Naqsh-E Rostam - Ka'bah of Zoroaster - Necropolis - Iran

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Bryan Freeman

Sydney, Australia

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Artist's Description

Please DO NOT “pin" or share my images on Pinterest or any other image sharing site/blog/website. All images are ©Copyright and do not belong in the public domain.

Click on image to view it larger – It looks better that way!

Canon 7D
Canon Lens 15-85mm
CP Filter

HDR, 3 images, tonemapped then adjusted in PS.

I was feeling rather sick when I was taking these photos and about one hour later I was in a hospital with a drip stuck in my arm. I had succumbed to a virus that struck down most of my wife’s family and many other Iranians as well. At first we were thinking it was lucky we had travel insurance and then we saw the bill for my consultation with two doctors, anti-biotics in the drip plus pills to take home…..It all came to a grand total of US$21.00!!!!!
The excess on our travel insurance was about four times that at AU$100.00 per claim. The travel insurance did come in handly though when we got stranded in London for an extra seven days due to the volcanic ash from Iceland!

29 July 2010 Featured in All That’s Archaeology

28 July 2010 2nd Place in Group Challenge in All That’s Archaeology

23 January 2011 Featured in High Quality Images

The following is taken from a photograph I took of the description at the entrance to the site.

Naqsh-E Rostam

Naqsh-E Rostam contains monuments from the Achaemenid and Sasanian dynasties. In recent history when people did not know the origins of the rock carvings showing triumphant Iranian horsemen, they were attributed to the Iranian National Hero Rostam and the site was called “Carved Representation of Rostam”.

From ancient times a road and a stream passed in front of this cliff. By 700BC the Elamites had carved a rock relief here which showed kings and attendants worshippings various divinities. The Persian Archaemenids built a fortified wall in front of the cliff, erected a stone tower (which may once have been a tomb) that is known locally as the Ka’bah of Zoroaster and carved elaborate tombs into the cliff for Darius the Great 522-486BC, Xerxes 486-464BC, Artaxerxes 464-424BC and Darius II 424-404BC. Only the tomb of Darius The Great bears inscriptions.

All the facades of the tombs have a similar sculpture showing the representatives of thirty nations carrying the monumental royal throne on which a king stands in front of a fire altar and under the wings of a birdman who symbolizes his royal glory (not Faroochar as people claim nor Ahuramazda as Westerners imagine).

From 224AD the Sassanians who claimed Achaemenid heritage chose this site as a national shrine and carved rock reliefs, inscriptions and tombs into the cliff. One of the rock reliefs shows the equestrian investiture of Ardashir I 224-239AD by Ahuramazda. Another shows the investiture of Narse 294-2302AD by his wife (Anahita?) and a third depicts Bahram II 273-294AD among his courtiers. Several show Bahram II, Hormozd II (302-309AD) and possibly Shapur II 309-379AD in equestrian combats triumphing over their enemies.

Of the inscriptions the longest is carved in three languages, Greek, Parthian and Middle Persian by Shapur I (239-270AD) on the lower walls of the Archaemenid Tower. There are also two rock cut miniature chahar taqs with bowl like cavities. Previously they were thought to be fire altars but have recently been identified as bone receptacles (ossuaries). Not far from these are a cluster of rock cut ossuaries, some with inscriptions in Middle Persian from the late Sassanian Period.

The following is taken from Wikipedia:

Naqsh-e Rustam (in Persian: نقش رستم Nāqš-e Rostām) is an archaeological site located about 12 km northwest of Persepolis, in Fars province, Iran. Naqsh-e Rustam lies a few hundred meters from Naqsh-e Rajab.

The oldest relief at Naqsh-i Rustam is severely damaged and dates to c. 1000 BCE. It depicts a faint image of a man with unusual head-gear and is thought to be Elamite in origin. The depiction is part of a larger mural, most of which was removed at the command of Bahram II. The man with the unusual cap gives the site its name, Naqsh-e Rostam, “Picture of Rostam”, because the relief was locally believed to be a depiction of the mythical hero Rostam.

