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Returned Persian Artifact Believed to be Fake


cupAs reported by many news outlets as well as our WCHV a few weeks ago a Persian artifact believed at that time to be dated 700 BC, was returned by the US government to the Iranian government as a symbol of good will and a sign that perhaps the tense political relations between the two countries are changing. However, the recent publication by a retired Metropolitan Museum of Art curator Oscar White Muscarella clearly demonstrates that the artifact is fake (as reported by New Network Archeology).

In fact, it looks like that the artifact cannot be older than a couple of decades or even newer.  It has also been reported that the artifact was sold in 2002 to a wealthy New York Collector who was also given proof of authenticity by three prominent art dealers.  The rest of the story has been known to many: When the artifact arrived in NYC in 2003, it was confiscated and then stored away in a government warehouse for over a decade. Mr. Muscarella who has made these new claims has only seen a photograph of the artifact but is convinced that the item is fake. 

The structure of the artifact includes silver sections joined together to form a winged griffin that walks on splayed, clawed feet. Most improbable are three funnels (as suggested by Muscarella), two on the sides coming out of the body below the wings and one that protrudes the creature’s rear end. Muscarella went on to say: “The vessel has been consistently labeled a rhyton in print, but this would be correct only if the creature’s open mouth served as a pouring spout for liquids poured into the funnels (wine, water, body wastes?). It is a modern Iranian artifact.  For stylistic and technical reasons — the griffin’s head is frozen mute, its eyes stare, the head, wing and leg patterns are awkward and meaningless, and the leg rivets are modern: all attributes unlike any ancient conception — I condemned it as a forgery.”  

Now, there are still many questions and concerns to be addressed. Smuggling historical artifacts and national heritage is profitable and for smugglers who take great risk to take the pieces out of the original countries, there will always be a wealthy buyer somewhere across the world. The questions in this case are many: Who the original smuggler was (were) and how they managed to create a fake item and then smuggle it out of Iran to Switzerland and then sell it to an American buyer? In addition, how did three supposed experts actually authenticate the item in 2002?  

The main major question for us is how we could stop many more acts of smuggling of national heritage pieces that result in loss and in many cases the destruction of these beautiful artifacts from around the world.

Digital Heritage International Congress 2013



“Digital Heritage International Congress 2013” will be held from October 28th to November 1st, 2013 in Marseille, France.  The Digital Heritage International Congress will bring together a multidisciplinary audience to debate, discuss and present digital technology applicable to the protection, documentation and understanding of humanity’s shared heritage, according to an EU website.  This conference is believed to be the largest international scientific event on digital heritage in history, bringing together hundreds of researchers, educators, scientists, industry professionals and policy makers. For the first time ever, under the patronage of UNESCO, the leading scientific and industry teams from across the digital and heritage communities will join together at a conference to explore the state-of-the-art and discuss future emerging technologies that will change research and preservation of world cultural heritage.  Participants will be guided through a series of interactive workshops and exhibitions dedicated to showcasing state-of-the-art technologies used in heritage preservation.

This event has been organized by CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research) on behalf of the MAP Laboratory, in collaboration with local research institutions Provence (Aix-Marseille University, Arts et Métiers Paris Tech, CICRP, School of Architecture and INRIA).

For further information, please visit: 

Spiegel Magazine’s Attack on the Legacy of Cyrus the Great


Article By: Professor Kaveh Farokh


Greetings to the Distinguished Staff of Der Spiegel Magazine,
Recently a number of my colleagues as well as students have brought the following article to my humble attention:

UN Treasure Honors Persian Despot
By Matthias Schulz
http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/0,1518,564395,00.html (German)
http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,566027,00.html (English)

If the above report had been written by ideologues, it would not have been very surprising, as historical revisionism and political motivations do often accompany one another. It is however lamentable that a distinguished world-class magazine such as Der Speigel has chosen to perpetuate a series of half-truths that resemble the writings of conspiracy theorists. I will of course expostulate upon the narratives of the latter on item (7) below, but first allow me to briefly examine a number of statements made by Mr. Schulz in items (1) – (6).

(1) “Some Greeks praised the conqueror. Herodotus and Aeschylus (who lived after Cyrus’s death) called him merciful.”

