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Arrogance and ignorance
The Islamic Republic will never destroy our historical monuments, our ignorance will

Part 2 [Part 1]
September 28, 2005

When you read the historical sagas left to us from the past, you notice the abundance of information on our kings and leaders; on our battles and our armies.  Yet very few details on the people, their culture, their lives.  You can barely find information on their clothing, their food, their art and their hobbies.

You would get Herodotus claiming that Xerxes army who came to Greece numbered a million soldiers followed by Iranian scholars claiming the absurdity of this number.  The question becomes as important as story of “history” that even Napoleon, that great student of military history even ponders on the issue and claims that the army could not have numbered more than 200,000 due to supply issues. 

In the midst of this argument you forget about the people in that army.  The soldiers who each had family and children, a hometown, a hobby and an interest.  An army as vast as that with many different languages, cultures and even religions.

We become so consumed with the history of our kings that we forget about the people.

What we know of medical history in the time of Acheamenid is because of the broken ankle King Darius had, and the volunteering of an imprisoned Greek soldier who had trained in the house of a doctor.  Thus the textbooks on ancient Iranian medicine starts with this story and skips to the Sassanid period as if people didn’t get sick or otherwise medicine didn’t exist.

What does this have to do with Pasargad?

Well, because of such King centered story of our history, we’ve even managed to associate Pasargad only with the Tomb of Cyrus and his palaces and nothing else.  When you ask an Iranian, “What is Pasargad?”, in an obvious tone they respond “Tomb of Cyrus”.

But the truth of the matter is that Pasargad was a city.  It had people -  individuals each with lives, hobbies,  culture and art. 

And it appears that the Sivand Dam, although it will maintain the Tomb of Cyrus and its adjacent palaces, will destroy much of everything we don’t know of our ancestors who lived in that city, adjacent to the palaces.

Tang-e-Bolaghi and Dasht-e-Pasargad
If you look at the map of the area, you see the Sivand River running from North West to South East where in the lower left hand corner of the map, it passes through the narrow Tang-e-Bolaghi.

On your left and on the higher ground lies the palaces and the tombs.  And underneath what you see in the middle, now called Dasht-e-Pasargad , scattered with  farms and villages is the location of our first great capital where at one point the number of houses must have reached at least 50,000.

Underneath that dirt are perhaps remains of schools, baths, bazaars and gardens.  In what must have been a truly beautiful setting, the King’s palaces at higher grounds, overlooking the city and its dwellers.  Stone paved roads of the city merging to make the heavily traveled, stone paved “Kings Road” out of the city , through Tang-e-Bolaghi and through to the great city of Susa.

A few generations after Cyrus the Great, another great leader in our history, Darius orders a monumental palace to be built along this road, outside of the city - a palace which today we call Takht-e-Jamshid.  If you can picture this, this is much like the order to build the great Palace of Versailles 2000 years later outside the city of Paris.

 The Sivand Dam will be placed at Tang-e-Bolaghi, along this road and the 20 km artificial lake being built will lie on top of what used to be the city of Pasargad.

Islamic Republic would never destroy our history any longer.  Proof is in Dr. Abdi’s paper ["Sensationalism vs. Rationalism"].

Our “professor” historians and archeologists who managed to write 4 articles and over 10 pages of self promotion and insults told us nothing about what is being destroyed, but in midst of it all, they did manage to inform us of the site for Miras-e-Farangi with whose 30 articles is pretty much the “ill-informed” and concerned source of information on the subject.

According to this site, this dirt dam was budgeted 14 years ago.  So, if you recall, “eminent archeologist” Dr. Abdi’s paper defending the Islamic Republic’s role as a government who “no longer has any reason or incentive on anyone’s part to destroy these monuments, especially through such time-consuming and expensive schemes as building a dam”, his premise still applies as true.  Yes Dr. Abdi, Islamic Republic will never destroy our historical monuments, our ignorance will.

The strategy to win Dr. Abdi’s support for the Islamic Republic was pretty simple.  It is actually a Biological-Sociological model.  Most often used example is that you starve a pack of dogs, then you throw them a bone and they will protect you as loyal servants.  Or in the case of Islamic Republic, beat and threaten women to act as second class citizens, then allow them the minimum of freedom and they will support you.  Or in the case of Dr Abdi, destroy our pre-Islamic history with religious fervor, then pause a few years and these academicians will defend you with such fervor.

And in this case, starve our archeologists and historians of grants and funds, then throw them a bone in the form of a “salvage project” and you get such articles from Dr Abdi, Dr Daryaee ["Drowning in noise"] and Dr Mousavi ["Cyrus can rest in peace "]. (I am familiar with the role academicians played since 97-99 because I was amongst the 700 US academicians who were invited to visit Iran and talk about how the government has changed.)

Dr Abdi and Dr Daryaee, I did visit Iran in 2001 and had the privilege to watch and videotape a Sassanid period Atashkadeh in Isfahan being destroyed by families taking pieces of the walls as souvenirs, teenagers carving their names into the clay structures and children climbing its walls and playing hide and seek in between its fragile structure.  I also had the privilege to be offered artifacts from an ancient sitean hour outside of Arak which was dug out of the hilltop.

