|27 November 2005
A rush to excavate ancient Iranian sites
Archaeologists from around the world have been rushing to excavate scores of newly identified ancient sites in southern Iran before the area is flooded by a new dam.
Iran has been planning for a decade to build the Sivand Dam in Fars Province, between the ruins of the ancient Persian cities of Persepolis and Pasargadae. But the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization knew little about the broader region until three years ago, when archaeologists identified 129 potentially important sites in the region that will be flooded by the new dam. Last year, the United Nations issued an international appeal for archaeologists to unearth and record what they could before the flooding.
Teams from the United States, Poland, Germany, France, Italy and Japan are working together in the Tang-e Bolaghi Valley, looking for the ruins of Persepolis and Pasargadae, cities that at different times were capitals of ancient Persia, northeast of modern Shiraz. Construction on the dam, planned to allow irrigation in the arid region, has been postponed until early 2006, and the Ministry of Energy has agreed to halt the project if a major site is discovered. "The dam is a pity but it has provided us with a rare opportunity to do extensive work alongside other teams over a short period of time," said Rémy Boucharlat, the leader of the French archaeological team in Iran.
The archaeologists have uncovered a narrow nine-mile dirt road, believed to be the Royal Passage of the Achaemenids, connecting the cities of Pasargadae and Persepolis, that was in use until the 18th century. The scientists dismiss rumors that the dam will destroy the tomb of Cyrus in Pasargadae, which is on a much higher level. However, it is unknown how the dampness caused by the dam will affect the ruins. The oldest sites the international teams have found are caves inhabited some 4,000 years ago.
Source: The New York Times (27 November 2005)
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