Perhaps Mr. Schulz is not aware that it was not just “Some Greeks” who praised Cyrus. This is true despite the fact that Classical Greece and the Achaemenid Empire fought many bitter and bloody wars, notably at Marathon (490 BC), Thermopylae and Salamis (480 BC). It is also a fact that the mainland (European) Greeks fought hard against the Achaemenid Empire to retain their independence. Why would a nation that had fought so hard against the Achaemenid Empire, have any reason to selectively “flatter” Cyrus the Great? This is because the Greeks, who excelled in the disciplines of balanced thought and logical thinking realized that just because they were at war with the Achaemenid Empire did not mean that all members and rulers of that Empire were “evil”. Simply put, they did not allow their political passions to bias their views of “the other”, even if that other was a military opponent. Nobody forced the ancient Greeks to describe Cyrus the Great in a favorable manner. The Greeks in fact had written a virtual compendium of Cyrus entitled the Cyropedia of Xenophon.

To read the entire article continue at savepasargad.com

Pakistan’s “Moenjodaro” Facing Uncertain Future



It is widely believed by archeologists that the city of Moenjodaro in southern Pakistan was remarkably advanced for its time, with sophisticated civil engineering and urban planning, and because of its size and the richness of its monuments, has been generally regarded as a capital of an extensive state.

Moenjodaro, which means “the mound of the dead’ was a major center of the pre-Hindu Indus civilization dating back to 3000 BC and one of the earliest cities in the world.  Archeologists estimate that over 40,000 people lived in Moenjodaro and the city which was rediscovered in 1922 has had extensive excavations but only one third of the site has been revealed so far.  The stupa mound, built on a massive platform of mud brick, is composed of the ruins of several major structures – Great bath, Great Granary, College Square and Pillared Hall – as well as a number of private homes.  The extensive lower city is a complex of private and public houses, wells, shops and commercial buildings.  These buildings are laid out along streets intersecting reach other at right angles, in a highly form of city planning that also incorporated important systems of sanitation and drainage (UNESCO).

However, the site which was  designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 is now facing major environmental threats from extreme summer heat and high temperatures, winter frosts, torrential rains and humid air as reported by the Telegraph newspaper.  The structures which are mostly made of clay bricks (hardened unbaked mud bricks) have greatly been damaged by the humidity during the monsoon season, and salt crystals blown and deposited on the clay has caused extensive breakage and damage to the structures.  All of these environmental factors have caused this significant archeological site to literally crumble. 


It is also greatly believed that there is a lot more funding needed to help to preserve and maintain the site otherwise, Pakistan’s “Moenjodaro” will face an uncertain future. 

Cyrus the Great Day:Common Ground for World Religions?


Kristin-S-portrait-2-239x300Article by: Kristin Swenson, Ph.D.

On Oct. 29, in 539 B.C., Cyrus II rode into Babylon (about 50 miles south of modern Baghdad), and ancient sources say that its conquered masses threw palm fronds at his feet. Among the people who witnessed his arrival were those who had been taken captive some 50 years earlier when the Babylonian empire swept through the Middle East, destroying nations and dragging captives back to Babylon. They included people from ancient Israel who had witnessed the destruction not only of their nation, Judah, but also of its temple in Jerusalem. “By the rivers of Babylon,” a biblical psalm laments, “we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion.”
Cyrus allowed those exiles to return home, to rebuild their communities and to reestablish their religious practices. Excerpt from Huffington Post

Happy Cyrus the Great Day


This year, the twenty-ninth day of October 2013, coincides with the annual celebration of “Cyrus the Great Day” by Iranian people and many friends of culture across the globe. In 2005, the Pasargad Heritage Foundation – the first international NGO for preservation of the cultural heritage of Iran- that introduced the idea. At the time, Cyrus’ mausoleum in Iran- a monument registered on the UNESCO’s world heritage list – was in danger of being inundated and eventually destroyed. However, the hard work of this Foundation and timely intervention of UNESCO, human rights activists and organizations removed the danger and led to a world-wide recognition of Cyrus’ seminal contribution to the survival of our common human civilization. Such recognition has been further evidenced by the exhibition of Cyrus cylinder in a number of museums in major cities in United States of America. 


October 29, the “Cyrus the Great Day” and the anniversary of the first declaration of human rights. Twenty six centuries ago, when savagery was the dominant factor in human societies, a civilized and compassionate declaration was written on clay and issued to the “four corners of the world”, addressing important issues relevant to human rights; the very same issues that today we face and could also inspire and mobilize those who believe in human dignity and rights. 

