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Vandals Behead Bas Relief of Achaemenid Soldier at Persepolis

By Maryam Tabeshian
Security guards at the ancient palace of Persepolis on Thursday arrested a person, supposedly member of a film crew, for destroying two Achaemenid stone reliefs.

Bas-relief depicting head of an Achaemenid
soldier - Persepolis, Fars province
Tehran, 23 December 2006 (CHN) -- One of the members of a film crew making a feature-length film at the Palace of Persepolis was arrested last Thursday for vandalizing two Achaemenid bas-reliefs at Palace H, denoted to King Artaxerxes (465-425 BC), grandson of Darius the Great.
"From the beginning, we got suspicious of several individuals in the filming crew so we appointed two guards to keep an eye on them but one of them eventually destroyed two bas-reliefs of Persepolis," explained Norouzi, director of Persepolis Security Department.
The person was found stabbing the reliefs with metal tools, extensively damaging head of an Achaemenid soldier and causing much harm to another bas-relief depicting a representative from an Achaemenid subject nation bringing gift to the court of King of Kings. According to Norouzi, evidence clearly shows that the person, currently held in police custody, was intending to smuggle the pieces out. He further said that the group's filming equipments were also confiscated by the provincial Cultural Heritage Police Department.
After initial studies, experts announced that the extent of damage caused to the two bas-reliefs is so high such that head of the Achaemenid soldier was completely removed while the stones around the head of the other relief were pulled out.
This is the second time the Achaemenid Palace of Persepolis has seen harm by film crews. A few months ago, part of King Xerxes Palace at Persepolis was destroyed by fire caused by another group.
The recent incident prompted provincial cultural heritage experts to send a letter to the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization, demanding the officials to stop issuing permissions for filming at Persepolis.
According to Director of Persepolis Complex, Maziar Kazemi, the officials who issue permits for feature-length films with large crews are responsible for such catastrophes. "We have many times asked the officials not to authorize groups that have applied to make feature-length films at Persepolis, but our requests have so far received no response," added Kazemi.
Bas-reliefs depicting scenes from the New Year's festival are beautifully carved on the walls of Persepolis, built in 518 BC during the reign of Darius the Great and completed by his son and successor King Xerxes I (reigned 485-465). They are adorned with rows of beautifully executed reliefs showing processions of representatives of twenty-three subject nations of the Achaemenid Empire, with court notables and Persians and Medes, followed by soldiers and guards, their horses, and royal chariots. Delegates in their native attire, some completely Persian in style, carry gifts, such as silver and gold vessels and vases, weapons, woven fabrics, jewelry, and animals from the delegates' own states, as token of their loyalty and as tribute to the King.
Although the overall arrangement of scenes seems repetitive, there are marked differences in the designs of garments, headdresses, hair styles, and beards that give each delegation its own distinctive character and make its origin unmistakable.
Persepolis: "Parsa" Palace Complex by David Stronach & Kim Codella

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