Achaemenid tombs

Four tombs belonging to Achaemenid kings are carved out of the rock face. They are all at a considerable height above the ground.

The tombs are known locally as the ‘Persian crosses’, after the shape of the facades of the tombs. The site is known as salīb in Arabic (صليب), perhaps a corruption of the Persian word chalīpā, “cross”. The entrance to each tomb is at the center of each cross, which opens onto to a small chamber, where the king lay in a sarcophagus. The horizontal beam of each of the tomb’s facades is believed to be a replica of the entrance of the palace at Persepolis.

One of the tombs is explicitly identified by an accompanying inscription to be the tomb of Darius I (r. 522-486 BCE). The other three tombs are believed to be those of Xerxes I (r. 486-465 BCE), Artaxerxes I (r. 465-424 BCE), and Darius II (r. 423-404 BCE) respectively. A fifth unfinished one might be that of Artaxerxes III, who reigned at the longest two years, but is more likely that of Darius III (r. 336-330 BCE), last of the Achaemenid dynasts.

The tombs were looted following the conquest of the Achaemenid empire by Alexander the Great.

Sassanid reliefs:

Ka’ba-ye Zartosht (cube shaped construction in the foreground) against the backdrop of Naqsh-e Rustam.
The investiture of Ardashir I.
The triumph of Shapur I over the Roman Emperor Valerian, and Philip the Arab.

Seven oversized rock reliefs at Naqsh-e Rustam depict monarchs of the Sassanid period.

~The investiture relief of Ardashir I (r. 226-242):

The founder of the Sassanid Empire is seen being handed the ring of kingship by Ahura Mazda. In the inscription, which also bears the oldest attested use of the term ‘Iran’ (see “etymology of ‘Iran’” for details), Ardashir admits to betraying his pledge to Artabanus V (the Persians having been a vassal state of the Arsacid Parthians), but legitimizes his action on the grounds that Ahuramazda had wanted him to do so.

~ The triumph of Shapur I (r. 241-272):

This is the most famous of the Sassanid rock reliefs, and depicts Shapur’s victory over two Roman emperors, Valerian and Philip the Arab. A more elaborate version of this rock relief is at Bishapur.

~ The “grandee” relief of Bahram II (r. 276-293):

On each side of the king, who is depicted with an oversized sword, figures face the king. On the left stand five figures, perhaps members of the king’s family (three having diadems, suggesting they were royalty). On the right stand three courtiers, one of which may be Kartir. This relief is to the immediate right of the investiture inscription of Ardashir (see above), and partially replaces the much older relief that gives Naqsh-e Rustam its name.

~ The two equestrian reliefs of Bahram II (r. 276-293):

The first equestrian relief, located immediately below the fourth tomb (perhaps that of Darius II), depicts the king battling a mounted Roman soldier.
The second equestrian relief, located immediately below the tomb of Darius I, is divided into two registers, an upper and a lower one. In the upper register, the king appears to be forcing a Roman enemy from his horse. In the lower register, the king is again battling a mounted Roman soldier.
Both reliefs depict a dead enemy under the hooves of the king’s horse.

~ The investiture of Narseh (r. 293-303):

In this relief, the king is depicted as receiving the ring of kingship from a female figure that is frequently assumed to be the divinity Aredvi Sura Anahita. However, the king is not depicted in a pose that would be expected in the presence of a divinity, and it hence likely that the woman is a relative, perhaps Queen Shapurdokhtak.

~ The equestrian relief of Hormizd II (r. 303-309):

This relief is below tomb 3 (perhaps that of Artaxerxes I) and depicts Hormizd forcing an enemy (perhaps Papak of Armenia) from his horse. Immediately above the relief and below the tomb is a badly damaged relief of what appears to be Shapur II (r. 309-379) accompanied by courtiers.

Artwork Comments

  • David's Photoshop
  • Bryan Freeman
  • Jordan Miscamble
  • Bryan Freeman
  • trobe
  • Bryan Freeman
  • trobe
  • Bryan Freeman
  • Mieke Boynton
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