TEHRAN, April 17 (Mehr News Agency) -- As the Energy Ministry recently began filling the Sivand Dam reservoir in the ancient Bolaghi Valley, the Kalan Dam project is also rubbing salt into the wounds of cultural heritage near Malayer, southwestern Hamedan Province.
A team of Iranian archaeologists has been carrying out rescue excavations since March 1 on a 22-meter high mound named Patappeh, the Shatt-e Ghileh site, and a number of other ancient sites, all of which will be submerged by the dam's reservoir.
With a length of 826 meters and a height of 46 meters, the earth dam is being constructed 30 kilometers southwest of Malayer.
"Fourteen ancient sites have been identified during the initial studies, which lasted 20 days," team director Hassan Rezvani told the Persian service of CHN on Tuesday.
"This is the first time that rescue excavations have been carried out on a tepe of such a height in Iran, and according to our plan, the operations will be completed in the next two years," he added.
"The main part of the tepe includes ruins and a castle dating back to the Parthian and Sassanid eras. However, studies on strata show that the tepe had been inhabited since the fourth millennium BC," Rezvani explained.
"Several 10x10 meter trenches have been dug at Patappeh, and traces dating from the early Islamic period have been discovered during the excavations. In addition, the ruins of a Sassanid castle can be clearly observed in the stairstep trenches," he added.
The excavations are being sponsored by the officials of the dam.
Iran's cultural heritage has been greatly threatened by dam construction projects over the past few years.
In the most controversial case, the reservoir of the Sivand Dam is about to devour a large section of the Bolaghi Valley in Fars Province, which is home to over 130 archaeological sites, dating from prehistoric periods to the early Islamic era.
Energy Minister Parviz Fattah announced on April 16 that the filling of the Sivand Dam reservoir began after the ministry had received official permission from the CHTHO.
The ministry had postponed the filling of the dam reservoir until September in order to give experts more time to conduct archaeological excavations and research, but Culture Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts Organization (CHTHO) Director Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaii said last week that, in his point of view, the filling of the reservoir of the Sivand Dam does not pose a problem, and it is unnecessary to continue the rescue excavations in the area.
Rahim-Mashaii was appointed to the CHTHO after Mahmud Ahmadinejad won the presidency. He said in a press conference in March 2006 that he had previously not known anything about the Sivand Dam or the Bolaghi Valley.
The Sivand Dam was scheduled to become officially operational in time for the current visit of President Ahmadinejad to Fars Province.
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