The locals took me to the site and offered to sell me coins.  At the site, there were hundreds of pieces of pottery which I was told were broken in order to see what’s inside.  Dr. Abdi, in both cases, it wasn’t the government of Iran which was destroying things, it was our ignorance.  That regime was just enjoying the beautiful articles and praise the 700 US-Iranian academicians were making.

Back to the Sivand Dam.

At that time (14 years ago), the Ministery of Energy sends a letter to Miras-e-Farhangi asking for an evaluation of historical sites which will be lost.  Miras-e-Farhangi apparently didn’t think this issue as important and completely ignored the issue.  According to Ministery of Energy, there were two other sites along the Sivand river which could have been used if they were notified. (But what the hell, they ignored our letter, we’ll just build the dam-).

What will be lost?

Several caves have been found along Tang-e-Bolaghi.  Recently, within these caves, stone tools have been found which date back to 4000 years before Christ.  In fact, those involved tell us that the tools may date back to the pre-historic age cave dwelling in the region.  If so, our loss is not only of Iranian history, but of history of humanity.

Everything we don’t know which lies within these caves will be destroyed.

A stone mine was recently found with stone cutting tools used to cut out those gigantic stones used in Persepolis. The importance of this mine for architectural history is immense.  In fact, we know very little of how Takh-e-Jamshid was built and the techniques used.

And if that’s not important for some, similarly found stone mine outside of Athens whose rocks were used to build Acropolis draws more tourists per year than the entire complex of Pasargad and Persepolis combined.  Through what they’ve learned from this mine, the Greek government has embarked on a great project of rebuilding Acropolis in the same manner as the ancient times.

This mine together with the wealth of knowledge we don’t know will be destroyed.

At least two cemeteries have been recently found dating from Ashkanian’s times in addition to several other skeletons from Sassanid times.

If such findings aren’t important to our “Professioanl Historians” and “Eminent Archeologists”,  to medical historians, they are invaluable.

Human skeletons hold worlds of stories.  Through the fracture patterns, we learn of the type of jobs these people had.  From the way fractures are healed, we can find out what kind of medical access they had and how advanced they were in their practice.  Well healed surgical holes through the skull can tell us of more advanced techniques of subdural evacuations and pressure releasing techniques for hydrocephalus. 

Various infectious diseases leave markers on the bone which can guide us in determining the epidemics prevalent in ancient times.  We can find out about the calcium level in the diets of those people as well as protein content through the length of their skeletons.   Their dental remains will tell us about their hygiene and their diet. We can even tell the relative class of the individuals through the amount dental wear as a result of sand and particles in their flour.  (Ancient Egyptian laborers had distinctly different teeth patterns than the nobility because of sand in their flour).

And if this is not enough, the possibility of exctracting DNA fragments from the remains of our ancestors would mean the world to us.

Everything we don’t know about these remains will be destroyed.

Pool and canals for large scale wine production together with grape seeds, huge clay pots and remains of similar pools in the area were recently found dating back 1800 years. 

Everything we don’t know about this site will be destroyed including the possible DNA fragments of grape seeds which can possibly rewrite winemaking history and the distribution of grapes around the world, especially the direct link of now famous Shiraz grape to Shiraz itself.

Then there are metal factories at this site which will be lost, an entire one hectare village from the Achaemenid time with clay sewer system, sites with pottery found dating 7500 years, another site dated from 7000 years ago, another cemetery dating from Sassanids time, and food storage depots.

And these are just some of the 129 sites listed on the Miras-e-Farhangi site.

Everything else we don’t know about the city of Pasargad together with the story of its people and their culture will be flooded and destroyed.

When I recently interviewed a dear Iranian archeologist who had spent 27 years of his life in Pasargad, I asked him about the dirt which lies on top of Pasargad.  He said that historically and archeologically, Dasht-e-Pasargad was of no value. That was becuase every time they had preliminary studies of a location, all they would encounter were homes and other items which were repetitive and not archeologically useful.

Yet, such repetitive structures and items may hold so many stories of our past, of our ancestors and their way of life, of their culture, their hobbies, their food and their struggle with illness and death.

And if any of this isn’t enough, an immensely excavated city of our origins, a 1000 years from now when we do care about such treasures, can provide our children with an immense source of tourist income. (Turkey’s tourist income from its ancient sites already has surpassed our income from oil.)

So next time a “professor” tells you that not only this dam is not a threat but it “has proven to be the first opportunity for Iranian and foreign archeologists to collaborate on a salvage project” tell him the story of starved dogs being thrown a bone.  You are right Dr Abdi and Dr Daryaee, a grant of  100 million tomans ($100,000) given by the Ministry of Energy for this salvage project which is less than the budget for an archeology department in a  community college is something for us to be real cheerful about. 

And next time a “professor” tells you that the Islamic Republic no longer is destroying our heritage, tell him he’s right, it is our ignorance doing the destruction for them. >>> Part 1

Amir A Fassihi
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pasargad debate
* Cultural Heritage news (1) (2) (3)
* Radio Farda: Pasargad foundation head says monument not in danger but has other worries
* Deutsche Welle: Rights group will sue to prevent destruction of historical sites
* BBC Persian: Will Pasargad go under water?
* Petition: More than 10,000 signatures
* Open Letter: Mirzadegi & Nooriala



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