This document, known as “The Declaration of Cyrus the Great,” emphasized the removal of all racial discrimination and slavery, and bestowing to all people, freedom to choose their places of residence, and practice their own chosen faith and religion, therefore, attempting to create peace amongst all nations. This Declaration could actually be considered a present from the Iranian people to all humanity, expressed through the words of Cyrus, the founder of the first empire in the Iran. In 1971, the general assembly of the United Nations recognized this declaration as the first Declaration of Human Rights.

From savepasargad.com

The First Declaration of Human Rights


Cyrus12One of the significant events in ancient history is the conquest of Babylon by the Persian king, Cyrus the Great.

On October 4th, 539 BC, the Persian Army entered the city of Babylon, which was then the capital of the Babylonian state (in central Iraq). This was a bloodless campaign and no prisoners were taken. Later, on November 9th, King Cyrus of Persia visited the city. Babylonian history tells us that Cyrus was greeted by the people, who spread a pathway of green twigs before him as a sign of honor and peace (sulmu). Cyrus greeted all Babylonians in peace and brought peace to their city.

On this great event, Cyrus issued a declaration, inscribed on a clay barrel known as Cyrus’s inscription cylinder. It was discovered in 1879 by Hormoz Rassam in Babylon and today is kept in the British Museum. Many historians have reviewed it as the first declaration of human rights.

The Babylonian annals, as well as the first section of the Cyrus’ inscription, shed light on the religiopolitical plight that had angered the people of Babylon and why they invited Cyrus’s military campaign. Evidently, the Babyloninan king, Nabonidus, eliminated the festival of the new year and Nebo (one of the gods) was not brought into the city, and Bel (another god) was not taken in the procession of the festival. Also, the worship of Marduk, the king of the gods, was changed to an abomination and Nabonidus tormented the inhabitants with unbelievable oppression and forced labor. The sanctuaries of all their settlements were in ruins and the inhabitants of Sumer and Akkad had become like the living dead. Marduk, the king of the gods, scanned and searched for a righteous ruler, finally coming upon Cyrus’s good deeds and his upright mind and ordered him to march against the City of Babylon. The angry inhabitants of Akkad had revolted but were massacred by Nabonidus, who, upon his return to Babylon, was arrested, but nevertheless was treated with respect. When Nabonidus died in the year following, Cyrus participated in the national mourning time that was proclaimed for him. The gods of Akkad were then returned to their sacred cities. All the inhabitants of Sumer and Akkad, including princes and governors, greeted Cyrus as a master who brought them back from a living death. All who had been spared damage and disaster revered his very name.


Cyrus’s Declaration:

“I am Cyrus, the king of the world, great king, legitimate king (son of Cambyses) whose rule Bel and Nebo loved and whom they wanted as king to please their hearts.

“When I entered Babylon as a friend and established the seat of government in the place of the ruler under jubilation and rejoicing, Marduk, the great lord (induced) the magnanimous inhabitants of Babylon (Din Tir) (to love me) and I daily endeavored to praise him. My numerous troops walked around in Babylon in peace, I did not allow anybody to terrorize (any of the people) of the country of Sumer and Akkad. I strove for peace in Babylon (Ka Dingir ra) and in all his (other) sacred cities. As to the inhabitants of Babylon (who) against the will of the gods (had/were I abolished) the corvee (yoke) which was against their (social standing). I brought relief to their dilapidated housing, putting an end to their main complaints. Marduk, the great lord, was well pleased with my deeds and sent friendly blessing to myself, Cyrus, the King, who reveres him, to Cambyses, my son, as well as to all my troops, and we all (praised) his great (name) joyously, standing before him in peace I returned to (these) sacred cities on the other side of the Tigris, the sanctuaries of which have been ruins for a long time, the images which (used) to live therein and established for them permanent sanctuaries. I (also) gathered all their (former) inhabitants and returned (to them) their habitations. Furthermore, I resettled upon the command of Marduk, the great lord, all the gods of Sumer and Akkad who Nabonidus has brought to Babylon (su sa na) to the anger of the lord of the gods unharmed in their chapels, the places which make them happy.

