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Zoroastrianism-Related Archaeology

Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program
Lee, Hwee Jun
Term Paper, AP World History Class, June 2012

Table of Contents
I. Introduction
II. Definition & Scope of Interest
II.1 Definition : Related
II.2 Definition : Archaeology
II.3 Scope of Interest & Organization of Paper
III. Zoroastrianism
III.1 History of Zoroastrianism
III.2 Zoroastrian Theology
III.3 Religious Influence of Zoroastrianism
IV. Archaeology of the Median Empire
IV.1 Structures
IV.2 Analysis
V. Archaeology of the Achaemenid Empire
V.1 Structures
V.2 Writings
V.3 Artifacts
V.4 Analysis
VI. Archaeology of the Parthian Empire
VI.1 Structures
VI.2 Writings
VI.3 Analysis
VII. Archaeology of the Sassanid Empire
VII.1 Structures
VII.2 Writings
VII.3 Artifacts
VII.4 Analysis
VIII. Archaeology of Zoroastrianism in China
VIII.1 Structures
VIII.2 Writings
VIII.3 Artifacts
VIII.4 Analysis
IX. Archaeology of Zoroastrianism in Post-Islamization Iran
IX.1 Background
IX.2 Structures
IX.3 Analysis
X. Archaeology of Zoroastrianism in India
X.1 Background
X.2 Structures
X.3 Analysis
XI. Conclusion

I. Introduction
            Despite its current lack of prominence in the world, the religion of Zoroastrianism has played an indispensable role throughout history. The religious ideas and beliefs of Zoroastrianism have significantly affected later religions, and as the main religion of the Persian Empire, Zoroastrianism has left its influences over the wide domain of the empire and subsequently in other areas as well. Consequently the religion has left its vestiges in archaeological relics, and taking into consideration the much reduced importance of Zoroastrianism, archaeology is a major source from which information on Zoroastrianism can be attained.

II. Definition & Scope of Interest

II.1 Definition : Related
            The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary gives the definition for the word "related" as "connected by reason of an established or discoverable relation." (1) However, the mentioned relation can be ambiguous and open to subjective interpretation - at most, the religion can be said to permeate the whole of society and archaeology, thereby making all archaeology relevant to the topic at hand. Thus, in this paper, the "relation" implies to a direct connection. For instance, tombs, which reflect religious beliefs of death and afterlife, temples and religious artifacts will be dealt with.

II.2 Definition : Archaeology
            According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the term "archaeology" is defined as "remains of the culture of a people" (2); "culture" means "the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life} shared by people in a place or time." (3) This paper adopts this definition of archaeology as the remains of the lifestyles of people of a particular time and place.

II.3 Scope of Interest & Organization of Paper
            Archaeology is a comprehensive field. The subject of archaeology is not confined to the commonly known study of relics, buildings, etc., but deal with other particular aspects as well - for instance, the archaeological sub-discipline of music archaeology takes interest in the music of a particular community, while paleoethnobotany studies cultivated plants. This paper restricts archaeology to the study of material, tangible and nonorganic remains, both in written and non-written forms.
            Geographically, the paper is inevitably confined to the areas in which Zoroastrianism held a position prominent enough to influence the archaeology of the region. This includes the territory which had been acquired by the Persian Empire - the Arabian Peninsula, Central Asia, and a portion of Africa, concentrated especially around the area of modern-day Iran; India, in which the Parsi community formed after Zoroastrians relocated there in order to flee persecution after the Islamization of the abovementioned area, and; parts of China to where Zoroastrianism had spread to through exchange. (4)
            This paper will first give general information on the religion, and then it will be organized by geographical location and time. For the territories of the Persian Empire, the relevant time period will be from 6th - century B.C., when Zoroastrianism is believed to have been founded (5), to the Islamization of Iran. Thus the paper will be divided into the archaeology of the Median, Achaemenid, and Parthian Empires. The Seleucid Empire, in which Zoroastrianism was heavily oppressed, is omitted. Archaeology in China will be discussed. Then the post-Islamization archaeology of Iran and the Parsi community of India will be dealt with, separately. (6) III. Zoroastrianism

III.1 History of Zoroastrianism
            Zoroastrianism developed from the cults of the proto-Indo-Iranians, but took a form similar to the religion today with the teachings of the prophet Zarathustra, or Zoroaster, as was known to the people of ancient Greece (7). It is an ongoing dispute as to when Zoroaster lived, and the hypothesized dates of Zoroaster's life spans the length of almost 6000 years, from 6000 B.C. to 100 B.C. (8) Bruce Lincoln states, "At present, the majority opinion among scholars probably inclines toward the end of the second millennium or the beginning of the first, although there are still those who hold for a date in the seventh century." (9) Boyce argues that "Zoroaster lived some time between 1700 and 1500 B.C." (10); Humbach and Ichaporia present the dates 1080 B.C. and 630 B.C. (11); other sources cite 6th century B.C. as the viable time period (12).
            Histories by Herodotus, and archaeological evidence, suggest that the Median Empire played a significant role in the spread of Zoroastrianism. It is thought that the Magi, who were the priests of the Median Empire, were of Zurvanism, a branch of Zoroastrianism, and as Boyce contends, it is probable that "it was during this epoch that Zoroastrianism spread rapidly among the western Iranians." (13) Zoroastrianism developed hugely during the Achaemenid Empire, when it served as the official religion of the empire. Many concepts and ideas of the religion were organized, and it was during this period when many Zoroastrian sacred texts were written. Then with the Persian invasion by Alexander the Great in 330 B.C., the Seleucid Empire succeeded, and forced cities in its territory to adopt Hellenistic thoughts and religions. Little is known about Zoroastrianism during this period. The Parthian Empire, which followed, had as its religion Syncretic Helleno-Zoroastrianism, but Zoroastrianism was not oppressed, and at times, even encouraged. However, little is known about Zoroastrianism in this period as well. During the Sassanid Empire Zoroastrianism was declared state religion, and especially, Zurvanism received state support. Due to the conquest of Iran by the Caliphate, the Sassanid Empire fell in 644, and Zoroastrianism was suppressed. For instance, numerous Zoroastrian priests were put to death, temples were demolished, and religious texts were burned. Zoroastrians fled persecution by relocating to places such as Kerman in Iran, or Gujarat in western India. (14) The latter group formed the Parsi communities.
            Meanwhile, prior to the 6th century A.D., the religion had spread through the Silk Road to Chinese cities where it had become a substantial religion until its decline by the 13th century.

