Newly-found Petroglyph in Western Iran may have link to Mithraism

The article “Newly-found petroglyph in western Iran may have link to Mithraism” was published in Payvand News of Iran on October 1, 2019 (this was first reported in the Tehran Times). The version printed below has been slightly edited and provided with hyperlinks. Kindly note that excepting one photo, all other images and accompanying captions do not appear in the original Payvand News and Tehran Times postings.

=======================================================================================

A newly-discovered rock-carving in western Iran could have a link to Mithraism, a prehistorical religion inspired by Iranian worship of the Zoroastrian god Mithra. Some Iranian archaeologists suggest that the carving was created by a follower of Mithraism as it depicts a simple portrayal of a human with his right hand raised and an object in his hand. But, experts say it needs much more study in order to date the petroglyph.

A rock carving in western Iran (Source: Payvand News).

The petroglyph was found in western Kermanshah province on a mountainside near Taq-e Bostan, an archaeological complex, which consists of a series of properties from prehistoric to historical periods such as imposing Sassanid-era bas-reliefs, Morad-Hassel Tepe, an ancient village, a Parthian graveyard and a Sassanid hunting ground.

It was found upstream of a spring, inside a niche measuring about two meters by two meters, carved some 50 centimeters deep into the mountainside, archaeologist Keyvan Moumivand told IRNA on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a local tourism official has said that various archaeologists and teams of experts must conduct researches on the rock-carving in order to determine its origins and to make a definitive comment on it.

Depiction of Mithras with Persian dress of the (Parthian and Early-Mid Sassanian era type) slaying the sacred bull at the Santa Maria Capua Vetere. 

Some experts say that existence of some Mithraism symbols in parts of the historical zone, including one nearby the bas-relief of Ardashir II, reinforces a possibility that the petroglyph being associated with Mithraism, IRNA reported.

Mithraism, was the worship of Mithra, an Iranian god of the sun, justice, contract, and war in pre-Zoroastrian Iran. Known as Mithras in the Roman Empire during the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE, this deity, according to Britannica Encyclopedia, was honored as the patron of loyalty to the emperor. After the acceptance of Christianity by the emperor Constantine in the early 4th century, Mithraism rapidly declined.

Investiture of Ardashir II (r. 379-383) (center) by the supreme God Ahuramazda (right) with Mithra (left) standing upon a lotus (Ghirshman, 1962 & Herrmann, 1977). Trampled beneath the feet of Ahura-Mazda and Ardashir II is an unidentified defeated enemy (possibly Roman Emperor Julian). Of interest are the emanating “Sun Rays”  from the head of Mithras.  Note the object being held by Mithras, which appears to be a barsum, or perhaps some sort of diadem or even a ceremonial broadsword, as Mithras appears to be engaged in some sort of “knighting” of Ardashir II as he receives the `Farr`(Divine Glory) diadem from Ahura-Mazda (Picture source: Shahyar Mahabadi, 2004).

Taq-e Bostan is known for its bas-reliefs of Sassanian origin (3rd to 7th century CE). The carvings, some of the finest and best-preserved examples of Persian sculpture under the Sassanians, include representations of the investitures of Ardashir II (reigned 379-383 CE) and of Shapur III (383-388), the latter in a man-made cave carved in the form of an iwan (three-sided, barrel-vaulted hall, open at one end).

Remnants of a Centuries-old structure Discovered in Northwest Iran

The news report “Remnants of centuries-old structure found in northwest Iran” was originally posted in the Tehran Times on October 2, 2019. the version published below has been slightly edited from the original version posted in Tehran Times.

==========================================================================

Archaeologists have recently unearthed a vast centuries-old structure during excavation in Rab’-e Rashidi, a 14th-century educational complex in East Azarbaijan province, northwest Iran. Senior Iranian archaeologist Bahram Ajorlou said on Wednesday:

Remnants of a vast structure, measuring some 3,600 square meters, have been found in six archaeological trenches in Rab’-e Rashidi, where an excavation and restoration project is underway … The newly discovered structure is estimated to date from the 8th century AH (1299 CE – 1397 CE) to 10th century AH (1495 CE – 1591 CE) and it also bears fragments of tilework, which date back to the 8th century AH”.

