Shahr-e Sukhte

Shahr-e Sukhte

Shahr-e Sukhte (literally translated as the Burned City) has also been spelled differently as Shahr-i Shokhta in various sources. It is a vast archaeological site (151 hecares) made by mud bricks on the bank of the Helmand river, between Zahedan and Zabol cities, situated at South East Iran inside Sistan & Baluchestan Province. It dates back to the Bronze Age inhabited from 3200 to 1800 BC.

There were four stages of civilization living there. Before it was abandoned, the city had been burned down three times. Therefore, many had lost their lives. As a result, there’s a sizable graveyard attached to this settlement that has accommodated from 25,000 to 40,000 ancient graves.

The historical site consists of several historical mounds in a row. Each of them were allocated to a different function, like workshops, residence, graveyard, etc.

Archaeological Importance of Shahr-e Sukhte

There’s no doubt that this ancient human settlement is indebted its significance to the interesting artifacts unearthed there. Several items have been discovered in relatively very good condition and unique objects have indicated a brilliant civilization at Eastern part of Iranian plateau.

The List of some of the most outstanding unearthed items according to chtn.ir and wikepedia.org:

  • The skull of a 14-year old girl indicating traces of practicing brain surgery. She had eventually died as a result of the diagnosed illness,
  • An earthen-made goblet depicting a goat in different running positions around it, which represents the first world’s animation example when turning,
Gif Animation courtesy of Historical Iran

Gif Animation courtesy of Historical Iran

  • The oldest backgammon & dice ever discovered in the world indicating people used to play this game back then,
backgammon

backgammon

  • An artificial eyeball, which is known as the earliest example of its kind, made of a thin layer of gold on a light material,
burnt-city-eyeball

burnt-city-eyeball

  • a 10-cm ruler with high precision that indicates the mastery over mathematics by these people,
  • Beautifully painted motifs on a piece of leather together with several other fabrics each one dyed in several colors,
  • Unique marble vessel beautifully shaped unearthed from the grave of a young woman between 28 and 30 years of age,
  • And hundreds of other fascinating objects like an incense burner mounted on a mirror, colorful jars, very delicate necklaces, charcoal holders, seals, pottery and jewelry workshops, etc.

 Cultural Importance of Shahr-e Sukhte

Culturally, it has been a rich city associated with Jiroft culture. In other words, this ancient site has been a human settlement independent of ancient Mesopotamia. Several discoveries have contributed to the fact that Shahr-e- Sukhte must have had a particularly remarkable culture. Here are some of them:

  • According to some paleoanthropologists, women had a pivotal role in social aspects and financial fields of the families. Only inside some of women’s graves, particular type of insignias had been unearthed distinguishing prominent members of the society from the others.
  • The skeleton of a professional camel rider suggests he had been a courier delivering parcels, messages over long distances.
  • According to the excavations carried out at the Burnt City, there were farmers and craftsmen among various guilds working in this ancient settlement. Weavers who made carpets, baskets, etc, by teeth, were some of the main guilds who made several different items. Lots of teeth have been unearthed in Shahr-e Sukhte.

In addition, the culture beyond some of the practices and discoveries mentioned above (like artificial eyeball, brain surgery, ruler, backgammon, etc) are all indicative of a rich culture prevailing in this human settlement of the Bronze Age in South East of Iran.

The Fall of Shahr-e-Sukhte

According to the researchers, what led to the end of the civilization at this human settlement was a consequence of diversion in the courses of water and climate change. This area used to be quite humid with abundant sources of water and lots of trees. The inhabitants used to burn wood for fuel. As a result of less sources of water and more heat, the inhabitants abandoned the city and things fell apart.

More Archaeological Exploration Underway

A lot of excavations are performed at all the historical mounds of Shahr-e Sukhte. From time to time, there’s another news story about some new finding at this site. It should also be added that it’s not easy to carry out the archaeological excavation at this site due to the hostile climate of the region. Sand storm, high temperature of desert, etc are some of the difficulties the experts have to deal with.

However, some experts are working on the diet of people. They had found out that lentils and fish were some of the main foodstuff people used to eat there. More information will be coming out as more work is being done.

This is the post I’d promised you to write about. The Iranian objects returned from Belgium, known as Khorvin artifacts, are now displayed at Tehran’s Archaeological Museum. This temporary exhibition is showcasing all the objects returned home from Belgium after almost a century. The photos you see at this post are all taken at this exhibition.

