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Excavations uncover Large Ancient gate in 2500 Year Old City of Persepolis in Iran

The report below by April Holloway regarding the excavation of a large ancient gate at Persepolis appeared in the Ancient Origins outlet (November 17, 2014). Reports of these findings also appeared in Mehr News.

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A view of the 2500-year old city-palace of Persepolis in Iran (Ancient origins & Ivar Husevåg Døskeland)

Excavations at Persepolis, a magnificent palace complex in Iran founded by Darius the Great around 518 BC, have uncovered a great ancient gate in Tale-Ajori, within the Firouzi Complex.  Even older than Persepolis itself, Tale-Ajori lies 3,500 meters outside the city and is of great significance for understanding the Achaemenid Empire. The glazed bricks of the site reveal much about the mythology of the era, while the discovery of the new gate may shed new light on the role Tale-Ajori played within this ancient landscape.

According to Mehr News, the finding of the gate was made by a joint Iranian and Italian expedition team, who carried out excavations over the last two months in the area of the Firouzi Complex, which they believe was part of a city relevant to the royal seat in Persepolis. Tole-Ajori itself is an ovoid mound 80 meters (260 feet) long and 60 meters (200 feet) wide, and is believed to be the site of a single large building, although its original function is still unknown.

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General sketch map of the structural architectural of Tale-Ajori (meaning ‘Bricks Hill’) (P. Callieri & S. Gondet; Ancient origins)

 Archaeologist Alireza Askari Chavardi told Mehr News:

The remains of Achaemenid ascendancy near Firouzi village has only gradually attracted interests of the archaeologists who studied the areas surrounding the royal seat to locate the Royal Sacred Place in the broader limits of the city for nearly 100 years”.

Through the combination of excavations and geophysical surveys, the research team has been trying to piece together the spatial layout across the 10 hectares of archaeological sites near Tale-Ajori, as well as the conceptual links between the royal construction and the surrounding buildings.

As noted further by Chavardi:

One of the most important sections of the region immediately leading to Persepolis is the north-western part of the royal seat which is also called Firouzi Complex, on where the studies conducted by archaeological expeditions have been focused, is where now lies the relics of a famous monument called Tale-Ajori

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A section excavated at Tale-Ajori (meaning ‘Bricks Hill’). (financialtribune.com; Ancient Origins)

Chavardi explains:

The most important findings of this season of excavations are 30 pieces of glazed bricks adorned with images of winged animals, incorporating mythic beasts of Elamite and Achaemenid eras in the tradition not unlike traditions of Shusha and Mesopotamia in south-western Iran…The outer parts and the great hall of the gate of this section of Parseh are decorated with colorfully glazed bricks, and thousands of pieces of bricks

Persepolis was founded by Darius the Great in 521 BC, and was the dynasty’s political and religious capital up to the decline of the empire in 331 BC.  It sits within a large urban landscape of Achaemenid palaces, monuments, and buildings extending across 600 hectares.  The wealth of the Persian empire was evident in all aspects of its construction. The splendor of Persepolis, however, was short-lived, as the palaces were looted and burned by Alexander in 331-330 B.C.

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Reconstruction of the gardens and outside of the Palace of Darius I of Persia in Persepolis (Public Domain & Ancient origins).
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Christopher I. Beckwith: Empires of the Silk Road

Readers are introduced to Professor Christopher I. Beckwith’s text: “Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Asia from the Bronze Age to the Present” (available on Amazon.com):

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  • Author: Christopher I. Beckwith
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Date: Reprinted in 2011
  • ISBN-10: 0691150346; ISBN-13: 978-0691150345

This book is recommended reading for Kaveh Farrokh’s Fall 2014 course “The Silk Route Origins and History“. Readers interested in the history of the Silk Route are also referred to the “Soghdian-Turkish Relations Symposium” (21-23 November, 2014) being held in Istanbul, Turkey (for brochure of conference, list of participants, etc., kindly click on images below to enlarge): Sogut_Program

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Christopher I. Beckwith’s text provides a comprehensive history of Central Eurasia from antiquity to the current era. This is an excellent text that provides a critical analysis of the Empires of the Silk Road by analyzing the true origins and history of this critical region of Eurasia.

