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Bandiyan - Sasanika



A Sasanian complex  in Khāvarān  plain, some 3 km NW of the town of Darreh Gaz  (medieval Abivard), ca. 1150 km (710 mi) NNE of Tehran  and 255 km N of Mashhad  in Khorasan-e Razavi province.

A number of interrelated mounds (or tepes) covering an architectural complex was accidentally discovered in 1990, and excavated over six seasons between 1993 and 2000 by Iranian archaeologist Mehdi Rahbar who believes that the excavated area of 900 m2 is only a small part of the site that he estimates to be about 4.5 hectares. There is therefore a good chance that there are other features underground awaiting excavations. The unearthed complex includes a number of spaces (see Map): A: a large rectangular room, presumably a gathering hall. To the south of the large hall are a series of additional, smaller rooms: B: a room, presumably for offerings; C: a corridor; D: a fire-temple; E: a room for ossuaries (astodāns); F: an iwān; G: a circular room, argued by Rahbar to be a barašnumgāh (a place for ritual purification in accordance with Zoroastrian teachings); H: a long hall, also presumably another barašnumgāh.

The large gathering hall (A), 10.25 x 8.60 m in dimensions, has four columns with doughnut-shaped bases sitting on triple pedestals (fig.). The lower part of the column, above the base, is blank, but the surviving part above it is decorated in stuccos with plant motifs (fig.).

The large hall opens to the northeast, while it is surrounded on three sides by walls with stucco reliefs. On the south, west, and north walls, framed compositions are preserved on to a height of 70 to 80 cm. These stuccos depict, from left to right, scenes of a hunt, battle, triumph, ritual, investiture, and banquet (figs.).

In Space D (the fire-temple) there stands a terra-cotta fire-altar over 1 m in height and diameter (fig.).

The complex is predominantly built of pisé, plastered over with gypsum on which, while still wet,  a variety of designs and plant and geographic motifs, as well as some Pahlavi inscription are carved (fig.)

Four Middle Persian inscriptions translated and studied by Phillippe Gignoux furnish us with the name of at least three Sasanian officials, especially “Weh-Šābuhr” who founded this domain and his sons, specifically “Weh-Mihr-Šābuhr” who apparently inherited the domain and may have been responsible for building the complex. Based on paleographic analysis and concordance with personal names in Movses Khorenatsi’s   History of the Armenians, as well as archaeological and iconographic evidence, the complex has been dated to the reign of Peroz  (459-484 CE) or his son Kavad I (488-497 CE), in the context of Sasanian-Hephtalite interaction /conflict in the 5th century CE.

The excavated area was more recently covered and turned into a site-museum to both protect the remains and facilitate visit by tourists (fig.)

Coordinates: 37°26′40″N 59°06′29″E

For further information see:

رهبر، مهدی، 1376، کاوشهای باستان شناسی بندیان درگز. گزارشهای باستان شناسی 1: 9 تا 32

رهبر، مهدی، 1378، معرفی آدریان (آتشگاه) مکشوفۀ دورۀ ساسانی در بندیان درگز و یررسی مشکلات معماری این بنا. مجموعه مقالات دومین كنگرۀ بين المللي تاريخ معماري و شهرسازي ايران. به کوشش باقر آیت الله زادۀ شیرازی. ج 2: 315 تا 341

Rahbar, M., 1998. Découverte d’un monument d’époque sassanide à Bandian, Dargaz (Nord Khorassan). Fouilles 1994 et 1995. Studia Iranica 27(2): 213-250.

Gignoux, Philippe, 1998. Les inscriptions en moyen-perse de Bandian. Studia Iranica 27(2): 251-258.

Azarpay, G., 1997. The Sasanian complex at Bandian: Palace or dynastic shrine. Bulletin of the Asia Institute 11: 193-196.

Rahbar, M., 2004. Le monument sassanide de Bandiān, Dargaz: Un temple du feu d’après les dernières découvertes 1996-98. Studia Iranica 33(1): 7-30.

Gignoux, Philippe, 2008. Le site de Bandiān revisité. Studia Iranica 37(2): 163-174.