Darius the Great (549-486 BC) and his son Xerxes (485-465 BC) will forever be associated with the sprawling city-palace of Persepolis in southwest Iran. Darius’s victory inscription over his rivals has been immortalized in the panel at Bisotun near Kermanshah.
On May 15, 2006, Iranian news agencies reported on one of the most exciting recent discoveries from the Achaemenid era: a massive palace at the defile at Bolaghi.
The Iranian and French archaeologists who discovered the site confirm that the site is dateable to the time of Darius the Great as the methods and techniques of construction there are similar to those used at Persepolis.
The head of the Iranian-French archeology project at Bolaghi, Dr. Mohammad Taghi Ataee, noted to reporters in Iran that:
“Before the start of this season of excavations, our geophysical tests in area number 33 of Bolaghi Gorge had revealed to us the possible existence of a huge building near the Sivand Dam. Clay artifacts found in this area showed that this building used to be the residential palace of the Achaemenid kings. With the start of the new excavation season, we resumed our excavations in area number 33 with this attitude“.
The team found the base of a pillar that was similar to those that were used to construct the great palace of Persepolis; the Bolaghi pillar however smaller in size than its Persepolis counterparts. The base of the pillar appears like an inverted bell, and has been built by the same type of stones that were used in building Persepolis. The varnishing of the stone has been done so meticulously that the team has reported that
“…one may clearly see the reflection of oneself in it“.
The Bolaghi base is 35 centimeters high and has a diameter of 50 centimeters. The base has marks upon it which were meant to level it off: this technique was common in the construction projects of the Achaemenid era. Ataee further elaborated that:
“Based on the evidence, this palace must have belonged to either Darius the Great, the Achaemenid King who ruled between 521 and 486 BC and built the famous Palace of Persepolis, or the kings who preceded him. However, it is more likely that the palace belonged to Darius“
Another interesting item from this site is the royal seat of the palace which was built with the aid of condensed sand and soil. The archaeologists discovered a number of clay brick pieces. Ataee has reported that
“These clay bricks are in different size, some are 35 by 33 cm, some 17 by 33, and some others are 33 by 33 centimeters. They were probably used to cover the floor.“
Three clay walls were also discovered as having been constructed in a row; these may hold further clues as to the design of the complex. The Iranian-French team has worked at the site until 2007 when they discovered more than five pairs of carved eyes at the site. Dr. Ataee reported to CHN News that:
“Some pairs of eyes were discovered during the excavations of Iran-French archeology team in Bolaghi Gorge. The eyes were made of some weak material such as mortar and black stones were used for their pupils.”
There have been other interesting finds at the site, notably the remains of a large construction site, again dated to the Achaemenid era. Mojgan Seyedein, the head of the Iranian-German excavation team that explored these findings has stated that:
“Prior to this discovery, the remains of an Achaemenid architectural style was found by Iranian-Italian joint team in area no. 73 of Bolaghi Gorge, but the discovery of the remains of clay ovens belonging to the fourth millennium BC headed us to this historical site to find more evidence. Geophysical studies in this area resulted in unearthing a huge building. Three big trenches have been dug for identifying this building. Archeological excavations indicate that this building with stone walls dates back to the Achaemenid era“.