Aerial survey sheds new light on vast ancient city in southern Iran

June 9, 2020 - 19:0

TEHRAN – An in-depth aerial survey combined by series of field research has shed new light on remnants of a vast ancient city in southern Iran, which was once in the heart of the mighty Sassanid Empire in its heyday. The discovery has opened up a new window towards the urban engineering and Persian garden arrangements of the time.

“A large Sassanid urban site has been discovered near Farashband of Fars province as the result of a remote sensing project conducted with the help of previously-taken and new aerial photographs and preliminary field studies of archeology on a site [some small sections of which had been discovered before],” ILNA quoted archaeologist Parsa Qasemi as saying on Tuesday.

Remote sensing is the process of detecting and monitoring the physical characteristics of an area by measuring its reflected and emitted radiation at a distance (typically from satellite or aircraft).

“This [archaeological] area is situated about 11 kilometers northeast of Farashband town, and 28 kilometers away from the ancient city of Gur (now called Firuzabad). It is also located 2.7 kilometers east of Narak village and three kilometers north of Bachan village in (Nujin rural district).”

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, Sasanian Archaeology witnessed an increasing interest in the number of landscape archaeological surveys and excavations undertaken, according to a paper written by Qasemi of the Pantheon-Sorbonne University (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne).

Covering some 14 square kilometers in area, the site embraces six separate rectangular sections, with a large fortress in the middle section, a large number of pavilions and residential buildings are dotted along its streets, the archaeologist explained, ILNA reported.

Covering some 14 square kilometers in area, the ancient city embraces six separate rectangular sections, with a vast fortress in the middle, and dozens of pavilions and residential buildings, which are dotted along its thoroughfares, the archaeologist explained.“Due to the [geographical] location of Farashband area, which was once in the heart of the Sassanid Empire, many archeological finds have been found so far, the most important of which is [cubic-shaped] four-arched monument that is locally called Chahar-Taqi. In the southwest [of the site] is a small rural settlement and in its east corner are the remains of a village that is home to many scattered buildings dating from the Sassanid to the Islamic Middle Ages.”

Attaching great importance to the collective ancient site, Qasemi noted that the ancient site had previously been designated [just] as a castle on Iran’s 1/100 maps.

“Unfortunately no researcher has noticed its importance so far so that the site [which is proved to bear far more than a ruined castle] has suffered a lot of damage over the past few decades.”

“It should be noted that most of our archeological colleagues of Fars province had previously visited this area and just documented a very small portion of its central part, and none of them could realize how vast the archaeological site is. They only identified its central part and briefly ended up with specifying some key buildings there such as a caravanserai and a central building, known as Chahar Bazaar (Four Marketplaces),” he lamented.

In the autumn of 2014 and 2017, Qasemi and his colleagues conducted two seasons of excavation at the site of Tole Qaleh Seyfabad, located in the south of the major Sasanian city of Bishapur. The finds consisted of remain of a regular architecture building with several functions for office; storage; and workshop, in addition to a large number of Sasanian clay bullae related to the advanced administrative system, different kind of pottery, evidence of a mass advanced wet agriculture technique, many objects made of clay, stone, metal, and glass that were attributed to the commercial and economical activities were found.

Sasanian Empire was one of the powerful empires of the late antiquity in the east. This empire was founded by Ardashir I, who was born in the city of Istakhr in Fars state, southern Iran, and was crowned in 226 CE. The territory of the Sasanian Empire during four centuries (ca. 224-651 CE) enclosed most parts of West Asia and Central Asia.

After the rise of the empire, most of the Southwest and Central Asia were politically and economically dominated by them. In terms of complicated cultural criteria, the Sasanian political, economic and social entities were more sophisticated and powerful than the earlier governments. Existence of a powerful administrative and managerial hierarchy that administered the central state’s policies gave rise to the development and significance of a great empire.

In many ways, Iran under the Sasanian rule witnessed tremendous achievements of Persian civilization. Experts say that under the Sassanids the art and architecture of the nation experienced a general renaissance.

Rock-carved bas-reliefs are widely deemed as the most impressive and best-known works of Sasanians, of which about thirty are known from the first two centuries of Sasanian rule. The largest number is in Fars, in the majestic silent valley of Naqsh-e Rostam, in the small bay of rocks at Naqsh-e Rajab, on the steep inclines of a gorge at Bishapur. There are also other examples across the country.

In 2018, UNESCO added “Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars Region”, which is an ensemble of Sasanian historical cities in southern Iran, to its World Heritage list. The property comprises eight archaeological sites, including fortified structures, palaces, and city plans in Ctesiphon, Firuzabad, and Sarvestan, all located in modern Fars province. UNESCO says that the archaeological landscape reflects the optimized utilization of natural topography and bears witness to the influence of Achaemenid and Parthian cultural traditions and of Roman art, which had a significant impact on the architecture of the Islamic era.

Encyclopedia Britannica states that a revival of Iranian nationalism took place under Sassanid rule. Zoroastrianism became the state religion, and at various times followers of other faiths suffered official persecution. The government was centralized, with provincial officials directly responsible to the throne, and roads, city building, and even agriculture were financed by the government. The dynasty was destroyed by Arab invaders during a span from 637 to 651.


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