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Archaeologists Excavating Sasanian Esfahan

A team of 17 archaeologists under the direction of Alireza Jafari-Zand, working in the east of the city of Esfahan have identified a Sasanian structure and remains of a destroyed Safavid Palace in Tappeh Asharaf, reported the Persian service of CHN on Sunday.

Archaeologists excavating the Tappeh Ashraf site in the east of Esfahan, near the bank of the Zayandeh-Rud river. Tappeh Ashraf is located in the east of Esfahan, near the bank of the Zayandeh-Rud river, adjacent to the Sasanian bridge of Sharestan (Šahrəstān). The Tappeh is considered to be the oldest archaeological mound in the city of Esfahan.

“In this season, archaeologists have discovered a stone foundation structure surrounded by thick mud-brick walls. The preliminary excavation indicates it was built during the Sasanian dynastic era (224-651 CE), but the final research will establish the exact date”, said Jafari-Zand.

In this season, archaeologists after mapping the site have opened a stepped-trench, 8 meters deep, revealing the historical strata of the mound.

Lotfollah Honarfar, a local historian believes the mound is the original location of the Sasanian Kohan-Dež-e Sārūyé (Old Fortress of Sarooyeh).

However, Jafar-Zand, challenges this claim and in an interview with Shahin Sepanta asserted: “a professional archaeologist is to declare his mistake. I approach this expedition with an open-mind and if the evidence proves Honarfar’s theory of the location of Old-Fortress, I will announce that.”

The Sasanian structure at Tappeh Ashraf According to Jafari-Zand,  in the accounts of Jean Chardin, the 17th century French explorer, he refers to the large ruins of the Sasanian city of Sharstan in this location.

This historical site currently consists of two sections, divided by a new road constructed in recent years. The larger mound still remains to be excavated and is still known as the old and possibly proto-Sasanian name of Gey (Jey from Gabiya). The area was predominantly inhabited by Zoroastrians until the reign of Shah Abbas the Great (1571-1629), when they were forced to relocate and settled in a village, named Gabr-Abad.

In Tappeh Asharaf, archaeologists have also identified ruins of a Safavid Palace, which is claimed to be the palace of Ashraf Afghan. Apparently the palace was destroyed during the reign of Nader Shah, the founder of Afsharid Dynasty (1736-1796).

Asharaf Afghan was a cousin of Mahmoud, a leader of the Ghaljāi Tribe from Kandahar, who with an army gathered from unhappy conscripts, a mixture of Sunni Muslims and Zoroastrians who were tired of Shah Soltan Hossein’s tyrannical rules, marched through Sistan, Kerman and Yazd and captured Esfahan, the capital of the Safavid dynastic empire in 1722.

The Sasanian bridge of Sharestan (Šahrəstān). A year later, Shah Soltan Hossein was put to death while in prison. During Hossein’s reign, he ordered the persecution of non-Shia (Sunni Muslims, Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians), which in turn had weakened the social fabric of Safavid society. The slaughter of Zoroastrians is considered as the biggest decline in the numbers since 7th century Arab occupation of Iran.

Three years later, Ashraf murdered Mahmoud and proclaimed himself as the king of Iran in 1725.

Ashraf’s rule was short lived, as he was challenged by the elites and after a decisive battle with Tahmasp-Qoli (future Nader-Shah) in 1729, escaped to Shiraz and was later murdered by one of his Baluchi companions. The event marked the end of a seven-year uprising against the Safavid's religious dogmatic rule.

Ashraf’s connection with having Zoroastrian soldiers in his army, could explain why he had a palace in Gey, rather than living in a luxurious Safavid palaces, located in the centre of Esfahan, in or near the world' famouse Naqsh-e Jahan Square.

Source: Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies [August 02, 2010]


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