Several monochrome potteries unearthed in Khorvin

Several monochrome potteries unearthed in Khorvin

 

Here, first I introduce the ancient site of Khorvin OR Khorwin:

The Site of Khorvin & Its Findings

At approximately 80 km North West of Tehran, at the North of Karaj-Qazvin highway, there’s an area with two well-known historic mounds of “Ganj Tappeh” and “Siah Tappeh”. In 1949, Archaeological Center of Iran found out that particular type of ancient artifacts are being bought and sold among people. The center discovered these two historic mounds and carried out a series of excavations in elliptical graves. The findings were 228 objects that were transferred to the National Museum of Iran (the same as Archeological Museum of Iran) to be safeguarded there.

The burial rituals of the communities living there included various grave goods like pottery vessels, clay figurines as well as stone and bronze objects. In addition, they had ornamented these dead bodies with personal adornments like necklaces, diadems, earrings, bracelets, pins and pendants. Among the potteries unearthed, the majority was gray potteries without painted motifs and few plain red potteries were also discovered that looked like some other ones found in Tehran’s big plain.

A three-legged gray pottery from Khorvin

A three-legged gray pottery from Khorvin

A zoomorphic pottery from Khorvin

A zoomorphic pottery from Khorvin

A monochromic stylized pottery from Khorvin

A monochromic stylized pottery from Khorvin

 

There are numerous bronze objects discovered in Khorvin site. However, the items made of copper and iron are rare. A large number of bronze objects of Khorvin are agricultural tools as well as weapons like dagger, spears, axes, maces and arrowheads. In addition, some objects are human figurines which have been interpreted as representations of warriors.

Some bronze objects (tools) from Khorvin

Some bronze objects (tools) from Khorvin

Importance of Khorvin Objects in Archaeology & Ancient Sociology

The Iron Age lasted almost a millennium, from mid-2nd to mid-1st millennium and came after Bronze Age. Archaeological theories discuss that gray potteries were introduced in Iranian craftsmanship since Aryan migration started in Iran (approximately at the same time of the Iron Age). Khorvin findings support this idea too. The resemblance of the findings from North, North West and North East of Iran as well as these items to the findings of a large number of the other historic mounds found at other parts of Iran provide reliable documents for the Aryans’ migration story to the Iranian Plateau.

Iron & bronze tools and figurines from Khorvin

Iron & bronze tools and figurines from Khorvin

 

Moreover, these returned items from Belgium maintain the important role of the communities, living at the Northern and Southern foothills of the Alborz mountain range, in major cultural developments. The Southern foothill of the Alborz, where Khorvin is situated, has always been fertile with local economies thriving. Several small rivers could have been tapped as best water resources for agriculture and animal husbandry. Therefore, the inhabitants of these communities were more focused on producing food and improving living conditions than warfare. Interestingly enough, it’s been found out that the number of the weaponries in Khorvin objects was less than other sites in other regions of Iran.

The widespread usage of iron items in Iranian Plateau during the 9th century BC are convincing witnesses to the social, political and economic changes. The construction of particular public buildings and temples during this era is also indicative of such major developments.

General view of Tchogha Zanbil Elamite Temple

General view of Tchogha Zanbil Elamite Temple

 

The name Tchogha Zanbil isn’t a very understandable word in Persian either. Tchogha Means “hill” in Lurish language of Bakhtiary tribes in Iran. Zanbil means “basket” in Persian. Tchogha Zanbil means a hill that looks like a basket! This is how people referred to this historical mound before it was noticed and excavated by professor Girshman, the French Archaeologist, between 1951 and 1962.

Why Was Tchogha Zanbil Built?

This temple was built by an Elamite king called “Untash Napirisha” in approximately 1275 BC around 35 km South of the ancient city of Susa. Tchogha Zanbil is a temple of gods. It is believed that originally it had been decided to accommodate 22 gods, but right after the death of Untash Napirisha, the construction of temples discontinued and the successors never continued what had been initially started. Today there are only 12 temples for eleven lesser important gods and one main god called “Inshushinak”, the god of Shush (Susa).