III.2 Zoroastrian Theology
            Contrary to popular thought, Zoroastrianism is not a religion that worships fire. Although a source of debate among scholars as to whether it is the first, there is general agreement on the fact that Zoroastrianism is one of the earliest monotheistic religions, which worships a deity named Ahura Mazda. The monotheistic quality of Zoroastrianism can be ascribed to Zoroaster, the prophet to whom the name of the religion is attributed to. Before the teachings of Zoroaster, in the proto-Indo-Iranian beliefs, there were three "lords" who were the subjects of worship : Mithra, Apam Napat (Varuna), and Ahura Mazda. Of the three, Ahura Mazda was denoted the Lord of Wisdom and more revered than Mithra, the lord who was related to compacts and covenants, and or Varuna, the lord associated with solemn oaths (15). However, in his teachings in the Gathas, the seventeen sacred hymns of the Zend-Avesta written by himself (16), Zoroaster widened the distinction in proclaiming Ahura Mazda as the sole God (17). Ahura Mazda was venerated as the Creator of "everything that can and cannot be seen, the Eternal, the Pure and the only Truth." (18) Ahura Mazda is considered the source of all goodness, and ascribed qualities such as being omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent (19). The first mention of the Ahura Mazda as the Creator in the Gathas, excluding the commencement, appears in Yasna 28, Verse 2: "O Mazda Ahura (Lord of Wisdom and Creator of Life)."
            In Zoroastrianism, the elements fire and water, which the cosmogony states are among the first elements to have been created, play important roles. Its origins can be found in the proto-Indo-Iranian cult from which the religion developed. In the proto-Indo-Iranian cult, water and fire were personified as the goddess Apas and the god Atar, respectively, to which libations, or "zaothra," were made, using sacred ingredients (20). Also, the ahuras Varuna and Mithra were associated with water and fire, respectively, in ordeals people underwent for violation of pledges, and this led to the ascension of water and fire as symbols of purity. Fire is considered the medium through which wisdom and spiritual insight can be acquired, whereas water is considered the origin of that wisdom6. Of the two, especially fire became the representation of the light of Ahura Mazda and the illuminated mind (21), the supreme symbol of purity. In Yasna 51, it is stated: "Thy Blazing Divine Fire." (22) Sacred fires are maintained in Fire Temples, of which there are many, and all Zoroastrian rituals and ceremonies are consequently accompanied by the presence of fire. This has led to the misconception that Zoroastrian reverence is directed towards fire itself.
            In asserting that Ahura Mazda is the one true God, Zoroaster did not discredit the status of beings such as Varuna and Mithra as divine deities. In fact, there are many. The most prominent of these divine beings, aside from Ahura Mazda himself, are the six Holy Immortals, or the Amesha Spentas. The Amesha Spentas are beings that assist Ahura Mazda, and reflect the divine spiritual attributes of God: Vohu Manah (good mind and good purpose), Asha Vahishta (truth and righteousness), Spenta Ameraiti (holy devotion, serenity and loving kindness), Khashathra Vairya (power and just rule), Hauravatat (wholeness and health), and Ameretat (long life and immortality) (23). First mention of the Amesha Spentas in the Gathas is in Yasna 28 (24). There are also lesser deities called yazatas, two of which are Varuna and Mithra.
            One of the most important ideas that permeates the whole of Zoroastrianism is duality, the fight between good and evil. In Zoroastrian theology, there is a clear distinction between good and evil. Ahura Mazda, an all-good God created the world, and thus every creation of Ahura Mazda is good. The term "asha", which denotes the natural laws and phenomena of the universe, corresponds to goodness and to Ahura Mazda. However, Zoroastrian teachings explain that there is an opposing, evil force called Angra Mainyu. Angra Mainyu is neither a God nor a creation of Ahura Mazda, but a destructive spirit which originally resided outside the universe. Zoroastrianism teaches that following the creation of the universe, Angra Mainyu created evil counterparts for all of Ahura Mazda's creation and invaded the universe. However, it was unable to exit, and thus the universe has become a battleground between Spenta Mainyu - the good will of Ahura Mazda - and Angra Mainyu, more often referred to as the battle between Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu.
            Asha also refers to moral actions of humans which are in accordance with the will of Ahura Mazda. This indicates the Zoroastrian belief that the battle between good and evil have a moralistic side to it. According to Zoroastrianism, humans are given free will to choose between good and evil, or asha and druj, for instance, in Yasna 31 Verse 9. Zoroastrianism believes that humans are inherently good and eventually when among humans good triumphs over evil, Ahura Mazda will also triumph over Angra Mainyu. It foretells a final battle between good and evil, when the savior Saoshyant (25) will lead humans to the victory of goodness.
            Zoroastrians believe in an underworld. When a person dies, rituals and offerings are made for the person. The corpses of the dead are considered foul and evil, as death itself is believed to be the evil counterpart of life, and the body is seen as the host for decay and druj. Therefore the traditional method of dealing with the dead is through exposure of the corpse to the sun and vultures, or embalmed and lay the bodies in rock tombs, especially those encased with lime mortar, as the purity laws stated that stones were impenetrable by the impurities of the corpses. The former was mentioned by Herodotus as early as 5th century B.C.; the latter was carried out by the kings of the three Persian dynasties. Although sometimes carried out today, cremation was originally denounced as polluting the sacred fire. However, the concept of reincarnation is rejected. Instead, Zoroastrians believe in judgment day, as in Yasna 51 Verse 13: "The followers of untruth distort the thoughts of seekers of truth indeed, and make their faith shaky, but over the Judgment-Bridge and on the day of resurrection their souls shall rebuke them openly for their bad deeds and words, and for their deviation from truth." It is believed that when the battle between good and evil is over, the dead will be resurrected, and all humans will cross the Judgment-Bridge, when their actions during life will determine whether they will be directed to heaven or hell.
            Zoroaster required two rituals of the followers of the religion. First was five mandatory prayers per day, performed in the presence of a sacred fire. The other was seven annual festivals which composed of religious services dedicated to Ahura Mazda and feasting. The most significant of the rituals is the No Ruz, or the "New Day" service.