May all the gods whom I have resettled in their sacred cities ask Bel and Nebo daily for a long life (six lines destroyed) and always with good words remember my good deeds that Babylonians incessantly cherished me because I resettled them in comfortable habitations I endeavored to strengthen the fortification of Imgur-Enlil and the great fortification of the City of Babylon the side brick wall by the city’s trench which the former king (had built and had not finished). This was finished around (the city), that none of the former kings, despite the labor of their yoked people, had not accomplished. I rebuilt and completed with tar and brick and installed large gates entrances were built by cedar wood covered with brass and copper pivot I strengthened all the gates I saw inscribed the name of my predecessor, King Ashurbanipal.”

On this historical turning point, by order of Cyrus, all the captive nationalities held as slaves for generations in Babylon were freed and the return to their homeland was financed. Among the liberated captives were 50,000 Jews held in Babylon for three generations whose return toward the rebuilding of their temple in Palestine, a policy that was followed by Darius and his successors. Some of the liberated Jews were invited to and did settle in Persia. Because of such a generous act, Cyrus has been anointed in the Bible. He is the only gentile in the Bible, who has been titled Messiah, an is mentioned explicitly as the Lord’s shepherd and his anointed (Messiah). Other references to Cyrus are attested in Isaiah 45:4 where Cyrus is called by name and given a title of honor; he is also called to rebuild the God’s city and free His people (Is. 45:13) and is chosen, called and brought successful by God (Is. 48:14-15).

What took place after the victory in Babylon was contrary to the standard of the time. Based on the inscriptions of the neighboring countries (Assyrians, Babylonians), it was customary to destroy the vanquished cities, level houses and temples, massacre the people or enslave the population, replace them with snakes, wolves and even carry away the soil to make the land barren. But here, peace and liberty replaced the massacre and slavery, and construction substituted for destruction. After Cyrus, his son Cambyses ruled for eight years (530BC to 522 BC) and captured Egypt, and as a sign of respect toward their culture and religion, he prostrated himself before the goddess, Meith and paid homage to Apis, the Egyptian totem (Bull).

After Cambyses, Darius took over the throne and ruled form 522BC to 486BC. From 518BC to 515BC he established peace and tranquility in Egypt and also paid homage to their totem, Apis. Darius, in his inscriptions, expresses faith in the commands of Ahuramazda. He declares “Whoever worships Ahuramazda, shall receive happiness in life and after death.” He calls Elamites faithless, and because they did not worship Ahuramazda, yet he does not pressure them to change faith. Darius exhorts his successors “thou shalt be king thereafter, protect yourself from the lies and punish the liar and deceitful.”

He entreats God’s grace for the protection of Persia against rancor, enemy, famine and the lie. At times he alludes to other gods that may either indicate the old Aryan gods who still had strong followings or the gods of other nations under his rule, for the display of reverence toward their religions.


A. Arfaee, The command of Cyrus the Great (in Persian), quoted the opinion of Sydney Smith.

Grayson, Assyrian and Babylonian chronicles, p110, dates the fall of Babylon on Oct. 12th and Cyrus’s entry on Oct 29th.

J. B. Pritchard, The ancient Near East, Vol. 1, 1958, p203.

A fragment in the Yale’s Babylon collection was identified in 1970 by P.R.Berger, the professor of Munster, Germany, as part of Cyrus’s cylinder that was transferred to the British Museum and added to the cylinder, who wrote in the journal of Assyrology (Zeiserrift fir Assiriologie), July 25, Vol. 64. The remainder of the text is quoted from A.

Arafaee, which was the missing portion kept in Yale University. Bible, 2 Chronicles 36:15-23
Bible, Ezra 1:1-11, Ezra 2:12-70
Bible, Ezra 7:8
Bible, Ezra 6:3-4-5
Bible, Ezra 7:15-25
Bible, Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1


Darius Jahanian, M.D. is an obstetrician-gynecologist in the Kansas City area, with degree from University of Tehran and Washington University, St. Louis. He is a co-founder and president of the Fravahar Zoroastrian Youth organization of Tehran. Darius served as trustee of the Rostam Guiv Trust of California 1981-89, is a trustee and VP of the Rostam Guiv Foundation of New York since 1990, and its president since 1992. He is a founder and two-term president of the Zoroastrian Association of Kansas. A noted author and lecturer on the Zoroastrian religion, Darius also teaches religion classes for children.

