Photo essay: Takht-e Soleyman
Photographed by Farhad Rafii
November 11, 2002
Located in a mountainous area of northwestern Iran and 42 kilometers north of
the village of Takab, Takht-e Soleyman (the 'Throne of Solomon') is one of the most
interesting and enigmatic sacred sites in Iran. Its setting and landforms must certainly
have inspired the mythic imagination of the archaic mind. See
Farhad Rafii's photos
Situated in a small valley, at the center of a flat stone hill rising twenty meters
above the surrounding lands, is a small lake of mysterious beauty. Brilliantly clear
but dark as night due to its depth, the lake's waters are fed by a hidden spring
far below the surface. Places like this were known in legendary times as portals
to the underworld, as abodes of the earth spirits.
Archaeological studies have shown that human settlements existed in the immediate
region since at least the 1st millennium BC, with the earliest building remains upon
the lake-mound from the Achaemenian culture (559-330 BC). During this period the
fire temple of Adur Gushasp (Azargoshnasb) was first constructed and it became one
of the greatest religious sanctuaries of Zoroastrianism, functioning through three
dynasties (Achaemenian, Parthian, Sassanian) for nearly a thousand years.
In the early Sassanian period of the 3rd century AD, the entire plateau was fortified
with a massive wall and 38 towers. In later Sassanian times, particularly during
the reigns of Khosrow-Anushirvan (531-579 AD) and Khosrow II (590-628), extensive
temple facilities were erected on the northern side of the lake to accommodate the
large numbers of pilgrims coming to the shrine from beyond the borders of Persia.
Following the defeat of Khosrow II's army by the Romans in 624 AD, the temple was
destroyed and its importance as a pilgrimage destination rapidly declined.
During the Mongol period (1220-1380), a series of small buildings were erected,
mostly on the southern and western sides of the lake, and these seem to have been
used for administrative and political rather than religious functions. The site was
abandoned in the 17th century, for unknown reasons, and has been partially excavated
by German and Iranian archaeologists in the past 100 years. -- sacredsites.com
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