King Untash Napirisha built a town and named it after himself to challenge Susa that used to be the main center of Elamites for a long time. At the center of this walled town, he built Tchogha Zanbil to honor gods and accomplish a new style of temple construction.

The Structure of Tchogha Zanbil Ziggurat Temple

Model of Tchogha Zanbil Ziggurat Temple and its surrounding

Model of Tchogha Zanbil Ziggurat Temple and its surrounding

 

The ancient town of Untash Napirisha was surrounded by a wall approximately 4 km long. The temple was located in the middle of this town surrounded by two walls around it separating the temple from the town. You see one separating wall at the picture above as well as some other buildings between this wall and the other wall, which isn’t present at this picture. Also, there were several gates along these walls.

The main temple of Tchogha Zanbil is an example of Iranian architecture in pre-Islam era. It’s in form of a ziggurat, but unlike the Mesopotamian ziggurats, each level has not been built on top of the previous one. The temple was erected in two stages:

  1. First, a series of rooms were constructed around a central courtyard, and
  2. Then, new upper floors were built from the ground floor to the top.

Four floors have been unearthed by Girshman. Based on the height of each floor, he assumes a fifth floor (a chamber) must have been there, the actual temple, called “kukunnum“. Considering such 5th floor there on top, the ziggurat’s height must have been 52 meters. Today only 25 meters of this structure is standing there yet giving such an awesome appearance to the temple.

The pavement around the temple are all treated by fired bricks extended from the structure to the first surrounding wall. The inner walls of the structure have been built with mud-bricks and the exterior walls with fired bricks.

+3000 years old original footprint on the pavements of Tchogha Zanbil Temple

+3000 years old original footprint on the pavements of Tchogha Zanbil Temple

Particular Features of Tchogha Zanbil

At the top of each entrance gate, located in the middle of each wing of this approximately square-based structure, there’s a vault made of bricks. This is the oldest example of vaults in ancient Iran. Later under Achaemenians, palaces had flat ceilings. Only under Sassanians, 1600 years later, vaults and arches became popular again.

In certain rows of the exterior walls, in one line, a lot of bricks are inscribed by cuneiform inscriptions ordered by Untash Napirasha dedicating the ziggurat temple of Tchogha Zanbil to the “god of Susa”, Inshushinak.

Bricks inscribed by cuneiform Script

Bricks inscribed by cuneiform Script

 

Unlike Susa and Kabnak (Haft Tappeh) ancient towns, where each tomb accommodated several corpses, here at Al Untash Napirisha, each tomb had only one skeleton and the rest of the bodies had been cremated. It’s not known why they were treated like that.

The doors of temples and palaces of the town were all made of wood decorated with glass tubes to be translucent. At one of the rooms of the temple, some black and some white tubes have been found that were used to decorate Tchogha Zanbil ziggurat, palaces, temples, palaces and even surrounding walls. This indicates Iranians were familiar with glass-making techniques around 33oo years ago.

At the North West of the temple, there’s a reservoir of water in which water was purified to be drinkable. It’s said that Untash Napirisha had brought water from some 50 km away from the town to be purified at this place. There were 9 conduits to lead the clean water to a small pool at a higher level so that people could fetch clean water there for consumption. According to another assumption, it was used to drain the rainwater from the surrounding buildings.

Water Treatment Structure at the North of Tchogha Zanbil Temple

Water Treatment Structure at the North of Tchogha Zanbil Temple

Arts & Architecture at Tchogha Zanbil

For embellishment, glazed bricks, gypsum plaster works, vaulting, and some architectural ornament of faience and glass were largely made use of . Professor Girshman has discovered some ancient artifacts categorized as Elamite arts. Cylindrical seals, potteries, metal objects, clay-made figurines, and several other decorative pieces are some of such discoveries.

According to the evidences, ancient Iranians have been specialized in making sculptures. A bronze-made sculpture of Napir Asu (around 1800 kg), the wife of King Untash Napirisha, has been made by the same people, Elamites. It’s in Louvre museum now.

Bronze Sculpture of Queen Napirasu

Bronze Sculpture of Queen Napirasu

There were clay made bulls protecting the ziggurat’s temple entrances. One of them with cuneiform inscription on the back of the animal has been restored by the excavator’s wife.

