By Soodabeh Malekzadeh
Neither time nor natural phenomena are friends of ancient archeological remains. Daily reports, websites, and blogs bear news that narrates the gradual demise of one ancient archeological site or another all over the globe. One of these hotspots is Iran, home to two of the most ancient civilizations of the Iranian Plateau, the Achaemenids and the Sasanians. Consequently, this area is also the abode of countless archeological sites and remains, buried in every inch and corner. Sadly, not all those attracted to these ancient sites can be labeled as beneficent friends. The poignant and old story is that with no proper safeguarding or protection, these remains suffer from constant and gradual blows from smugglers and greedy thieves. The most recent instance of this matter is the Pahlavi inscription of Shapur in Tang e Boraq, Fars, which is left with no defense. It was vandalized by smugglers who used explosives in an attempt to remove the inscription from the main stone wall, in which it stood and reports pertaining to this valuable inscription speaks of it being abandoned with no protection whatsoever (more info)
While not all those who scratch the face of these remains deserve to be called foes, the result is still the same; loss and destruction, which goes hand in hand with the water shortage that Iran and most specifically Fars has been facing for more than a decade. Suffering from a very long period of drought has lead farmers to seek water in any place possible and has ultimately resulted in jeopardizing the ancient remains of this area. For example, in 2009, villagers dug a well not only in close proximity but right below the Barm e Delak bas reliefs in search for water (more info). An earlier result of such “non-deliberate” attacks can be found on the face of the bas reliefs of Tang e Chogan, where we encounter a huge cut running across the bas relieves of Shapur I and Bahram II. It is said that the “cut” is a canal that was dug by farmers decades ago in an attempt to move water to their lands (photos) .
When the government and water organizations step in to heal the wound of people in need of water, the blows become heavier. With very little annual rain and the overuse of qanats, the agricultural economy of Fars calls for the construction of more dams most of which ultimately render as silent and deadly blows to ancient sites that are ultimately demolished and flooded with water. Achaemenid remains have suffered the most in this respect. The flooding of Sivand Dam back in 2007 led to the total destruction of Tang e Bolaghi, a priceless Ancient archeological site(more info) . In the same year, Didagan Dam, one of the most ancient water dams of Fars, dated to the Achaemenid period, was “accidentally” demolished by bulldozers working near the modern Dam of Dorudzan (more info) . More recently in 2013, the first generators of the Seimareh Dam in Kuhdasht, Lorestan became operational and will eventually fully cover the Sasanian site of Qaleh Guri, burying its hidden secrets forever (more info; also see ).
Unfortunately the future does not emerge as very bright. Unless new rescue plans are made and set in motion, so that what is left of ancient archeological remains can be conserved and restored, it won’t be very long until there is nothing left of the rock reliefs, stone inscriptions, palaces, fire temples, and other such remains, nothing but a distant recollection of them.