The archaeologists have also discovered three stages of wall architecture, evidence of industrial activities. They have acquired some data from archaeobotanical researches, Ajorlou concluded.

A frontal view of the Rab’-e Rashidi site in Iran’s East Azarbaijan province (Source: Tehran Times)

The third round of excavation and restoration work is carried out by a panel of international cultural heritage experts, archaeologists, and restorers from Iran, the German Archaeological Institute, the Otto-Friedrich University in Bamberg, and the Louvre Museum in Paris.

The Cultural Heritage and Tourism Research Center in collaboration with Tabriz Islamic Art University completed the first phase of the international project to lay the groundwork for UNESCO recognition.

Archaeological speculations, geophysical surveys, 3D laser scans, and endoscopy of the ancient structure were carried out during the first phase.

Situated in the northwestern city of Tabriz, Rab’-e Rashidi includes several archaeological layers that date from Ilkhanid, Safavid and Qajar eras. It is said that students from Iran, China, Egypt, and Syria studied there under the supervision of physicians, intellectuals, scientists and Islamic scholars.

The ancient complex embraces a paper factory, a library, a hospital (Dar-al-Shafa), a Quranic center (Dar-al-Quran), residential facilities for teachers, students’ quarters and a caravanserai amongst other facilities.

Iran is considering the possible inscription of the site on the UNESCO World Heritage list by 2025.

Journal Article: A Unique Parthian Sword

The HISTORIA I ŚWIAT academic journal has published the following article by Gholamreza Karamian (ORCID iD 0000-0003-4200-2592) and Kaveh Farrokh (ORCID iD 0000-0001-5732-2447):

Karamian, Gh., & Farrokh, K. (2019). A unique Parthian sword. HISTORIA I ŚWIAT, 8, pp.211-214.

One of the Parthian swords housed at the Iran Bastan Museum (Source: Iran Bastan Museum, Inventory number: 1603/18028; Gholamreza Karamian, Rakhsareh Esfandiari ). This was originally discovered in Nowruz Mahalleh, in the Deylaman region of northern Iran in 1960. For more see: Farrokh, K., Karamian, Gh., Delfan, M., Astaraki, F. (2016). Preliminary reports of the late Parthian or early Sassanian relief at Panj-e Ali, the Parthian relief at Andika and examinations of late Parthian swords and daggers. HISTORIA I ŚWIAT, No.5, pp. 31-55.

The article provides a detail and in-depth analysis of a unique Parthian sword in one of Tehran’s museums (Inventory number: 44797). For further analyses of Parthian military equipment, readers are referred to:

Close-up of a reconstruction by David Wilcox and the late Angus McBride of an armored Parthian cavalry – For more on  Parthian Militaria consult: Parthian Military History and Armies …

A Parthian dagger discovered in Rasht, Gilan province in northern Iran in 1966 (Iran Bastan Museum, Inventory number: 3628/19196; Gholamreza Karamian, Rakhsareh Esfandiari). For more see: Farrokh, K., Karamian, Gh., Delfan, M., Astaraki, F. (2016). Preliminary reports of the late Parthian or early Sassanian relief at Panj-e Ali, the Parthian relief at Andika and examinations of late Parthian swords and daggers. HISTORIA I ŚWIAT, No.5, pp. 31-55.

Documentary Film Production: the UNESCO Sassanian Fortress in Darband

Pejman Akbarzadeh is making a new documentary about the Sassanian fortress Darband in Daghestan, which is the largest known (pre-Islamic) Iranian defensive structure in Caucasus. Despite being registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the latter remains (excepting among specialized scholars) remarkably unknown internationally, even among contemporary Iranians.

A view of a section of Darband in winter season (Source: Public Domain).

The Persian Heritage Foundation, founded in the 1980s by the late Ehsan Yarshater (1920-2018; one of the primary editors of the Encyclopedia Iranica) has agreed to cover 50% of the production costs. Pejman will be traveling to Daghestan in October 2019 in order to film the fortress and to interview Murtazali Gadjiev (The Institute of History, Archeology and Ethnography of the Daghestan Scientific Centre of Russian Academy of Sciences).

