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11/17/06

Part of Susa's Historic Fortress Collapsed

By Soudabeh Sadigh
 
The walls of two storage rooms of Susa’s historic fortification, known as the French Fortress, collapsed due to lack of enough attention to preserving this old monument.
 
Susa Historic Fortress, Khuzestan province
 
Tehran, 16 November 2006 (CHN) -- Lack of attention to restore the historic fortress of Susa which has become known as the French Fortress resulted in the destruction of two storage rooms of the monument. Given the present conditions, cultural heritage experts have warned that the fortress will be even more demolished with the start of the raining season in the area if restoration does not begin immediately.
 
More than 90,000 historical relics unearthed during archeological excavation in Khuzestan province are now being kept in Susa’s French Fortress, a fact which makes immediate restoration of this historic monument even more vital.
 
The historical evidence of Khuzestan province such as Apadana, the 15th City, and Susa fortress are among the region’s most important sites in need of attention. Experts believe that the only way to save Susa’s historical fortress is to turn the project to restore its fortress into a national one to gain more attention.
 
Susa Fortress, otherwise known as the French Fortress, is located in Khuzestan province, southwest Iran. Ancient Susa in Khuzestan was the seat of the Elamite Empire and features large numbers of historic relics.
 
Seyed Mohammad Ebrahimi, expert of historical relics and executive director of Khuzestan’s museums, said that the Susa Fortress is in a poor condition and stressed that restoration operations on this ancient monument must begin in the shortest time to prevent it from falling apart. “The French Fortress has almost been turned into a wreck as it is constantly being eroded by rain and termites; and since the fortress has never been fully restored, two of its storage rooms in which historical objects were being kept were destroyed,” said Ebrahimi to CHN. 
 
Fortunately, the archeological relics had been taken out of the storage rooms earlier since experts had predicted that the walls were likely to collapse sometime soon. However, the artifacts are still being kept inside the fortress. “Considering the poor condition of the fortress as a whole, there is no way to guarantee that nothing would happen to these historical relics in the future,” added Ebrahimi.
 
The most ancient relics in this fortress date back to the Neolithic epoch; however, the majority of historical objects which are being kept in this fortress belong to the Elamite dynastic era (3400-550 BC), which are the results of many years of excavations in Elamite historical sites of Khuzestan province.
 
According to Ebrahimi, the termites have destroyed the wooden parts of the fortress including doors. This made the local cultural heritage authorities to transfer a large number of wooden and fabric materials to the nearby city of Ahvaz to prevent further destruction. He also said that Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) failed to keep up with its promise to allocate a central storage area for keeping all the historical relics of Khuzestan province.
 
Ebrahimi also added that it is necessary to build more museums in the different cities of Khuzestan in order to safely keep its ancient artifacts: “It is a pity that Khuzestan province has a little share in the museums of the country despite having the highest number of archeological sites and historical relics.”
 
The French Fortress was built in the year 1897 when French archeologist, Jaques De Morgan, came to Iran to carry out archeological excavations in Susa. During his stay in Khuzestan, he convinced the French government to build a safe and appropriate place for the settlement of French archeology team in Susa. This way, Acropol, the highest altitude of Susa’s hills, was chosen for construction of a fortress in which Middle Age European architectural style was used. The fortress was constructed with adobe while bricks obtained from the Elamit monument of Tchogha Zanbil were also used in its construction.
 

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