded so far in finding more than 40 to 60 tombs.

Meanwhile, Babak Kial asserted, "metal forges, an ancient cave, BC residential places and 2 Parthian graveyards are among the most important discoveries of the site." The German-Iranian joint team moreover found a 7000-year site and an ancient signet which can be traced back to 5500 years ago.

Discovering 2 Paleolithic caves and stone instruments are results of the Japanese-Iranian joint team which had begun its activity in June, 2005.

It was then that even Guardian quoted the UNESCO request of archaeologists all over the world for participation in the Bolaghi Gorge salvation project.

The introduction of the issue in an international level urged Iran's Ministry of Energy to allocate a 100,000-dollar budget for the salvation project, though ICHTO's officials deny the arrival of such financial helps up to now. So far, more than 300,000 dollars have been spent by ICHTO.

Responding to a question considering rumors breaking out claiming that the Cyrus' tomb would sink after the watering of Sivand Dam, Mohammad Beheshti, director of ICHTO research center, asserted, "Some people want to make cultural heritage issues political. The rumors are absolutely untrue."

"Pasargadae Monument is located 7 kms from the Sivand Dam" he added," and the distance from the Persepolis is 10 times more than that. The only possible threat is the humidity effects to the site in the long term that will be limited by keeping the water behind the dam on a lower level"

Talebian, however, has announced that ICHTO will prevent the inundation of the dam if any unique remains are discovered on the site. So far, more than 130 historical remains have been excavated.

An international conference will be held by Parse-Pasargadae Research Center by completion of the emergency salvation project.

The Center has plans to begin 48 more excavations in the site. Some evidence of the site is destroyed by 24 illegal excavations. Up to now, 12 areas have undergone excavations and 4 others are under studies.

Parviz Fattah, Iran's Minister of Energy, said, "A joint committee of ICHTO and Ministry of Energy has been formed and not only Sivand Dam project but also every single future dam construction one will be carried out under its supervision. Sivand Dam water level will also be determined by ICHTO experts."

... Payvand News - 10/6/05 ... --

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