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Pasargadae

Pasargadae

Shiraz | Palace

The world heritage of Pasargadae, an ancient archaeological site remaining from Achaemenid era, is located in Morghab plain, near Bolaghi Gorge of the ancient city of Pasargadae. This historic site encompasses such structures as the tomb of Cyrus the Great, Audience palace, Private Palace, Gate Palace, Imperial Gardens, Royal pools, Prison of Solomon (the fortress of Tall-e Takht), Mozaffari Caravanserai, pavillion, etc. Among others the tomb of Cyrus which was named the tomb of King Solomon’s mother until 1820 is the most well-known.

This structure is the only part of Pasargadae recorded in Greek historical accounts. When Cyrus was killed in a battle with Massagetae, he was mummified and was laid in a coffin made of gold and his valuable belongings were placed next to him. According to historians contemporary with Alexander the Great when he visited Pasargadae and the tomb of Cyrus, he ordered Aristobulus (one of Alexander’s warriors in his conquest of Persia) to restore the interior of the tomb. Aristobulus saw a golden coffin, a table, a number of golden dishes, expensive weapons, clothes and Cyrus’ jewelry. The tomb was protected by a group of Magi at the time. However, it was looted and all of its contents were stolen.

Approximately until 100 years ago, the building was believed to be the mausoleum of King Solomon’s mother. In Buyid era, a mosque was built around it with columns brought to the site from ancient palaces. However, in 1970s, it was demolished and the historical rocks were removed and taken back to their original sites.

The first experts who raised the likelihood of the tomb belonging to Cyrus were and James Morier. Additionally, Grotefend who had visited the area l, examined the facts and read travel books and historical accounts assumed the Morghab plain was the same as Pasargadae. The true identity of the tomb was established in 1820 upon the discovery and interpretation of cuneiform writings and the study of relevant documents and papers.

The tomb of Cyrus is located south of Pasargadae, the imperial site. It is believed that it must have been surrounded by towering trees of the Royal gardens. This monument is over 11m high and is made of yellowish white limestone slabs carved from Mount Sivand. The size of stone slabs varies between 5 and 7m. The blocks of stone were placed on top of each other without any mortar. Instead dovetail staples were applied. Today, there are some holes in the walls of the monument as the staples have been removed.

In general, the tomb has three sections:

  1. The rectangular base of the tomb consists of 6 stone tiers. The first one is 1.65m high and gradually they reduce in height. The 6th step is barely over 60cm high.
  2. The burial chamber is 10m in height, 17m in length and 11m in width. Its walls are 1.5m thick and consists of four rows of slabs. There used to be a door which would apparently slide along a deep groove in the door frame and the 6th step. Sadly enough the door does not exist anymore. The present entrance is 75cm wide and 140cm high. The chamber (sepulcher) was used to keep Cyrus’ corpse. The floor is covered by two large slabs one of which is damaged as someone might have struck it out of curiosity in an attempt to find an underground tomb.
  3. The tomb has a gable roof under which there are two hollow spaces to divide the pressure on the walls of the chamber. However, it was wrongly believed that Cyrus and his wife’s bodies were kept there. The pediment of the tomb is filled with a fading rosette design relief half of which is visible. European travelers had noticed the relief but it was David Stronach who paid special attention to it. The rosette has 12 central petals surrounded by 24 other petals w which are in turn enclosed by another 24 pointed petals.

European visitors of the site have talked of columns surrounding the tomb: large stone columns 1m in diameter and one to three meters in height. Cyrus’ funeral might be interesting in its kind. Mary Boyce describes the differences between Achaemenids, the Magi and Zoroastrians in terms of funerary customs remarking that rulers of all royal families were interred after death but Cyrus introduced a new method which was appropriate and effective. He constructed his tomb in such a way that his corpse would not contaminate clean creatures. However, there are other varying theories about his burial place. For instance, it is said that the site in Pasargadae is only a monument for Cyrus the Great. Since transferring his body from northeast of Persia at that time must have been very hard, we should consider the decay of the corpse as well. Thus, some scholars still believe Cyrus’ main tomb is somewhere else not yet known. This mausoleum is merely a memorial structure for the greatest Persian king. In 2004, it was recorded as a UNISCO world heritage site along with other sites of Pasargadae compound.

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WORLD HERITAGE SITE

2004

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