Clay-made bull from Tchogha Zanbil temple

Clay-made bull from Tchogha Zanbil temple

 

Snakes were the motifs symbolizing protection against evil forces. They were used at the jar caps. Also, snake motifs were found at the entrance gates and doors in form of glass tubes for protection. The motif of two mating snakes were Elamite symbols of fertility that were later used in other civilizations as well.

How It Was Destroyed

After Untash Napirisha’s death, Tchogha Zanbil temples remained a center of worshiping various gods for religious pilgrims and burial ground until around 1000 BC, when it was destructed by the Assyrian king Ashur Banipal. Assyrians believe this destruction led to the abandonment of the site at 646 BC, but according to the evidences discovered in one of the temples, Tchogha Zanbil and its surrounding structures were entirely abandoned at around 1000 BC. The city wasn’t rebuilt again.

 

General View of Takht-e Soleyman, an Iranian Archaeological Site

General View of Takht-e Soleyman, an Iranian Archaeological Site

 

Takht-e Soleyman is an Iranian archaeological site, located 45 km northeast of Takab County in West Azerbaijan province, northwest of Iran. It covers an area of about 124000 sq. m, and the name is Persian equivalent for Solomon’s Throne.

In different historical periods, Medians, Parthians, Sassanids, and Mongols had settled at this area. This historical-cultural complex includes traces of human settlement from the first millennium BC. According to some historians, it has been the birthplace of Zoroaster. UNESCO has approved this monumental complex as World Heritage Site in 2003.

Exploring Takht-e Soleyman

Around the entire site, there is a round fortified platform with the height of about 60 m above the surrounding plains. An artesian lake, a Zoroastrian fire temple, and Anahita temple are located on this platform. There are remarkably interesting points both inside this site and in its vicinity. Here’s a short introduction:

  • The artesian lake
Lake of Takht-e Soleyman In the Middle of the Archaeological Site

Lake of Takht-e Soleyman In the Middle of the Archaeological Site

 

Thousands of years ago it was just a spring. But, during years, sediments from its water raised a wall around the outer edge, and the result is a lake 60 meters deep you can see today. Several streams branch off the lake, which waters surrounding lands.

  • The Zoroastrian fire temple
Ruins of Azar-Goshansb fire temple

Ruins of Azar-Goshansb fire temple

It was the third principal fire temple for Iranians in Sassanid period, located to the north of the lake, known as Azargoshasb fire temple. The royal family and military commanders had a sole right to worship there. As a symbol of national unity, the government and people of the time highly respected the temple. The fire in it has been a symbol of Zoroastrianism authority for about seven centuries.

  • Anahita temple

 

Inside Anahita Temple at Takht-e Soleyman

Inside Anahita Temple at Takht-e Soleyman

 

A temple attributed to Anahita, the goddess of water which is located to the northeast of the lake. People used to praise water in this temple. In some periods it was customary, in time of wars, to throw valuable and precious votive objects to the lake and believed that Anahita would protect them against enemies. So, there is hope for great treasure lying at the lake bed!

There are also two adjacent sites, namely Kooh-e Belgheys (Belgheys Mountain) and Zendan-e Soleyman (Solomon’s Prison). Belgheys was the name of the Queen of Sheba, Solomon’s wife, according to Islamic tradition.

  • Belgheys Mountain

It lies 8 km northeast of Takht-e Soleyman with two peaks of about 3200 and 3655 m high. The citadel and fortifications of Belgheys Throne are located on the southern peak. Fortifications have watchtowers overlooking the region.

At the mountain, you can enjoy the beautiful scene of a lake between the two peaks created by melting snow. It’s a scenic view for most part of the year although in recent years the lake dries up in summers because of low rainfall.

  • Solomon’s prison
Zendan-e Soleyman near Takht-e-Soleyman

Zendan-e Soleyman near Takht-e-Soleyman

 

It’s a conical hill lying 3 km west of Takht-e Soleyman with the height of about 100 m above the surrounding plains. At the summit of this hill, there’s a deep crater about 60 m in diameter which most likely was filled with water two thousand years ago.

The reason for such naming is local legend which says here is the place in which Solomon imprisoned disobeyed demons. It was a Zoroastrian place of worship and sacrifice in Sassanid era.

