0850 GMT July 23, 2019
In 2008, a researcher came across 23,000 ancient pieces of 'rock arts' in 31 historical sites in Markazi province — a majority of which were discovered in mountains near Robat Morad Village, Teimareh Township. They represented images of humans and animals.
Immediately after the discovery of the 'rock arts' — which later became known as 'Petroglyphs of Teimareh' — a 130-minute TV documentary was produced by Mohammad Naserifard, an Iranian researcher, to introduce the priceless treasure to people around the globe.
The Petroglyphs of Teimareh were said to date back to more than 40,000 years in the TV documentary, which helped draw international attention to the region, prompting more global researchers to decipher the images.
In an exclusive interview with Iran Daily, Dr. Mohammad Naserifard, a university instructor, disclosed further details about the discovery of the petroglyphs and the steps taken to preserve them.
Excerpts of the interview follow:
IRAN DAILY: Were you really the first person to discover the petroglyphs in Iran?
NASERIFARD: I was the first one to determine the age of petroglyphs and announce it formally in a TV documentary. However, Morteza Farhadi, social anthropologist, had found pieces of petroglyphs with the help of local people 13 years earlier.
I joined a team of archeologists in 2002 to look for more samples of ancient petroglyphs and register them on the National Heritage List.
We could find an amazing collection of rock arts — about 23,000 pieces — in 31 historical sites. The exact geographical location of the artifacts has been identified by Iranian researchers and we are ready to provide any interested archeologists — both from the country and abroad — with precise information about our findings.
How could you determine the age of artifacts? Has any foreign researcher worked on them?
We have discovered one of the world’s largest collections of petroglyphs, which include rock arts pertaining to different ages. The rich variety of rock arts provides the researcher with an opportunity to gain knowledge about the development of script throughout history.
For example, there are samples dating back to between 250 and 40,800 years ago, which can shed light on the history of pictogram and the emergence of inhabitants in the region who were the first to use alphabets.
The age of rock arts was determined by applying the most modern technology used by researchers across the globe. The percentage of error of the technique is 10 years.
A researcher from Belgium, who had worked on art paintings of ‘Yafteh Cave’ in Lorestan province for years, revealed in an article that “based on evidences gathered from Yafteh Cave in Iran’s Lorestan province, it can no longer be claimed that Africa is the birthplace of human beings”.
Petroglyphs also revealed that the Aryans settled in Iran more than 3,000 years ago, longer than what was thought earlier.
Based on evidences collected from Yafteh Cave and other petroglyphs that were found in Lorestan and Markazi provinces, the theory that Europeans have Asian background is strengthened.
A number of Iranian researchers who worked on the genetic codes of Irish people discovered that Iranian and Irish people have a high rate of genetic commonality — something in the range of 70 percent.
Have the petroglyphs been examined by foreigners?
A number of experts began making statements against such a great historical finding only few years after the discovery of the petroglyphs. They kept claiming that the rock arts are fake. To put such statements to rest, teams of European archeologists were invited to study and examine the rock arts. Eventually, they confirmed the authenticity of the artifacts.
We admit that a number of fake petroglyphs have been created by local shepherds but the fake and authentic can be distinguished using modern technologies.
In addition to carbon dating, which is a reliable test to determine the age of the artifacts, authentic rock arts cover a range of subject matter, which can be distinct from meaningless lines and doodling of local people.
Naturalism, realism and ideogram are the theme of original paintings.
What are the main motifs on the petroglyphs? Have similar samples been discovered in other parts of the world?
Majority of rock arts display images of early human hunters with bows and arrows. The images of animals including wolf, lion, deer, camel, goat, leopard, zebra, partridge and turkey have been seen on the rocks.
Dancing humans, pregnant women and scenes of delivery, pitched battles and heroic wars are among subjects of rock arts.
Similar images, including those of a human with two wings, have been discovered in Yellowstone region in the US. The paintings were created by the Indians thousands of years BCE.
The similarity between the images has urged researchers from France, Turkey and Britain to show interest in coming to Iran.
Recently 80 researchers from Turkey have requested to conduct studies on Iranian rock arts, as rock arts are regarded as valuable objects that provide information about early human beings, their ways of living and their development.
You have put forwarded an idea, which says the petroglyphs have been created by extraterrestrials. How do you explain this?
There is no logical explanation for a number of images engraved on rock of Teimareh. We have encountered amazing images of so-called humans with very big heads, short legs and small bodies — signs which are reminiscent of an astronaut.
Similar samples have been discovered across the globe. Extensive studies are needed to decipher the signs. I have authored a book titled ‘Wonders of Ancient Iran: Iranian Petroglyphs’, which will be published in the near future. Those interested in ancient Iranian rock arts can obtain detailed information in the book.
What measures have been taken to safeguard the petroglyphs?
We have traveled to several countries to learn proper ways to protecting such artifacts, which are at great risk. We have decided to categorize the rock arts according to their themes and then install signboards carrying UNESCO message about the importance of protecting the artifacts.
I have to add that local people have been the main guardians of the rock arts over the past centuries. But such warning signs will increase public awareness about ancient artifacts.
What steps should be taken to turn the site into a tourism destination?
Ancient petroglyphs are among the most important tourism attractions in nations which have them. Kazakhstan has only 719 pieces of petroglyphs, which are not as old as those found in Teimareh. But the country earns an annual $2 billion by displaying its rock arts.
A majority of nations, which are home to ancient petroglyphs, have also established a university called ‘Rock Art University’, which is responsible for publicizing attractions pertaining to rock art.
Years ago, I proposed global registration for 'Mountain Goat', which is an icon on majority of ancient Persian artifacts including pottery works and rocks.
Unfortunately — due to our negligence — Kazakhstan registered the icon and is earning huge sums from it.
Therefore, we need to register ancient Persian signs and icons as well as petroglyphs on the World Heritage List as a prelude to drawing international attention and earning revenues from them.