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Statue of a foreigner holding a wineskin, Tang Dynasty (618-907) (Photo source: Public Domain).

Beckwith examines the history of the great and forgotten Central Eurasian empires, notably those of the Iranic peoples such as the Scythians, the Hsiang-Nou peoples (e.g. Attila the Hun, Turks, Mongols, etc.) and their interaction with China, Tibet and Persia.

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One of the critical land bridges of the Silk Route: the Pamir Mountains which as a 2-way gigantic connector between the civilizations of the east and West (Photo source: Public Domain).

Beckwith outlines the scientific, artistic and economic impacts of Central Asia upon world civilization. Beckwith also tabulates the history of the Indo-European migrations out of Central Eurasia, and their admixture with several settled peoples, resulting in the great (Indo-European) civilizations of India, Persia, Greece and Rome. The impact of these peoples upon China is also examined.

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Italian pottery of the 1450s influenced by Chinese ceramic arts; housed at the Louvre Museum, Paris (Photo source: Public Domain).

This is a book that has been long overdue: Empires of the Silk Road places Central Eurasia within the major framework of world history and civilization. It is perhaps this quote by Beckwith which demonstrates his acumen on the subject:

The dynamic, restless Proto-Indo-Europeans whose culture was born there [Eurasia] migrated across and discovered the Old World, mixing with the local peoples and founding the Classical civilizations of the Greeks and Romans, Iranians, Indians, and ChineseCentral Eurasians – not the Egyptians, Sumerians, and so on– are our ancestors. Central Eurasia is our homeland, the place where our civilization started” (2009, p.319).

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Second century CE Kushan ceramic vase from Begram with a “Western” motif: a Greco-Roman gladiator (Photo source: Public Domain). The Silk Route challenges the fallacy of a so-called “Clash of Civilizations” – to the contrary, East and West have had extensive adaptive contacts since the dawn of history.

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New Course: The Silk Route-Origins and History

A new course by Kaveh Farrokh entitled “The Silk Route-Origins and History” is being offered at the University of British Columbia (final lecture on December 16, 2014):

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The lectures will be delivered at the Tapestry Center in the University of British Columbia’s Wesbrook Village. For information on registration, etc., kindly contact the University of British Columbia-Continuing Studies Division.

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Tajik girls celebrate the Iranian Nowruz (New Year) on March 21, 2014 in Dushanbe, Tajikestan.

Below is a synopsis of the course as delivered in the Class syllabus:

The origins and history of the east-west Silk Route that connected the empires of Asia, Central Asia, Persia and the Romano-Byzantine West, as well as the lesser-known north-south route that connected Persia, the Caucasus and East- Central Europe. Emphasis will be placed on the development and transfer of the arts, music, culture, mythology, cuisine, and militaria. The peoples of the Silk Route from China across Eurasia, Central Asia, Persia to Europe are also examined

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The curriculum and impetus of this course is the direct outcome of meetings with the Cultural Diplomacy’s Department of Traditions & Cultural History of the WAALM Academy based in London, England. WAALM is affiliated with the Academic Council On The United Nations System (ACUNS) and The International Peace Bureau. WAALM was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. Kaveh Farrokh has been featured in WAALM’s Tribune Magazine (click here…).

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Chinese painting of Leizu (Xi Ling Shi) the ancient Chinese empress credited with inventing silk in c. 2700 BCE; she was the teenage wife of the Yellow Emperor Huangdi.

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The “Shir Dar” (Lion Gate/doorway) of the Islamic college at Samarkand built originally in 1627 (Nafīsī, 1949, p. 62). The sun motif is characterized by Kriwaczek (2002, picture Plate 1) as ”…the image of Mithra, the rising and unconquered sun, Zoroastrian intercessor between God and Humanity” (Courtesy of Kriwaczek, 2002).