III.3 Religious Influence of Zoroastrianism
            One of the first monotheistic religions, the Zoroastrian idea of a single God was a novel one. Zoroastrianism most significantly influenced Judaism, and consequently the Islamic religion and Christianity as well, as they all descend from the same root and worship the identical God.
            Important contact and interaction between the Zoroastrians and the Judeans occurred at the time of Cyrus the Great. Upon conquering Babylonia in 539-538 B.C., Cyrus the Great granted to Judeans, who had been forcibly ushered into Babylon by the Babylonian king some 60 years earlier, the freedom to return to Jerusalem and construct their temples. The Judeans remained under Persian protection for some time, during which the exchange of religion flourished. Judaism incorporated into its own beliefs the new Zoroastrian ideas and adopted specific stories.
            The most influential Zoroastrian idea was that of a unique, benevolent God. The Judean belief of one almighty God came from its Zoroastrian counterpart, which preceded chronologically. Numerous other similarities between beliefs can be perceived: the struggle between God and Satan, similar to the continuing fight between Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu; the idea of a Judgment Day, present in both religions; the existence of a savior to lead mankind to goodness; angels and archangels, analogous to the yazatas and Amesha Spentas, and others.

IV. Archaeology of the Median Empire

IV.1 Structures
            Not much is known about the Median Empire. Not only did the archaeological studies of this time period commence only in the 1960s, comparatively later than those of other empires that succeeded it, but it is also a difficult matter to clearly distinguish the remnants of the Median Empire, as Median and non-Median aspects have subsequently been merged. What little excavations have been carried out are primarily centered around the "Median triangle." The Median triangle is a triangular area connecting the three cities of Ecbatana (the capital city of the Median Empire, now known as Hamadan), Malayer, and Kangavar.
            To the west of Malayer is located Tepe Nush-i Jan (Tepe Nush-e Jan), the almost unique, decisively Median Zoroastrianism-related archaeological site thought to have been constructed between 750 and 550 B.C. (26) Four main structures constitute the excavation : two temples (central and western), a fort, and a columned hall. Of the four, the two temples had religious functions; the fort is believed to have served the function of a storehouse and residential unit (27), and the columned hall seems to have been a mere hallway of passage. Mainly, almost exclusively, employed in the construction of the Tepe Nush-i Jan were mud bricks. Stone was hardly used, and instead mud bricks of standardized dimensions, together with plaster, formed most of the structure, including curves. The external walls display narrow windows and arrow slots. This architectural system of the usage of brick and plaster became primary in the dry regions of the area. Wood was also used, most internally, but in varying degrees in the four structures. While in the columned hall, wood was used to a great amount; in the others, it was employed to compose the lintels of doors (28).
            The central temple, more than 30 meters high, was constructed on what was "at first a bare, steep-sided rock outcrop." (29) There is a single entrance, and inside the temple are located an antechamber, an upper room which is connected by a ramp, and a very tall triangular sanctuary. The altar was positioned inside the sanctuary. It was about 85 centimeters high, and a shallow bowl at the center of its broad fiat top was used to hold the sacred fire required for rituals (30). This is an important archaeological evidence in the assertion of the Zoroastrian importance in the Median Empire. The temple on the western side of the Tepe Nush-i Jan had an internal structure similar to the central one - an antechamber, an upper room also connected via a ramp, and a main room where the altar of similar size had been held - but was distinguished by its orientation and lack of symmetry.
            At Tepe Nush-i Ja were excavated pottery and ceramics, classified into mainly four distinctive products, and also spiral beads and silver products such as pendants, earrings, and coils (31). These artifacts reflected the existence of a residential district within the site.

IV.2 Analysis
            It is difficult to analyze the archaeology of the Median Empire in terms of religion, partly because the artifacts and buildings that remain are scarce, and partly because the religion itself is not yet fully established. Nonetheless, it is definite that what is left from the Median Empire show characteristics that are in accordance with Zoroastrianism - or at least a form of primitive stages of Zoroastrianism, such as the presence of fire holders in temples, possibly having drawn from the pre-Zoroastrian cult of the proto-Indo-Iranians.

