FĀRS v. Monuments

The founder of the Sasanian empire, Ardašīr I (224-40), shifted the seat of power to the newly founded Ardašīr Ḵorra (Fīrūzābād), a circular city with palaces that are still preserved. His successor, Šāpūr I, built Bīšāpūr as his capital. Nevertheless, Eṣṭaḵr remained the most important city of Fārs until Shiraz surpassed it after the Islamic conquest in the 7th century.



v. Monuments

Prehistoric period. Only a few of the countless prehistoric mounds in the mountain valleys of Fārs have been investigated by archeologists; most of their activities have been concentrated on the Marvdašt plain, the heartland of Fārs: at Tall-e Bākūn (Langsdorff and McCown), Tall-e Darvāza (see DARVĀZA TEPE), Tall-e Jarī, Tall-e Gāp, Tall-e Moškī, Tall-e Teymūrān, Tall-e Šoḡā (Vanden Berghe, 1954; Sono, 1967; Nicol, 1970, pp. 19, 37; Fukai et al.; Egami et al.), Tall-e Noḵodī at Pasargadae (Goff), and Tall-e Rīgī at Fīrūzābād (q.v.; Stein, 1936, pp. 127 ff.). The vast ruin field at Tall-e Malīān (Malyān) on the northwestern Marvdašt plain is of outstanding importance, as it proved to be the site of the ancient city of Anshan (q.v.), center of the kingdom of Anshan, a component of the Elamite kingdom from the 3rd millennium B.C.E.; it encompassed approximately the same territory as the later Persian Pārs. Apart from Elamite strata with monumental mud-brick architecture, excavations also revealed remains of Parthian and Sasanian occupations (Sumner; Nicholas). Traces of Elamite rock reliefs under and beside the relief of the Sasanian Bahrām II (274-93) at Naqš-e Rostam on the eastern edge of the plain and the impressive adoration reliefs at Kūrāngūn high on a wall of the Fahlīān valley (Seidel) are the most conspicuous remains of that period in Fārs; most Elamite rock reliefs are in the westernmost ranges of the Zagros (Vanden Berghe, 1983).

A characteristic group of monuments is the cairn burials, which are also found in the neighboring eastern provinces. Their abundance and distribution have not yet been fully recognized, and, as they have scarcely been studied, their ethnic and cultural-religious context is unclear. They seem to have been used or reused until Sasanian times, but opinions about their dates of origin vary from the 3rd millennium B.C.E. until the late Iron Age (Boucharlat, 1989).

Achaemenid period. The most striking archeological monuments not only in Fārs but also in all Persia date from the Achaemenid period (559-331 B.C.E.), when the dynasty of this province ruled the most powerful empire in Persian history. Its founder, Cyrus the Great (see CYRUS iii; 559-30 B.C.E.), built his residence at Parsagadae, on the Morḡāb plain; it consisted of a fortress or palace platform now known as Taḵt-e Mādar-e Solaymān; an adjoining mud-brick fortification; and palace buildings set in a large, irrigated park. Cyrus’ impressive freestanding tomb is located some distance to the southwest (see CYRUS v). The function of the tower-like Zendān-e Solaymān near the platform is still debated; the so-called “sacred precinct,” with its two stone podiums farther west, has been tentatively identified as a place for royal fire worship (Stronach, 1978).