Source: Zoroastrianism and Biblical Connections

Ukraine’s World Heritage Site: Ancient City of Tauric Chersonese


Tauric ChersoneseLast month (Sep 2013) after two decades of research and gathering data by the Ukrainian and US archaeologists the ancient city of Tauric Chersonese and its Chora was granted World Heritage status by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

A port city founded by Greeks in the fifth century B.C., Chersonesos is the site of an excavation led since 1994 by Professor Joseph Carter, professor of classical archaeology and the director of the Institute of Classical Archaeology (ICA) at University of Texas, Austin.

According to UNESCO, the site features the remains of a city founded by Dorian Greeks in the 5th century BC on the northern shores of the Black Sea. It encompasses six component sites with urban remains and agricultural lands divided into several hundreds of chora, rectangular plots of equal size. The plots supported vineyards whose production was exported by the city which thrived until the 15th century. The site features several public building complexes and residential neighborhoods, as well as early Christian monuments alongside remains from Stone and Bronze Age settlements; Roman and medieval tower fortifications and water supply systems; and exceptionally well-preserved examples of vineyard planting and dividing walls. In the 3rd century AD, the site was known as the most productive wine center of the Black Sea and remained a hub of exchange between the Greek, Roman and Byzantine Empires and populations north of the Black Sea. It is an outstanding example of democratic land organization linked to an ancient polis, reflecting the city’s social organization.

The excavation was supported by David Packard and the Packard Humanities Institute (PHI), which contributed more than $12 million during a 12-year period to the project.

Lumbini: New Book of Photographs



Lumbini, Birthplace of Buddha is a new and joint publication of UNESCO and the Paris-based NGO Oriental Cultural Heritage Sites Protection Alliance.  The effort brought together eight photographers: three from Nepal and five from around the world who used their vision to capture the uniqueness of this World Heritage Site which has long been a sacred place for many pilgrims.  The result is a collection of over two hundred photographs depicting seven distinct themes of knowledge, beliefs, people, nature, spaces and dangers. Each theme is introduced by a short text written by national and international personalities affiliated with Lumbini. The national launch for Lumbini, Birthplace of Buddha will be in Kathmandu on 31 October, 2013, followed by a planned international unveiling at the U.N. Headquarters in New York in the spring of 2014.

Lumbini, set in the fertile plains of Nepal’s Terai region, was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1997, and is universally regarded as the place where Buddha was born.  As one of the most sacred sites significant to Buddha’s life and path to enlightenment, the Sacred Garden of Lumbini has been a center of pilgrimage for devout followers from as early as the 3rd century B.C.

Myanmar’s Long Struggle for World Heritage Status


bagan1The ancient city of Bagan, Burma or Myanmar, has re-submitted an application to UNESCO to receive World Heritage status. In 1996 Myanmar nominated eight properties for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. However, not a single one has been accepted yet. While these sites remain on UNESCO’s tentative list, Myanmar is considering UNESCO’s suggested improvements, working towards building heritage sites founded upon stable and effective conservation and preservation strategies.

The territory where Bagan lies stretches over a 26-square-miles plain which encompasses bagan2over 3,000 temples, monasteries and pagodas. For several centuries (from the 9th to the 13th century), the area was the capital city of a kingdom that consolidated and controlled most of modern-day Myanmar, and served as a hub of Buddhist scholarship.
In 1975, a major earthquake destroyed many of Bagan’s crumbling structures and the governing junta began a campaign of reconstruction which was poorly done without much attention to heritage reconstruction standards and techniques. In fact, the government even commissioned the construction of new monuments within the designated historical zone. Although the restoration of the site provoked international criticism, many locals see the refurbishment as a necessity to accommodate Bagan’s function as a living and breathing Buddhist pilgrimage site.

The ruling military junta changed its name from Burma to Myanmar in 1989, a year after thousands were killed in the suppression of a popular uprising. Rangoon also became Yangon. The Adaptation of Expression Law also introduced English language names for other towns, some of which were not ethnically Burmese. The change was recognized by the United Nations, and by countries such as France and Japan, but not by the United States and the UK.

bagan3Myanmar has been extremely politically isolated and as a result until recently only had received very little aid and technical assistance from the outside world. However, the situation has changed over the last few years with new international investment and even a trip by President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Myanmar in November 2012.  At the same time, the internal ethnic conflicts and tensions have resulted in the ongoing destruction of Muslim sites and mistreatment of minorities.

Many experts are now calling for this recent bid to be accepted by UNESCO bringing attention and much needed help for Myanmar’s heritage sites.