V. Archaeology of the Achaemenid Empire

V.1 Structures
            Darius I the Great was buried in the side of a mountain. His tomb was cut into the rock at the side of a mountain located northwest of Persepolis, as were the tombs of three of his descendants, into which the sarcophaguses of the corpses were inserted. This burial site of the four emperors of the Achaemenid Empire is known as Naqsh-e Rustam (Naqsh-i Rustam), or the Necropolis.
            The tombs are positioned at a considerable height, over ten meters, in the cliff. The facade of the tombs are shaped like crosses, thus giving it the nickname "Persian crosses" by which the local residents refer to the site 32. At the middle part of the crosses are the entrances that lead to the burial chamber, and around the entrances are relief engravings resembling that of the front of the palace at Persepolis in terms of form and dimensions (33). In the case of the tomb of Darius is an inscription that shows the Zoroastrian beliefs of Darius the Great, which begins with the lines " A great god is Ahuramazda, who created this excellent thing which is seen, who created happiness for man, who set wisdom and capability down upon King Darius." (34)
            Above the door in the upper part of the facades are sculptures. Boyce gives the description: "(ellipsis) the king is... apparently in prayer. He faces a fire... The scene is framed by narrow panels, in which six figures are set... who thus stand on either side of the Great King as the six Amesha Spentas stand... hovering between king and fire, is carved what has come to be regarded (through its revival in modern times) as the characteristic Zoroastrian symbol." (35) Again in the case of Darius's tomb, behind the king is another inscription which commences: "A great god is Ahuramazda, who created this earth, who created yonder sky, who created man, who created happiness for man, who made Darius king, one king of many, one lord of many." (36)
            A structure called the Kabah-i Zardusht ("Cube of Solomon") stands before the Naqsh-e Rustam, Composed of light stones, the Kabah-i Zardusht a windowless (windows are fabricated with darker stones) square tower, over ten meters high, inside of which is a small room. The exact purpose of the structure remains an enigma, debated between a tomb or a depository of materials of religious or political significance. The assertion of the structure's purpose as a containing place for fire lacks credibility in the inability of the building structure to maintain a live fire.
            An identical monument was built at Pasargadae, called the Zendan-i Suleiman ("Jail of Solomon.") The two structures have resembling cubic shapes and are similar in dimensions, forms, and other details (37). Likewise, the purpose of Zendan-i Suleiman is a source of dispute among historians.
            Cyrus the Great is believed to have been buried in a limestone (38) monument southwest of Pasargadae, in what is called the Mausoleum of Cyrus the Great. Constituted of stone blocks, it is just over ten meters tall. The door is narrow and located on the northwest side of the mausoleum, and the roof, although also made of stone, is hollow (39). Within the building was a small but deep chamber, where the original golden coffin had been laid (40). The limestone material of the Mausoleum of Cyrus the Great is in accordance with the Zoroastrian tradition of burying the dead inside or near limestone.
            Dahan-e Golaman is an archaeological site located in the eastern part of modern-day Iran, near the border. This is believed to be the only remaining site of a provincial city of the Achaemenid Empire. In the excavation, archaeological evidence suggest the existence of a religious sector of the city, denoted by the term QN 3. Square in its structure, there are traces of three altars which had functioned in religious rituals. But it is believed that the religion at hand was not orthodox Zoroastrianism but a variation, as the remnants of performed rituals defy the ideas of Zoroastrianism. Especially the repetition of the number three in its structures and equipments may suggest that the religion was the pre-Zoroastrian cult that had been descended from the proto-Indo-Iranians.
            Among other temples is the site of the Fratadara Temple, which is of the Susa-type temple and differs from the abovementioned temple structures. It is composed of four pillars in the interior which surround a square room, accompanied by a portico outside the room (41). Another is the temple included in the citadel of Kalali-Gir in the Khwarezm area of Central Asia, below the Aral Sea. This structure is round, with a diameter of 24 meters and is placed on a podium.

V.2 Writings
            The Behistun Inscription, an inscription on the side of Mount Behistun in west Iran, is a both religiously and linguistically important document. Composed by the Emperor Darius I the Great himself, the Behistun Inscription records one identical text in three languages : Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian (42). This fact has enabled the interpretation and understanding of the Babylonian cuneiform language.
            In its content, it is that which evidences the Zoroastrian characteristic of the Achaemenid Empire. There are repeated mentions to Ahura Mazda. For instance, the first mention to the Zoroastrian deity appears in the fifth sentence: "King Darius says: By the grace of Ahuramazda am I king; Ahuramazda has granted me the kingdom." (43) The faravahar symbol is believed to have first appeared in the Behistun Inscription (44).

V.3 Artefacts
            The Achaemenid Empire had a system in which the capital was rotated between three cities depending on the time of the year. In each of the three capitals, there was a palace. One of the capitals was Ecbatana, the capital of the former Median Empire, whose palace was maintained, and consequently relatively uninfluenced when the Achaemenid Empire gained power and prominence. Another capital was Persepolis, where Darius I the Great built a palace. The palace was largely confined to political purposes and thus excluded religious structures. Nonetheless, the ruins and artifacts of the city reflect Zoroastrian beliefs and characteristics.
            First, the bas-relief engraving of the bull and the lion on a grand staircase in Persepolis contains Zoroastrian symbolisms. The bull and the lion are, in fact, recurring symbolisms in the artifacts of the Persian Empires. As in this artifact, the former symbolizes the Earth, while the latter symbolizes the sun (45). The engraving is a personification of the sacred festival of No Ruz, which, since held at the spring equinox, is when the power of the sun and the earth were thought to be equal. The bull is again seen in the bull head sculpture which was once placed at the entrance of the Persepolis Hundred-Column Hall (46). Another figure that is observed repeatedly is the griffin, which is believed to have originated from the Achaemenid Empire, predating the first appearance of the mythical creature in other regions by about a thousand years, and thought to hold the meaning of "a protector from evil, witchcraft and secret slander." (47) Finally, a characteristic of the artifacts of Persepolis that seems to be related to the teachings of Zarathustra is the "absence of violent imagery" (48) : soldiers are depicted but not in fighting, and their weapons are not drawn. This is in accordance with the Zoroastrian principle of peace and goodness, which can be seen in the benevolent imagery of Ahura Mazda.
            One of the three palaces of the Achaemenid Empire is located in Susa, the construction having begun by the emperor Darius I, and subsequently followed during the time of his successors. Similarly to the palace of Persepolis, the palace complex, which, in the Achaemenid system of rotating capitals, served as the winter capital, was more political than religious, but contain artifacts related to Zoroastrianism.
            The lion relievo rilievo is a terracotta on a decorative panel made of bricks, which once belonged in the palace of Susa (49). As in the case of the engraving in the palace complex at Persepolis, the lion is a Zoroastrian symbol that represents the sun. Another engraving said to be that of a sphinx resembles a faravahar, one of the most representative symbols of the Zoroastrian religion.
            A rhyton is a goblet which was widely used during this time in Persia. Some rhytons were made of precious metals and decorated with figures. Many rhytons had the form of a lion attached to the cup. Again the lion is of important Zoroastrian symbolism.

V.4 Analysis
            In agreement with the fact that it was during this Achemenid Empire when Zoroastrianism had considerable momentum for development, religious archaeological remains of the Achaemenid Empire are abundant. Most of what is left of this era is, unless strictly political in function, related to Zoroastrianism. Another characteristic that distinguishes the archaeology of the Achaemenid Empire from the previous Median Empire is the direct and evident relationship with Zoroastrianism, at lest in some of the artifacts. To illustrate, the tomb of Cyrus contains engravings featuring the deity Ahura Mazda himself, and the Behistun Inscription directly refers to God.