Darius I (q.v.; 522-486 B.C.E.) built a new residence, Persepolis, ca. 80 km southwest of Pasargadae, in the lower and more fertile Marvdašt plain (PLATE I). The ensemble of the platform, today called Taḵt-e Jamšīd, with its ruined columned halls decorated with reliefs; the adjoining fortification; and palatial, administrative, and cult buildings below the platform represents a considerably enriched but much more concentrated variation of the layout at Pasargadae (Schmidt, I; Tilia; Tajwīdī). Traces of Achaemenid palaces and engineering constructions were found in and around the plain (Tilia; Kleiss), whereas few have been found in other areas of Fārs, for example, at Borāzjān (q.v.; Sarfaraz) and Fahlīān/Jīn o Jīn (Atarashi and Horiuchi). The Elamite site of Naqš-e Rostam became a royal necropolis after Darius had created the type of the Achaemenid rock tomb, with its characteristic cross-shaped facade decorated with a standard design of reliefs. Other royal tombs were cut into Kūh-e Raḥmat (Schmidt, III, pp. 99 ff.; Kleiss and Calmeyer; Boucharlat, 1979). Taḵt-e Rostam near Naqš-e Rostam seems to be a ruined copy of the tomb of Cyrus; another deteriorated replica, Gūr-e Doḵtar, stands in the Bozpār (q.v.) valley south of Kāzerūn (Stronach, 1978, pp. 300 ff.). The enigmatic Kaʿba-ye Zardošt in front of the cliff at Naqš-e Rostam is a copy of the Zendān-e Solaymān at Pasargadae; it bears the later carved trilingual inscription of Šāpūr I (240-70 C.E.; Schmidt, III, pp. 15 ff.; Back, pp. 289 ff.).

Hellenistic and Parthian periods (331 B.C.E.-224 C.E.). Among the rare finds of the Hellenistic and Parthian periods in Fārs are the life-sized heads of a male statue from the Malīān area (Kawami, p. 222) and a statuette of Aphrodite from Fasā (Stein, p. 140); the so-called “Frataraka reliefs” from Persepolis (Schmidt, I, pp. 51, 56); and the singular rock relief at Qīr (Huff, 1984). Most surviving Parthian rock sculptures have been found in the neighboring western province of ancient Elymaïs (Vanden Berghe and Schippmann).

Eṣṭaḵr, near Naqš-e Rostam, developed into the capital of Fārs in this period, though excavations have not yet provided clear results (Whitcomb, 1979). Little is known about Parthian Dārābgerd (see Dārāb ii); Fasā, where late imitations of Achaemenid column bases were found (Stein, 1936, pp. 137 ff.; Hansmann; Pohanka); and Bayżā (q.v.) near Malīān, residence of the pre-Sasanian petty kings of Fārs (Huff, 1991a). Excavations at Qaṣr-e Abū Naṣr, ancient Shiraz, have uncovered mostly Sasanian layers (Whitcomb, 1985). A number of rock-cut chamber tombs, their facades clearly reflecting in various ways the nearby royal Achaemenid tombs, are datable before the Sasanian period: for example, those with dentate moldings at Eṣṭaḵr, the higher ones at Aḵor-e Rostam (von Gall), and Dā o Doḵtar (q.v.) near Kūpān (for later examples, see below). Some of the rulers of this period left incised portraits on the walls of the “Harem” at Persepolis (Sāmī, tr., pp. 270 ff.; Calmeyer).

Sasanian period. The founder of the Sasanian empire, Ardašīr I (q.v.; 224-40), shifted the seat of power to the newly founded Ardašīr Ḵorra (Fīrūzābād; qq.v.), a circular city with palaces that are still preserved. His successor, Šāpūr I, built Bīšāpūr (q.v.) as his capital; a number of monuments are preserved there. Never theless, Eṣṭaḵr remained the most important city of Fārs until Shiraz surpassed it after the Islamic conquest in the 7th century. Ardašīr’s enthronement reliefs at Fīrūzābād, Naqš-e Rajab, and Naqš-e Rostam were the first in a series of rock reliefs that are generally reckoned the most splendid testaments of Sasanian royal art (Schmidt, III, pp. 122 ff.; Splendeur, pp. 71 ff.). With few exceptions all are in Fārs; eight are at Naqš-e Rostam, most of them carved below the Achaemenid tombs (Herrmann, 1977-89) and three more at nearby Naqš-e Rajab (Hinz, pp. 115 ff.). At Bīšāpūr (Herrmann, 1980-83) there are six reliefs and a larger-than-life-sized statue of Šāpūr I. Smaller groups or single reliefs are located at Dārāb, Sar Mašhad (Trümpelmann), Gūyom (Schmidt, III, p. 134), Sarāb-e Bahrām, Sarāb-e Qandīl (Herrmann, 1983), and Barm-e Delak (q.v.; Hinz, pp. 217 ff.). All are of the early Sasanian period, before the reign of Šāpūr II (309-79). Aside from inscriptions accompanying reliefs, major Pahlavi inscriptions occur at Ḥājīābād and Tang-e Borāqī (Gropp, in Hinz, pp. 229 ff.; Back, pp. 372 ff.).