Ups and Downs over the Years

This archaeological site was the largest educational, religious, and social center in pre-Islam era in Iran. There are some indications of the earliest settlement during the first millennium around the site. Sometime in the early years of Achaemenid era, The rulers constructed some structures at Takht-e Soleyman. Also, there are some traces showing Parthians had been using the site.

Sassanids constructed a mud-brick wall around the central lake, gates and temples. The site gained its religious importance during this period. Zoroastrian government moved the holy fire to the temple here and called it Azar Goshansb, which turned to be one of the three major temples of Sassanid era.

One of the Gateways at Takht-e-Soleyman

One of the Gateways at Takht-e-Soleyman

 

But in 624 AD, the Roman Emperor, Heraclius, destroyed it in an attack to Iran. It happened in the reign of Khosrow Parviz, the late Sassanid king.

After the decline of Sassanid Empire and acceptance of Islam by Iranians, this huge complex couldn’t revive again after the severe damages it had received in the war between Iran and Rome .

It went on until 13th century when Abagha Khan, the second Mongol ruler of the Persian Ilkhanid, gave new life to Takht-e Soleyman by doing extensive repairs and construction of new buildings. They used it as the royal summer resort for some time. Most of the construction occurred at the Southern side of the site little of which is remained. In 14th century Mongol princes stopped inhabiting this site and left it.

And as my last word to finish: if you’re interested in mysterious issues, this Iranian archaeological site has remarkable ones to offer, so don’t miss it.

Anahita, The goddess of water & Fertility in Ancient Persia

Anahita, The goddess of water & Fertility in Ancient Persia

Iranian myths consist of the views and perspectives of the inhabitants of Iranian plateau about the confrontation with good and evil, gods acts, heroes’ bravery and legendary creatures. These myths play very crucial roles in Iranian culture.

Most of our information about Iranian myths come from two sources:

  1. Avesta, the holy book of Zoroastrians, and
  2. Shahnameh, Ferdosy’s epics work in verse.

Ancient Iranian gods

Ahuramazda is a wise master, ultimate God, absolute good, wisdom and recognition, the creator of the Sun, stars, darkness and light, human beings and animals and all mental and physical activities. Ahriman is an evil spirit, the opposite of Ahuramazda who always tries to destroy the truth and world and harms human beings and animals.

In this world, life is a reflection of universal struggle between Ahuramazda and Ahriman. All men must choose either of these too.

Anahita is the goddess of all waters on the earth and the source of all oceans in the universe. She is on a chariot being drawn by four horses: wind, rain, cloud and hail. Because of Anahita’s connection with life, warriors ask her to keep them alive and give them victory during wars.

Verethraghna is the god of warriors and assaulters and is the source of victorious power against demons. Ahuramazda advised Zoroaster to take a feather of Verethraghna from a bird’s body while trapped in adversary’s magic.

Mithra is the most famous ancient Iranian goddess. She was believed to watch human beings and their actions, agreements and contracts. She led people in the right path and protected them from attacks. She controlled the order prevailing in the universe.

Vayuo is the god of wind attacking evil spirits in supporting Ahuramazda’s good creatures. He reigns between the realms of Ahuramazda and Ahriman, meaning between light and darkness.

Tishtar is the god of rain originating from Varukasha Sea (Farakhkart) and distributing water among all countries.

Atar, fire, is Ahuramazda’s son. People were expected to present meat to fire as sacrifice while having a bunch of sacred plant called barsom in their hands.

Hoom is a god who presents health and power and blesses children and crops.

The Creation of Universe

Ancient Iranians believed that everything was created in a specific order beginning with heaven, water, earth, fire, human being, respectively. Some of the things created first were very well respected like the Alborz, the first mountain, Simorgh, the first bird, etc.

When the first sin was committed, the whole creation was filled with corruption and decay and replaced peace and order.

Demons & Evil Forces

Some evil forces attack human bodies directly and some indirectly. Demons are false gods and fairies are female evil spirits acting during nights. They all serve Ahriman.

Legendary Beings

Simorgh nests on the tree of all seeds and disseminates seeds by flapping wings all around the world.

Kar is a fish that lives around the tree of all seeds and keeps all harmful beings away from this tree.

Qoorbagheh, frog, tries to chew the roots of this sacred tree.

Karshaptar is a swift-winged bird that spreads Zoroaster’s words here and there.

Joghd, owl, is a bird that casts away demons by uttering holy words.