VI. Archaeology of the Parthian Empire

VI.1 Structures
            Tombs from the Arsacid Empire were excavated in the village of Juban in Gilan Province, located at the north/northwest part of Iran today. The discovered tombs differ from those of the previous era in their structures. Unlike those of the past, the tombs of Juban are of diverse shapes - polygonal or curved (both circular and elliptical) - and had domed ceilings. These tombs were put underground into the ground of clay and limestone, and without markers, which forms a sharp contrast with the Achaemenid period. Excavations found corpses put around the room of the tomb, along with artifacts that were buried with them, including ornaments of valuable metal, weapons, or pottery. The recurring Zoroastrian characteristic is the limestone. Just like the tombs of the Achaemenid Empire, corpses are placed near limestone for purity reasons. Also discovered in Juban, and also nearby cities of Kalvarz and Simam, are tombs resembling caves.
            At the southeastern end of Iran today is a province called Sistan and Baluchestan, and in the region is a lake called Lake Kasaoya. This lake is considered sacred to Zoroastrians, as it is believed that this lake is the place from which the Saoshyants, the saviors, will rise (50). And in this lake is a mountain which rises from the water like a mountain, Mount Khajeh (51, or the site of Kuh-e Khwajeh, the "Hill of the Master." (52) On this hill is preserved a brick complex, a citadel with a pilgrimage center, a graveyard, a palace, a fire temple, and multiple smaller temples as well. One particular temple of the smaller ones is believed to have been of the Zoroastrian cult, being dedicated to Mithra. (53)
            The remains of a Zoroastrian fire temple can also be found in the Mahallat site, a city in northeastern Iran.

VI.2 Writings
            One of the most important Zoroastrian developments during the Parthian Empire involved the Avesta. According to a 9th century record, it was at this time that the first attempt to organize the holy Zoroastrian scripture was made. that the Parthian king Volgash (Valaxs) tried to collect the sacred texts of Zoroastrian texts and organize them (54). The attempt involved the gathering of both written and oral transmissions (55). However, nothing remains of this "Parthian archetype."
            Although not Parthian in origin, an important document that gives insight into the Parthian period is the Vis o Ramin, a love epic composed by the Persian poet Fakhr al-Din As'ad Gorgani in the 11th century. The time period of the setting has been deduced from details contained in the story, such as the mentions of existent kingdoms (56). A story centered around the conflicts between two Parthian families of high status, the epic incorporates Zoroastrian topics such as trial by fire, fire temple, and Zoroastrian festivals (57). For instance, following the menstruation of Vis, the female main character, the marriage is not underwent with due to the prevention by Zoroastrian law (58); the theme of trial by fire, which has its origins in the proto-Indo-Iranian cult involving Mithra, in which Vis is required to pass through fire in order to prove her chastity is shown, and; people are found to be seeking refuge in a fire temple 59.

VI.3 Analysis
            One noticeable characteristic is the less majestic quality of the archaeology at hand - that is, the scale of the structures have decreased, and the style has become perhaps more modest. It can be seen from the fact that even though the later empire is almost twice as long in its length than the Achaemenid, there are no striking structures as the tombs of Darius I the Great or Cyrus the Great in the Parthian period. A possible explanation is the reduction in the power and influence of Zoroastrianism following the Seleucid period, when Zoroastrianism was actively suppressed and replaced with the Olympianism brought by Alexander the Great.
            However, if this was the case, the attempt to restore the position of Zoroastrianism, as can be seen in the production of the Sassanid archetype of the Zend-Avesta, had been made, and have contributed greatly to future developments of the religion.

VII. Archaeology of the Sassanid Empire

VII.1 Structures
            In Firuzabad, a southwestern city in modern-day Iran, are the remains dating from the Sassanid Empire. The first Sassanid king Ardasir-e Babakan established a city called Ardasir ??arra in Firuzabad during his revolt against the Parthian Empire. The circular city contained a number of structures, among which is a peculiar stone ruin. The structure of this ruin, the Ta?t-e Nesin, - five rooms (one at the center, and four at each corner of its square shape) is thought to be a fire temple.
            Another remaining structure in Firuzabad is the Qal'eh Dokhtar (The Maiden Castle). This is the remains of a military structure, fortified and standing above its surroundings on a mountain slope at a strategic location. The relationship between this castle and Zoroastrianism can be found in its name, which implies a relation to the deity and maiden Anahita. At some point in the Achaemenid period Anahita, who had been a yazata, became associated with a goddess of the river, and took the place of Apam Napat as one of the three ahuras             The Taq-e Bostan is a site of relief engravings made in the Zagros mountains in western Iran portraying scenes of the investitures of Sassanid kings, as well as a portrayal of a hunt. Specifically, these are the coronation ceremony of Adashir I, Shapur III, Khosrow Parviz, and a boar and deer hunt (61). Repeated mentions and depictions of God can be seen in these engravings. In the engraving of the investiture of Adashir I, God is carved behind the king; in that of Shapur III, the inscriptions include the lines : "good worshiper of Izad," where Izad means God (62); in that of Khosrow Parviz, Ahura Mazda himself is engraved on the left of the coronated king, and Anahita on the right (63).
            In Tehran, at the city of Rey, is the brick and mortar Rey Fire Temple, believed to be the first, and thus in a sense, the orignial. Structurally, there is a main hall sided by two rows of columns, arches and entrances. There are two remaining arches in the ruins, for two of the original four have been demolished. The Persian historian Tabari speculates that being the first, the sacred fires which were housed in other temples originated from the fire in the Rey Temple. (64)
            The Tbilisi Ateshgah is a windowless, cubic, brick building in Tbilisi, Georgia, just above the Arabian Peninsula. It has two doors of wood to which a staircase is laid, a hollow place in the corner of one wall, and arches in the walls. Believed to have been constructed between the 5th and 7th centuries, the time of the Sassanid Empire, the Ateshgah is a fire temple - it is believed that at the arches in the walls sacred flames would have burned, and the presence of a pool of water is speculated. This is one of the rare fire temples outside the territory of modern-day Iran (65).

