Lichens, weeds threatening Sassanid bas-reliefs

May 22, 2011

TEHRAN -- Lichens and weeds growing in the narrow gaps and holes of the Sassanid bas-reliefs at the ruins of the ancient city of Bishapur in southwestern Iran are gradually destroying these irreplaceable antiquities.

The lichens and weeds are clearly visible on all six bas-reliefs of the city, which is located 19 kilometers north of Kazerun, the Persian service of the Mehr News Agency reported on Saturday.
One of the bas-reliefs depicts Shapur I, Persian king of the Sassanid dynasty, who consolidated and expanded the empire founded by his father, Ardashir I.
It shows him seated on a throne, witnessing a triumph of his army. In the top row, he is flanked by nobles of the court, and the lower row contains soldiers who present captives and trophies of victory.
Another bas-relief portrays Bahram, a son of Shapur I. During his father’s reign, he governed the province of Atropatene. There is an inscription beside the bas-relief, which originally bore the name of Bahram, although his name was later erased by the Sassanid king Narses.
The Shiraz Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Department, which is responsible for protecting ancient site historical monuments in Fars Province, has made no efforts to remove the lichens and weeds.
The ruins of Bishapur are in peril by several other factors.
The ruins are trampled every day under the hoofs of livestock, which are taken to the site for grazing.
In addition, provincial officials have recently announced that they plan to construct a road north of the ruins.
As a result, their plan may turn into another threat to the site.
In a report published in Persian media outlets in March 2010, experts warned about the growth of the various types of fungus, lichen, and plants on the stone structures at Persepolis.
However, their warnings have not been heeded.
Photo: Weeds are seen in the narrow gaps beside the bas-relief of Sassanid king Shapur I at the ruins of the ancient city of Bishapur in southwestern Iran. (Photo by Mehr)