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Chinese women produce silk in the 12th century CE.

Kyrgiz MusiciansKyrgyz musicians performing with traditional instruments. Hsiang-Nou races replaced Iranian speaking peoples of Central Asia; Despite this: These greatly assimilated the cultural and mythological traditions of their Iranic predecessors.

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One of ancient founding peoples of the Silk Route? Mummies bearing Caucasoid features uncovered in modern northwest China; these were either Iranic-speaking or fellow Indo-European Tocharian (proto-Celtic?). Archaeologists have found burials with similar Caucasoid peoples in ancient Eastern Europe. Much of the colors and clothing of the above mummies bear striking resemblance to the ancient dress of pre-Islamic Persia/Iran and modern-day Iranian speaking tribal and nomadic peoples seen among Kurds, Lurs, Persians, etc.  (Source: Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division – this was also presented at Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006, the annual Tirgan event at Toronto (June, 2013) and at Yerevan State University’s Iranian Studies Department (November, 2013) – Diagram is Copyright of University of British Columbia and Kaveh Farrokh). For more on this topic, see also here…

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Military History Monthly article on Sassanian Army (Spah)

The British Military History Monthly Journal has published an article by Kaveh Farrokh on the Sassanian army of ancient Iran (Spah):

Farrokh, K. (2014). Soldiers of the Sassanian Empire: Rome’s unbeaten rival in the East. Military History Monthly, November Issue 50, pp.62-66, 68.

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[Right] Cover of the November edition of the British Military History Monthly journal [left] Sample page of the article in the British Military History Monthly article. Note that the image of the Sassanian knight is by Ardeshir Radpour (photo credit: Ardeshir Radpour & Holly Martin).

As noted in the beginning of the article: “With all its success and brilliance in Europe, the Mediterranean, and North Africa, Rome never conquered the Spah (‘Military’) of the Sassanian Empire. Roman Emperors such as Alexander Severus, Valerian, and Julian the Apostate tried and failed to subjugate Persia. Thanks to European and Iranian military historians, as well as Classical, Iranian, and Islamic sources, we now have a clearer picture of the Sassanian Spah.

Julian's failed invasion of Persia in 363 AD

[CLICK TO ENLARGE]- Emperor Julian is killed during his failed invasion of Sassanian Persia in June 26, 363 AD. Above is a recreation of  Sassanian Persia’s elite cavalry, the Savaran, as they would have appeared during Julian’s failed invasion.  Note the heavily armored Sassanian elite guardsman (Pushtighban) whose lance has pierced a Roman infantryman. Further right is a Savaran officer whose sword is drawn in what is now known as the “Italian grip” which is Sassanian in origin. To the far right can be seen a Zoroastrian or Mithraist Magus brandishing a Sassanian era symbol. Also of interest are the armored elephants in the background. Armored elephants were especially prized as their cabs afforded very high elevation over the battlefield, which was ideal for Sassanian archery ( Picture source: Farrokh, Plate D, -اسواران ساسانی- Elite Sassanian cavalry, 2005).

The article provides an overview of the tactics, armaments and key characteristics of the Sassanian Spah.

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[Click to Enlarge] Iranian belt from the Sassanian era found in the Caucasus (Picture source: Farrokh, page 214, Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War-Персы: Армия великих царей-سایه‌های صحرا-Picture printed in text was under the Courtesy of the Institute of Manuscripts, Georgian Academy of Sciences and printed specifically  with the permission of Dr. David Khoupenia) .

It is further averred in the article that: “Persia’s elite knights were not unlike later European chivalry and Japanese Samurai“.

Late Sassanian era swords-Kaveh Farrokh

Late Sassanian sword (Farrokh 2004; reprinted Hughes 2010, p.51). Entire sword from front [1] and back [2]; sword handle at front [3] and back [4]; sword mount at front [5] and back [6].