VII.2 Writings
            While the first attempt at organizing the Avesta happened during the Parthian Empire, what is left of the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism today comes from that which was organized during the Sassanid period (the "Sassanian archetype"). It is known that four kings were involved in different parts of this procedure. First, at the time of king Ardaser, the Tosar the high priest was given the job of gathering Zoroastrian scripts and oral traditions. Second, Shapur I set a search for scientific documents that had been dissipated by the Greeks and Indians and incorporated them into the organized Avesta. Third, at the time of Shapur II an overall revision was made. Fourth, under Kosrow I the final revision was performed, thus creating the Avesta which has been the source of all subsequent, and still-existent, documents (66).

VII.3 Artifacts
            In the Bishapur site are reliefs decorating the palace which reflect Zoroastrian characteristics. For instance, one gives authority to the reign of Shapur I by depicting how power was bestowed to him. In the left of the stone relief, Ahuramazda gives to Shapur, in the right, a ring which symbolizes power and authority.

VII.4 Analysis
            In the archaeology of the Sassanid Empire, a striking characteristic is the deviation from the orthodox Zoroastrianism as was preached by Zarathustra. While Zoroaster insisted on the principle of monotheism and the ultimate superiority of Ahura Mazda, it is easily perceivable that this is not the general case in the remains of the Sassanid Empire. In the cases of Qal'eh Dokhtar and Bishapur, the structures are believed to be dedicated not to Ahura Mazda, but to Anahita, who was originally a lower deity. In the case of Taq-e Bostan, Anahita appears of the same rank and importance as Ahura Mazda, and even in the case of the Tbilisi Ateshgah, the importance of water is considerably higher than in the archaeology of earlier empires. This reflects the change in the ideas of Zoroastrianism.

VIII. Archaeology of Zoroastrianism in China

VIII.1 Background
            Zoroastrianism spread beyond the territories of the Persian Empire by the way of the Silk Road, and it is believed to have spread to as far as East China as early as the sixth century B.C. (67). Evidences exist: in his book "Old Sinitic Myag, Old Persian Magus, and English 'Magician,'" Victor Mair advocates the existence of the magi, of a Zoroastrian sect, in Chinese courts before the 8th century B.C. (68); old documents known as the "Ancient Letters" demonstrate that Zoroastrianism existed in the city Loulan in the region Xinjiang in early fourth century (69). The religion, however, faded in its prominence by the 13th century (70).

VIII.2 Structures
            The eastern Chinese city of Kaifeng was a site where Zoroastrians used to practice their religions (71). The remains of a Zoroastrian temple can also be perceived in Zhenjiang (72).

VIII.3 Writings
            The Ashem Vohu is one of the most significant prayers in the Zoroastrian religion, which reads as follows : "Holiness (Asha) is the best of all good:/ it is also happiness./ Happy the man who is holy with perfect holiness !" (73)
            Near Dunhuang, there is a cliff on which carvings and paintings are made, called the Caves of a Thousand Buddhas. In 1900, a monk discovered in a cave on this cliff about 40,000 books and documents in one of these caves, one of which was a ten-line manuscript, a portion of a scroll (74). This manuscript contains Zoroastrian content. The lower eight lines of the document is about Zarathustra talking to an ultimate deity, which in itself, is a clear Zoroastrian artifact. However, the more significant part is the upper two lines, which contains the Ashem Vohu, and in a language that is clearly not Avestan (75), the language in which the Sassanian Archetype of the Zend-Avesta is written in. It serves as a clear evidence that the religion had indeed spread its influence over to China, where its holy prayer was written down in some form of the local religion.

VIII.4 Analysis
            There exist Zoroastrian remains in China, but they are not very abundant. This is only natural, as Zoroastrianism was one of the religions that existed there, unlike in Central Asia, where it was the dominating belief.

IX. Archaeology of Zoroastrianism in Post-Islamization Iran

IX.1 Background
            When the Sassanid Empire fell and gave way to its Islamic successors, Zoroastrianism was persecuted by the Islamic conquerors and thus diminished, sometimes gradually, sometimes radically, and was replaced by Islam. Conversion was either forced, or voluntary but accompanied with significant benefits. For instance, after Zoroastrians were captured in wars, they were granted freedom if they chose to convert. (76)
            In order to escape persecution, Zoroastrians chose migration, moving to southern cities, of which Yazd and Kerman are among the most prominent. In the case of Yazd, the residents of the city chose an additional tax in compensation for retaining its Zoroastrian religion. (77) The Islamization of the city was therefore slowed, and even to this day it remains an important city to the Zoroastrian religion. Statistics suggest that Zoroastrians form a demographically substantial minority, up to 10 percent of the population (78). Many Zoroastrian archaeological remains can be found in these areas.