More support however is needed in order to sustain the remaining costs of this important project. For more information on supporting this project on Crowdfunding, click here …

A view of a section of Darband in the summertime (Source: Public Domain).

Pejman’s previous project, was the successful documentary on the Sassanian archway of Taghe Kasra (Taq Kasra) and its critical situation in Iraq. The film has been screened at various museums, universities and international conventions around the world. This documentary film has been cited as an “impressive film” by the BBC.

Journal Article: Caucasian Albanian warriors in the armies of pre-Islamic Iran

The HISTORIA I ŚWIAT academic journal has published the following article by Kaveh Farrokh, Javier Sánchez-Gracia (HRM Ediciones, Zaragoza, Spain), and Katarzyna Maksymiuk (Siedlce University, Poland):

Farrokh, K., Sánchez-Gracia, J., & Maksymiuk, K. (2019). Caucasian Albanian warriors in the armies of pre-Islamic Iran. HISTORIA I ŚWIAT, 8, pp.21-46.

The article discusses the important role of ancient Albania, an ancient country in the Caucasus (in the modern-day Republic of Azerbaijan, first labelled with this appellation in May 1918) in the history of Iran. Albanian cavalry was serving with the later Achaemenid armies of Darius III (r. 336–330 BCE) at the Battle of Gaugamela (331 BCE).

An Albanian-Scythian cavalry commander from the late Achaemenid era (Source: Pinterest). Cavalry of this type from Albania fought for Darius III against Alexander at the Battle of Gaugamela (331 BCE).

Albania was transformed into a Sassanian province by Šāpūr I (c. 253) with the Albanians (notably their cavalry) becoming increasingly integrated into the battle order of the Sassanian Spah (army).

Book cover of “The Siege of Amida” authored by Kaveh Farrokh, Katarzyna Maksymiuk & Javier Sánchez-Gracia (2018) DC – click here to download in pdf from Academia.edu … The above image is a recreation by Ardashir Radpour of a Sassanian Savaran knight of the Hamharzan who were often supplied with the highest quality weaponry. Elite Albanian knights fighting alongside the Savaran would have resembled their comrade in arms with respect to attire, equipment and battle tactics. The above book was displayed at the 2018 ASMEA (Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa) Conference’s LSS (Library of Social Sciences) display in Washington DC.

All along the Caspian coast the Sassanians built powerful defense works, designed to bar the way to invaders from the north. The most celebrated of these fortifications are those of Darband in Caucasian Albania.

A view of the Darband Wall (known commonly as Derbent; cited as Krevar in local dialects) in Daghestan, Northern Caucasus (Courtesy of Associates of Eduard Enfiajyan).  The origins of the wall of Darband are generally attributed to Kavad I (r. 488-496, 498-530 CE) who after a two-year war (489-490 CE) ejected Khazar invaders rampaging Armenia and Caucasian Albania (modern Republic of Azerbaijan). Construction of the wall was continued by Khosrow I (r. 530-579 CE) and by the late 6th century CE, this had become a system of walls connecting a series of fortresses. Total length of the Darband wall is nearly 70 km, spanning the territory from the Caucasus Mountains to the Caspian Sea. The Wall of Darband or Derbent became a major military fortress shielding Iranian territories in the Caucasus and the historical Azarbaijan below the Araxes River from nomadic attackers along the northern Caucasus, most notably the Khazars.

Albania remained an integral part of the Sasanian army well into the empire’s final days as evidenced by the military exploits of Albanian regal prince Javanshir (Persian: Young Lion) and his cavalry who fought against the Arabo-Islamic invaders at the Battle of Qadissiya (637 CE) and after. Javanshir was a member of the Iranian Mehranid family related to the Parthian clans.

A copy of the 7th century CE statue of the Caucasian Albanian Prince Javanshir (Persian: Young Lion) discovered in Nakhchevan, southern Caucasus (the original statue is housed in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg – the above copy of the original is in the Republic of Azerbaijan History Museum) (Source: Urek Meniashvili in Public Domain).