Chamroosh, a patriot bird, vanquishes lran’s adversaries and helps to spread the seeds of the tree of all seeds.

There were also some unpleasant creatures like rodents, lizards, turtles, spiders, bees, ants, beetles, etc. There were some legendary monsters against whom human heroes struggled. They were often in form of snakes or dragons the most significant of whom was called Azhdihak, a three-headed monster devouring human beings. It is called Zahak in Shahnameh.

The First Men & Heroes

Kyumars, meaning mortal, is the first legendary man who is described as a handsome and attractive man and as bright as the Sun. It is believed that he has been born out of the earth.

Hooshang is the first king founding the first legendary dynasty of Iran called Pishdadian. He promotes civilization in the world, exploits iron, uses ironsmith techniques, produces and uses tools and weapons, etc.

Jamshid is the greatest hero who is introduced as the king of the whole world. Everything is good during his ruling period.

Fereydoon, another king, is always remembered for his struggle against Zahak. He does not kill him, but imprisons him forever in the mount Damavand.

Rostam is one of the greatest mythical heroes in Shahnameh. He turns out to be the symbol of physical as well as spiritual power and devotion for his country. He is such a strong man who can defeat an elephant instantly by his mace.

Rakhsh is Rostam’s horse and the only horse whose belly does not reach the ground when Rostam presses his hand on its back. So, it is chosen by him to be his faithful servant. It passes through all hardship and battles along with Rostam and eventually dies with him.

Sohrab is Rostam’s son who grows up to be a strong brave young boy. His father, who does not know his son before giving him the last deadly blow, ultimately kills him.

Siavash is a prince who learns all the techniques and skills of princedom from Rostam. Since he refuses to answer positively to the temptations of his father’s wife, his father wants him to pass through fire to prove his innocence. This was a pre-Zoroastrianism tradition. At last, he becomes the victim of Garsivaz’ intrigues and is killed an innocent death.

Mythical Creatures

In addition to Rakhsh and Simorgh mentioned earlier, there are other mythical creatures like:

White Demon is an old demon imprisoning Kavoos, Iran’s king. After a lot of hard struggle, Rostam succeeds to kill White Demon and free the king, Kavoos.

Akvan-e-Deav is the most famous demon that attacks kings’ herds. Rostam is called for help and at last defeats it.

Ezhdeha, dragon, is another legendary creature who fights against Rostam. A more astonishing battle happens between dragon and Esfandyar, another legendary hero. Esfandyar shatters its brain into pieces in the end.

Conclusion

Ancient Iranians’ legends and myths still continue in People’s beliefs in various ways. It can be even traced in Iran’s present adjacent countries.

In fact, the secret of the survival of Iranian culture and language together with all rich traditions and social concepts can be found out in keeping these legends and myths directly or indirectly.

 

 

Iran’s Takht-e Soleyman among UNESCO World Heritage Sites
The archaeological ensemble called Takht-e Soleyman (“Throne of Solomon”) is situated on a remote plain surrounded by mountains in northwestern Iran’s West Azerbaijan province.

The site has strong symbolic and spiritual significance related to fire and water – the principal reason for its occupation from ancient times – and stands as an exceptional testimony of the continuation of a cult related to fire and water over a period of some 2,500 years. Located here, in a harmonious composition inspired by its natural setting, are the remains of an exceptional ensemble of royal architecture of Persia’s Sasanian dynasty (3rd to 7th centuries). Integrated with the palatial architecture is an outstanding example of Zoroastrian sanctuary; this composition at Takht-e Soleyman can be considered an important prototype.

An artesian lake and a volcano are essential elements of Takht-e Soleyman. At the site’s heart is a fortified oval platform rising about 60 meters above the surrounding plain and measuring about 350 m by 550 m. On this platform are an artesian lake, a Zoroastrian fire temple, a temple dedicated to Anahita (the divinity of the waters), and a Sasanian royal sanctuary. This site was destroyed at the end of the Sasanian era, but was revived and partly rebuilt in the 13th century. About three kilometers west is an ancient volcano, Zendan-e Soleyman, which rises about 100 m above its surroundings. At its summit are the remains of shrines and temples dating from the first millennium BC.