IX.2 Structures
            A set of important Zoroastrian structures located in Yazd are known as the pirs. As the word 'pir' gives a meaning of old age (79), it is believed that these structures are named thus to give a sense of wisdom and authority. Six major pirs are especially significant : Pir-e Naraki, Pir-e Sabz, Pir-e Narestaneh, Pir-e Banu, Pir-e Herisht, and Seti Pir. All but one are dedicated to women.
            Pir-e Naraki is a shrine located south of Yazd that venerates the tale of a rescue of a Sassanid royal woman by God. The tale goes that Nazbanu was the daughter of a governor, thus a Zoroastrian royalty, and when the Arabs invaded, fled to the site of Pir-e Naraki. There she is said to have prayed for help, and a divine power helped her escape danger by absorbing her into the mountain, and at that place a spring of water emerged (80). This spring of water, a water source, is significant to the religious structure.
            The best-known of the pirs is the Pir-e Sabz, otherwise known as the Chak-Chak, placed in a cave of a mountain. Similar to the Pir-e Naraki, Pir-e Sabz is also a dedication to a Sassanid royal female Nikbanu, the last princess of the empire. The legend resembles that of the abovementioned pir - it is said that the princess was absorbed into the mountain, and her tears of grief flow as water in the cave - the sound of dripping water gave the name of Chak-Chak. Again this water holds importance - it is called the ab-e Hayat, the water of life, a reference to Anahita. Structurally, the pir had marble floors, black walls, and a brass door, inside of which was a candle holder (relation to fire).
            The Seti Pir, in contrast, is a building dedicated to the last queen of the Sassanid Empire, Queen Shahbanoo Hastbadan. Stories tell that at this site the fleeing queen was taken into the mountain, or committed suicide by falling into a well. The structure is large. It consists of a holy well inside a main building stationed above an underground sanctuary consisting of three rooms and a shrine to the queen (81).
            Pir-e Narestaneh differs from the others in that it is not a building meant to revere a female. It is a building made to prince Ardeshir, the last prince. It is in the mountains northeast of Yazd, and the legend is extremely similar to the others. A fire temple lay in proximity to this structure, but nothing remains of the temple now, due to destructive Muslims who brought down the structure in an attempt to construct a mosque in the past (82).
            The Pir-e banu is intended for the youngest princess of the empire, Banu-Pars, who, in legend, likewise fled from Arabs and found refuge at the site. Today the site has alternative names Mazreh-e Meher Yazad - the Farm of Angel Mithra and Pir-e Banu Pars (83).
            Finally, Pir-e Herisht is to the royal governess Morvarid, who, as with all others, was accepted into the mountain from her captors (84).
            Inside the city was a major Zoroastrian community which had constructed numerous fire temples. Three lesser shrines lay around four major ones, the most important of which was the Atash Behram, which means the "Fire of Victory," still in use today. Constructed behind a pond, a striking characteristic of the Atash Behram is the sacred flame contained within, referred to as the everlasting fire, believed to have been aflame since around 470 A.D. (85) While in the twentieth century the flames of other fire temples were extinguished, this flame was solely kept aflame, and this is now kept within glass barriers and attended to constantly. Concerning artifacts, inside the building are a number of paintings here, including one of Zarathustra, clearly indicating the Zoroastrian influence. Another feature is the large faravahar symbol, distinct above the entrance.
            And while not as abundant as those in the city of Yazd, there also exist fire temples and remains in the city of Kerman.
            Also existent are dakhmas, or "towers of silence." These are important structures that reflect the Zoroastrian belief of the dead. Because Zoroastrians consider death as evil, a product of the malicious spirit Angra Mainyu, contact of the corpses with sacred elements such as fire is forbidden. In its place is therefore the tradition of exposing the bodies to the sun, or to the vultures so as to dispose of the flesh, and the dakhmas are structures on which corpses are placed. The roofs of the towers are composed of three concentric rings, one for men, women, and children, in order of decreasing diameter (86). Many of these towers can be seen in Yazd, Kerman and Tehran. Especially south of Yazd, two dakhmas known as Maneckji Hataria and Golestan can be seen, whose height reaches six meters (87), while Cham Dakhmeh, lies close to a modern Zoroastrian graveyard. Outside the current territory of Iran, in Uzbekistan is the chiplik, also a tower of silence.

Conversion of Structures to Islamic Purposes
            The Muslims had a tendency to create religious structures, the mosques, from buildings that had been existent before the time of their conquest. In accordance with this, subsequently with Islamization and furthering of the suppression of Zoroastrianism, the fire temples lost their roles as Zoroastrian locations of worship and were modified into Islamic mosques. The structural forms of the temples were largely maintained. Mihrabs that indicated the direction of Mecca and thus the direction in which religious worships must be performed, were installed in the arches of the fire temples. Many of these mosques that derived from fire temples of Zoroastrianism still remain today, especially in the areas of Estakhr, city in Iran, Bukhara, the capital of modern day Uzbekistan, and other cities of the past Persian Empire. In Estakhr the chief mosque was modified from the Ardasir, a fire temple which had served as the crowning location for nobles of the city. In Bukhara the Magak-i Attari Mosque, located near the Lyabi-Hauz, was one of the first mosques to be created from a fire temple. These mosques still remain today for Islamic worship.

IX.3 Analysis
            Two traits are evident. The first is that, as in the case of the archaeology of the Sassanid Empire, water plays quite a significant role - in the case of the six pirs, or the Atash Behram, as an illustration, streams, wells, or other bodies of water are located close to the structures. Another is the major construction of the towers of silence. Although the mention dates back to the Sassanid Empire, this is the time when a number of these structures were constructed. The dakhmas are significant in that they are epitomes of the Zoroastrian belief of death and corpses.

X. Archaeology of Zoroastrianism in India

X.1 Background
            The Parsi are a community of Zoroastrians residing in India. Whereas in China, Zoroastrians had emerged by the spread of the religion through the Silk Road, by which local people adopted the faith, the Parsi community of India did not emerge among the local population, but rather was caused the the migration of Zoroastrians from Central Asia to India. The motivation behind this movement is not decisively confirmed; it is believed that it was an agglomeration of the need for novel avenues of trade, and the desire for an egress from the Muslim persecution of Zoroastrianism (88). Adopting conditions presented to them by the local leader, the immigrant Zoroastrians settled.
            The Zoroastrians have since then created its own culture centered around the religion, which can be perceived through archaeological studies. The community is still maintained in India, usually centered around the city of Mumbai, and as for population, a census performed in 1981 in India indicates 71,630 Parsis. (89)

X.2 Structures
            An Atash Behram is the holiest of fires that can be contained in a Zoroastrian temple. In Udvada, Gujarat is the Iranshah Atash Behram, the oldest still-functioning of the Atash Behrams (90). Thus it is considered the holiest of the Indian fire temples. It is called by the name of Iranshah, King of Iran, meaning that subsequent to the Islamization of Iran, the temple symbolically serves the place of a political center (91). Legend tells that the fire contained in the structure is created from the ashes of a sacred fire from Central Asia, which was carried in the migration to India. The structure also holds practical meaning, in that ceremonies are carried out here (92).
            On the Malabar Hill of Mumbai is the characteristic Zoroastrian building, the Tower of Silence, constructed in 1672 by Seth Modi Hirji (93). The corpses are placed and exposed on the a concave roof, which, like the abovementioned dakhmas, is in three parts of concentric rings, for different types of people. In the middle is a pit, where the exposed bodies are later gathered to disintegrate in the presence of lime, which is in accordance with the Zoroastrian principles, and is filtered and sent out to the sea (94).

