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Title: The Funerary Landscape between Naqš-e Rostam and Estaḫr (Persepolis Region)
Subtitle: Discovery of a New Group of Late Sasanian Inscribed Rock-Cut Niches
Author(s): CERETI, Carlo G. , GONDET, Sébastien
Journal: Iranica Antiqua
Volume: 50    Date: 2015   
Pages: 367-403
DOI: 10.2143/IA.50.0.3053526

Abstract :
During surveys over the southern part of the Kuh-e Hossein range and east of Naqš-e Rostam, a group of three pairs of rock-cut niches (two unfinished) was found at the foot of high cliffs rising above the foothills in 2012. Next to the niches nine engraved inscriptions were discovered. A year later an epigraphic study was carried out in order to decipher the Middle Persian texts. These rock-cut niches are in line with previously documented inscribed funerary remains in the surroundings of the historical city of Estaḫr: the inscriptions depict them as daḫmag. Less than 1 m in size, they should most probably be interpreted as ossuaries or cavities cut in the rock to shelter mobile ossuaries. The style of script suggests dating these funerary remains back to a period no earlier than the 7th century AD, most probably during the early decades of Islamic domination. These new tombs enhance our knowledge of the rich funerary landscape along the southern Kuh-e Hossein foothills, where we are able to distinguish various types of burial remains, some of which probably organized into cemeteries and/or necropoleis. This rocky environment also offers a wealth of other archaeological features like numerous ancient quarries which were widely reused to carve rock-cut niches and cists (i.e. funeral pits). The quarry and funerary/ritual landscapes are closely interconnected in such a way that the south part of Kuh-e Hossein offers eloquent evidence of the important and evolving symbolic value of the mountain, often connected to the divine power for Zoroastrians. For the future, we are convinced that careful and intensive fieldwork focusing on the reliefs could help us to tackle some of the challenging archaeological questions remaining unanswered in the Fārs Province, and particularly how funerary customs evolved through the ages, an aspect on which we still have a lot to learn.

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