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3 December 2006
Illegal diggers smash ancient Iranian artifacts

Archeological excavations in the 3000-year-old cemetery of Babajilan in western Iranian province of Lorestan had to be put off due to heavy rains and snows in the mountainous regions of the province where the ancient cemetery is located. This is while illegal diggers continue to destroy large numbers of ancient bronze relics which abound in this cemetery.
     A few weeks ago, a group of archeologists were dispatched by Iranís Archeology Research Center to the Iron Age cemetery of Babajilan to study the area and prevent further plundering of the site by illegal diggers. However, after only 18 days during which archeologists were busy collecting the broken pieces of bronze artifacts dug out by illegal diggers, they had to return since heavy blizzard made continuation of their work almost impossible.
     The Iron Age cemetery of Babajilan has many times been plundered by illegal diggers and, according to Ata Hassanpour, archeologist of Lorestan's Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department, the cemetery is now full of ancient artifacts destroyed as a result of illegal activities. "Illegal diggers understandably have no trainings in how an artifact must be unearthed without being damaged and therefore cause lots of harms to these ancient relics while digging," said Hassanpour. In addition, he noted that many of ancient relics unearthed by the smugglers are destroyed further once in contact with the air for too long. On the other hand, since large numbers of artifacts found in Lorestanís historic sites are made of bronze, they easily oxidize after few days of exposure in open air.
     Hassanpour also noted that since Babajilan cemetery is located in a mountainous area with an average slope of 65 degrees, natural conditions make it difficult for archeologists to carry on with their activities. "During the short period we were excavating this cemetery, each time a trench was made by archeologists it was quickly washed away by rains. Therefore, we could only collect the broken artifacts left behind by illegal diggers in the area to be studied in our laboratories." According to this archeologist, the Iron Age cemetery of Babajilan is now under protection by local guards. Known for their exquisite bronze objects, mostly dated to the first millennium BC, Lorestanís historic sites are considered unique in Iran.

Source: CHN (30 November 2006)

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