Takht-e Soleyman was the principal sanctuary and foremost site of Zoroastrianism, the Sasanian state religion. This early monotheistic faith has had an important influence on Islam and Christianity; likewise, the designs of the fire temple and the royal palace, and the site’s general layout, had a strong influence on the development of religious architecture in the Islamic period, and became a major architectural reference for other cultures in both the East and the West. The site also has many important symbolic relationships, being associated with beliefs much older than Zoroastrianism as well as with significant biblical figures and legends.

The 10-ha property also includes Tepe Majid, an archaeological mound culturally related to Zendan-e Soleyman; the mountain to the east of Takht-e Soleyman that served as quarry for the site; and Belqeis Mountain 7.5 km to the northeast, on which are the remains of a Sasanian-era citadel. The archaeological heritage of the Takht-e Soleyman ensemble is further enriched by the Sasanian town (which has not yet been excavated) located in the 7,438-ha landscape buffer zones.

Criterion (i): Takht-e Soleyman is an outstanding ensemble of royal architecture, joining the principal architectural elements created by the Sasanians in a harmonious composition inspired by their natural context.

Criterion (ii): The composition and the architectural elements created by the Sasanians at Takht-e Soleyman have had strong influence not only in the development of religious architecture in the Islamic period, but also in other cultures.

Criterion (iii): The ensemble of Takht-e Soleyman is an exceptional testimony of the continuation of cult related to fire and water over a period of some two and half millennia. The archaeological heritage of the site is further enriched by the Sasanian town, which is still to be excavated.

Criterion (iv): Takht-e Soleyman represents an outstanding example of Zoroastrian sanctuary, integrated with Sasanian palatial architecture within a composition, which can be seen as a prototype.

Criterion (vi): As the principal Zoroastrian sanctuary, Takht-e Soleyman is the foremost site associated with one of the early monotheistic religions of the world. The site has many important symbolic relationships, being also a testimony of the association of the ancient beliefs, much earlier than the Zoroastrianism, as well as in its association with significant biblical figures and legends.

Integrity

Within the boundaries of the property are located the known elements and components necessary to express the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, including the lake and the volcano, archaeological remains related to the Zoroastrian sanctuary, and archaeological remains related to the royal architecture of the Sasanian dynasty. Masonry rooftops have collapsed in some areas, but the configurations and functions of the buildings remain evident.

The region’s climate, particularly the long rainy season and extreme temperature variations, as well as seismic action represent the major threats to the integrity of the original stone and masonry materials. Potential risks in the future include development pressures and the construction of visitor facilities in the buffer zones around the sites. Furthermore, there is potential conflict between the interests of the farmers and archaeologists, particularly in the event that excavations are undertaken in the valley fields.

Authenticity

The Takht-e Soleyman archaeological ensemble is authentic in terms of its forms and design, materials and substance, and location and setting, as well as, to a degree, the use and the spirit of the fire temple. Excavated only recently, the archaeological property’s restorations and reconstructions are relatively limited so far: a section of the outer wall near the southern entrance has been rebuilt, using for the most part original stones recovered from the fallen remains; and part of the brick vaults of the palace structures have been rebuilt using modern brick but in the same pattern as the original. As a whole, these interventions can be seen as necessary, and do not compromise the authenticity of the property, which retains its historic ruin aspect. The ancient fire temple still serves pilgrims performing Zoroastrian ceremonies.

Protection and management requirements

Takht-e Soleyman was inscribed on the national heritage list of Iran in 1931, and it is subject to legal protection under the Law on the Protection of National Treasures (1930, updated 1998) and the Law of the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization Charter (n. 3487-Qaf, 1988). The inscribed World Heritage property, which is owned by the Government of Iran, is under the legal protection and management of the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (which is administered and funded by the Government of Iran). Acting on its behalf, Takht-e Soleyman World Heritage Base is responsible for implementation of the archaeology, conservation, tourism, and education programs, and for site management. These activities are funded by the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, as well as by occasional international support. The current management plan, prepared in 2010, organizes managerial strategies and activities over a 15-year period.

Sustaining the Outstanding Universal Value of the property over time will require continuing periodic on-site observations to determine whether the climate or other factors will lead to a negative impact on the Outstanding Universal Value, integrity or authenticity of the property; and employing internationally recognized scientific standards and techniques to properly safeguard the monuments when undertaking stabilization, conservation, or restoration projects intended to address such negative impacts.