Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ganjnameh


Ganjnameh is an ancient inscription, 5 kilometers southwest of Hamedan, into a rockface on the side of Alvand Mountain in Hamedan province. It sits along the ancient Imperial Road, connecting the Achaemenid capital Ecbatana to Babylonia. It was thus a safe and frequently traveled road and had much visibility during the Achaemeniad period. The inscriptions were first studied in detail by the French painter and archaeologist Eugene Flandin during the 19th century. Subsequently Sir Henry Rawlinson, a British explorer, used the inscriptions to decipher the cuneiform characters of the era. This ancient site is in the vicinity of a natural waterfall, adding to the beauty of the scene.



 The inscription, which has been carved in granite, is composed of two sections which describe the conquests of two Achaemenid Kings, Darius (521-485 BC) on the left and his son Xerxes (485-65 BC) on the right. Both sections have been carved in three ancient languages of Old Persian, Neo-Babylonian and Neo-Elamite and consist of three columns of twenty lines. They start with praise of Ahura Mazda and describe the lineage and deeds of the mentioned Kings.


The two inscriptions are almost identical other than the fact that the name of Xerxes has replaced that of Darius and some other slight revisions. The left plate, attributed to Darius, is positioned slightly higher than the right plate and measures 290 centimeters across and 190 centimeters tall. The right plate is just as tall but slightly shorter in width, spanning 270 centimeters. Its translation reads:

"The Great God [is] Ahuramazda, greatest of all the gods, who created the earth and the sky and the people; who made Xerxes king, and outstanding king as outstanding ruler among innumerable rulers; I [am] the great king Xerxes, king of kings, king of lands with numerous inhabitants, king of this vast kingdom with far-away territories, son of the Achaemenid monarch Darius."




 The later generations who could not read the Cuneiform alphabets of the ancient Persian assumed that they contained the guide to an uncovered treasure; hence they called it Ganjnameh which literally means "treasure book", but it has also been called Jangnameh meaning "war book", possibly due to the wrong assumption that the inscriptions described ancient wars of the Achaemenid era. Surrounding the inscriptions are small holes, possibly indicating that there used to be some form of covering to protect the inscriptions from natural elements such as wind and rain. Today two new carved tablets have been placed in the site's parking lot with Persian explanation and its English translation.


Unfortunately, this archeological site is in danger while no protection is sought. Today restaurants and entertainment centers constructed in the vicinity of Ganjnameh have changed the historic atmosphere of this ancient site and endangered the cultural and natural landscape of the area. Adding to these existing problems is the construction of a cable car nearby.