X.3 Analysis
            The Parsi archaeology seems to adhere closely to the orthodox Zoroastrian beliefs. But as the Parsi form a small portion of the population, the position of Parsi archaeology and remains seems to be insignificant and small in relation to other remnants in India. That is, Zoroastrianism seems to be a minor religion and influence in India. Another trait is that, as this is a place where Zoroastrians are still centered around, the remnants seem to be of use still today, for example, in ceremonies.

XI. Conclusion
            This paper has discussed Zoroastrianism-related archaeology, from the Median Empire of 7th century BC to the Parsis of today, whose buildings explored in this paper are still of use today. It has explored the correlation of religion and archaeology throughout this time, in the relevant areas where the archaeology is existent.
            One of the oldest religions in the world, Zoroastrianism has existed for a long period of time. During this course of time, it has undergone many changes in the belief system, the level of dominance and importance, and other aspects. And as archaeology is a source that reflects social changes in its characteristics, the alterations of Zoroastrianism have appeared in its archaeology, including its heyday and decline. Likewise, common archaeological characteristics have made it possible to deduce the importance of a social, religious event in that period of time.

(1)      'Related,' entry in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
(2)      'Archaeology,' entry in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
(3)      'Culture,' entry in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
(4)      See III.1
(5)      Article: Zoroastrianism from Encylopaedia Britannica; Article: Zoroastrianism from Wikipedia
(6)      See III.1
(7)      Boyce 2001 p.2
(8)      Article: Zoroaster from Wikipedia
(9)      Lincoln 1991 p.150
(10)      Boyce 2001 p.18
(11)      Heritage/Humbach and Ichaporia/1994 p.11
(12)      Article: History of Zoroastrianism from History World; Article: Zoroastrianism from Religion Facts
(13)      Boyce 2001 p.49
(14)      See III.1
(15)      Boyce 2001 p.8
(16)      Boyce 2001 p.17
(17)      Zoroastrians pp.19, 20
(18)      See III.1
(19)      God, Zoroaster, and Immortals from BBC
(20)      Boyce 2001 pp.3-4
(22)      Zoroastrian Worship from BBC
(22)      Yasna 51, Verse 9
(23)      God, Zoroaster, and Immortals from BBC
(24)      Yasna 28, commencement
(25)      Yasna 53, Verse 2
(26)      Article: ARCHEOLOGY ii. Median and Achaemenid from Encyclopaedia Iranica
(27)      ibid.
(28)      ibid.
(29)      ibid.
(30)      ibid.
(31)      Tepe Nush-i Jan: A Mound in Media, David Stronach, p.182
(32)      Article: Naqsh-e_Rustam from Wikipedia
(33)      Schmidt 1970 p.81
(34)      Darius the Great: Naqs-i Rustam inscription from Livius
(35)      Boyce 2001 p. 57, 58
(36)      Darius the Great: Naqs-i Rustam inscription from Livius
(37)      Article: Achaemenid architecture from Wikipedia
(38)      Article: Achaemenid architecture from Wikipedia
(39)      The Development of the Fire Temple by The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
(40)      Article: Achaemenid architecture from Wikipedia
(41)      The Development of the Fire Temple by The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
(42)      Article: Behistun Inscription from Wikipedia
(43)      translation by L.W. King and R.C. Thompson
(44)      Boyce 2001 p.58
(45)      File: Nowruz Zoroastrian from Wikipedia
(46)      File: Bull head oriental institute chicago from Wikipedia
(47)      Article: Griffin from Wikipedia
(48)      National Geographic 2008 August p.42
(49)      File: Lion Darius Palace Louvre Sb3298 from Wikipedia
(50)      Boyce 2001 p.86
(51)      Article: Mount Khajeh from Wikipedia
(52)      Boyce 2001 p.86
(53)      Kuh-e Khwajeh (Mount Khajeh/Ushida) from The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
(54)      Article: Avesta from Wikipedia
(55)      Article: AVESTA from Encyclopaedia Iranica
(56)      Article: Vis u Ramin from Wikipedia
(57)      Article: VIS O RAMIN from Encyclopaedia Iranica
(58)      Article: Vis u Ramin from Wikipedia
(59)      Article: VIS O RAMIN from Encyclopaedia Iranica
(60)      Boyce 2001 p.62
(61)      Article: Taq-e_Bostan from Wikipedia
(62)      ibid.
(63)      ibid.
(64)      Article: Iran Boasts Country's Oldest Zoroastrian Temple from Fars News Agency
(65)      The Wandering Scot
(66)      Article: AVESTA from Encyclopaedia Iranica
(67)      Article: Zoroastrianism from Wikipedia
(68)      Mair 1990 pp.27-47
(69)      University of Washington
(70)      Article: Zoroastrianism from Wikipedia
(71)      Article: Kaifeng from The Columbia Encyclopedia
(72)      Article: Zoroastrianism from Wikipedia
(73)      Translated by James Darmesteter in "From Sacred Books of the East", American Edition, 1898., Vol 3, p.216.
(74)      Ashem Vohu from British Library
(75)      ibid.
(76)      Article: Persecution of Zoroastrians from Wikipedia
(77)      ibid.
(78)      Yazd Pilgrimage Sites - Pirs from Heritage Institute
(79)      ibid.
(80)      Pir-E Naraki from Heritage Institute
(81)      Seti Pir from Heritage Institute
(82)      Pir-E Narestaneh from Heritage Institute
(83)      Pir-E Banu from Heritage Institute
(84)      Pir-E Herisht from Heritage Institute
(85)      Yazd Zoroastrian Fire Temple (Atashkadeh) from Persia
(86)      Tower of Silence: A Parsi burial ground from Foot Loose in India
(87)      Towers of Silence from Historical Iranian Sites and People
(88)      Article: Parsi from Wikipedia
(89)      Article: Parsi from Wikipedia
(90)      Article: Udvada from Wikipedia
(91)      Atash Bahram/Behram from Heritage Institute
(92)      Article: Udvada from Wikipedia
(93)      Towers of Silence in Mumbai from Asia Rooms
(94)      Tower of silence / Dakhma or Dokhma / Parsee Bawdi from MAGICAL MUMBAI


The following websites were visited between May and June 2012

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