The legacy of the Spah centuries continued to endure centuries after the fall of the empire to the Arabo-Islamic invasions of 637-651 CE. One example of that legacy is cited as thus: “The Mongol armies of Genghis Khan perfected this stratagem with the dictum ‘march divided, attack united’…“.

Elite Sassanian Cavalry-Amir Kabir Publishers-1The most recent translation of Farrokh’s third text Elite Sassanian Cavalry (translated into Persian by Maysam Alaie), Sassanian Elite Cavalry made in 2014 by Amir Kabir Publishers (انتشارات امیرکبیر) of Iran. For more information see -خبرگزاری کتاب ایران- (Iran book News), and -خبرگزاری اریا- (Arya News).

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2005 Farrokh Book translated by Amir Kabir Publishers into Persian

Kaveh Farrokh’s first text, Elite Sassanian Cavalry (July 2005; 64 pages; ISBN: 9781841767130; Osprey Publishing) is the first to specifically discuss the Sassanian dynasty’s elite cavalry (Savaran). This text has outlined the specific Pahlavi terms of the Sassanian cavalry’s elite units (e.g. Gyanavaspar; Zhayedan, etc.), military tactics, insignia and pitched battles. The role of Iranian women in the Sassanian military system has also been emphasized.

Kaveh Farrokh-Elite Sassanina CavalryThe original English language publication of “Elite Sassanian Cavalry” in 2005 (see review by Dr. David Khoupenia of the University of Georgia in Tbilisi).

This book has been translated for the third time into Persian (translated by Maysam Alini -میثم علیئی- of Tarbiat Modarress University, Tehran), by one of Iran’s most long-standing and academic publishing houses, Amir Kabir Publishers (انتشارات امیرکبیر):

Elite Sassanian Cavalry-Amir Kabir Publishers-1The most recent translation of Farrokh’s third text, Sassanian Elite Cavalry made in 2014 by Amir Kabir Publishers (انتشارات امیرکبیر) of Iran. For more information see -خبرگزاری کتاب ایران- (Iran book News), and -خبرگزاری اریا- (Arya News).

The peer-reviewed journal of University of Tehran published a book review of Farrokh’s text (following its first translation into Persian by Yusef Amiri, 2009) by Shahnaz Hojati (available also on Academia.edu):

— شهناز حجتی (۱۳۸۹) – ساسانیان سپر تمدن شرقی- تاریخ و جغرافیا – ماهنامه تخصصی اطلاع رسانی و نقد و برسی کتاب – شماره ۱۴۸- صفهه ۹۴-۹۵–Hojati, Sh. (2010). The Sassanians as shields of Eastern Civilizations. Tarikh va Joghrafiya: Mahnameye Takhasosiye Etela-resani va naghd va Baresiye Ketab [History and Geography: Monthly edition for Information, Description and Critique/review of books], no. 148 [August-September edition], pp.94-95 (pdf).

The book was first translated into Persian in 2009 (-مشهد: نشر گل افتاب- Gol Aftab Publishers, Mashad, Iran, translator -یوسف امیری-Yousif Amiri) with the second translation made in 2011 (-سبزان- Sabzan Publishers, Tehran, Iran, translator بهنام محمدپناه -Behnam Mohammad-Shah):

4-EliteSassanianCavalry-Versions-1[Left] Farrokh’s text (Sassanian Elite Cavalry, Osprey Publishing, 2005; [Center] 2009 translation of the Farrokh text entitled-اسواران ساسانی-Sassanian Asvaran by -یوسف امیری-Yousif Amiri, published in 2009 in Mashad, Iran by -نشر گل افتاب- Gol Aftab Publishers; see sample pages (in pdf) [Right] 2011 translation of the Farrokh text entitled -سواره نظام زبده ارتش ساسانی – Elite Cavalry of the Sassanian Army by -بهنام محمدپناه -Behnam Mohammad-Shah, published in early January 2011 in Tehran, Iran by -سبزان- Sabzan Publishers.