The Eṣṭaḵr area is the center of a diverse group of Sasanian funerary monuments. The lower rock-cut chamber tombs at Aḵor-e Rostam (see above) and one at Kūh-e Ayyūb are probably Sasanian ossuaries (astōdāns, q.v.; Stronach, 1978, p. 304; Huff, 1988; idem, 1991a). Christian chamber tombs of the period are particularly frequent on Ḵārg island but also occur in Fārs proper (Haerinck; Huff, 1989). Most niche astōdāns, representing a reduced type of chamber tomb, are concentrated in the mountains around Naqš-e Rostam. They are dated to the late Sasanian and early Islamic periods by funerary (daḵma) inscriptions on some of the slightly decorated or undecorated facades. Identical inscriptions on rock-cut troughs, the majority in the same area, identify the latter as coffin or box astōdāns, more or less contemporary with the chambers and niches (Huff, 1988, pp. 164 ff.).

A number of monuments generally regarded as fire temples, like the Nūrābād tower (Huff, 1975), or fire altars, like the twin monuments at Naqš-e Rostam and examples at Kūh-e Šahrak, Darra-ye Barra (q.v.), Tang-e Karam (Vanden Berghe, 1959, pp. 24 ff.; Stronach, 1966; PLATE II), Qanāṭ-e Bāḡ, and Pangān are more probably elaborate reliquary astōdāns, formerly closed by vaulted or domed lids (Vanden Berghe, 1984a; Huff, 1992; idem, in press; Splendeur, pp. 60 ff.). The impressive rock-cut cemeteries of Sīrāf are mostly of Islamic date, though excavation of a Sasanian fort at the site proves the importance of this early center of maritime trade (Whitehouse; Tampoe; PLATE III; PLATE IV).

The čahārṭāq (q.v.), a building with a central domed square, is especially common between Dārāb and Bīšāpūr but also occurs as far north as Yazd-e Ḵᵛāst (see ARCHITECTURE iii; Schippmann, pp. 82 ff.; Vanden Berghe, 1984b). Major examples like those at Konār Sīāh and Tang-e Čakčak (Vanden Berghe, 1961, pp. 175 ff.) seem to have been Sasanian fire temples, but some may have been Zoroastrian sanctuaries of the Islamic period or even Islamic mausolea. The date and function of the so-called “Sasanian palace” near Sarvestān, one of the most famous monuments in Fārs, are also under discussion; its layout does not correspond to that of a palace, and its advanced architectural forms and decoration seem to belong after the Sasanian period (Bier).

Among the innumerable mountain fortresses Qalʿa-ye Doḵtar at Fīrūzābād, the medieval Qalʿa-ye Gabrī near Fasā, Qalʿa-ye Doḵtar near Eṣṭahbānāt, Qalʿa-ye Safīd near Fahlīān, and Šahr-e Īj (Stein, 1936, pp. 122 ff.; idem, 1940, pp. 27 ff.) are of special historical and architectural importance (PLATE V).

Islamic period. There is a rather limited number of Islamic monuments in Fārs that are of art-historical interest over a broader area, particularly mausolea and mosques of the 10th-15th centuries: for example, at Abarqūh, Dārāb, Īj, Ḵonj, Neyrīz, Sarvestān, Shiraz, and Sūrīān. There are also noteworthy caravansaries and bridges (qq.v.), as well as palaces and gardens of the Zand (1163-1209/1750-94) and Qajar (1193-1342 /1779-1924) periods, mainly in Shiraz. During these later periods the art of rock carving was revived at Shiraz and Kāzerūn (Gropp; Matheson; Mostafavi; Wilber, 1955; idem, 1972; Sami).


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(Dietrich Huff)

Originally Published: December 15, 1999

Last Updated: January 24, 2012

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Vol. IX, Fasc. 4, pp. 351-356