DOCUMENTATIONS OF THE KING OF THE KINGS
M. Zolfaghari, A. Malian
AmirKabir University of Technology, Tehran, Iran
zolf'agar(a),aut.ac.ir ; malianfajut.ac.ir
Commission V, WG V/4
KEY WORDS: Cultural Heritage, Archiving, Measurement, Reconstruction, Visualization
Documentations made by Dariush I, King of the Kings, the great emperor of Persia (500 BC) are the largest inscriptions in the world
including 1200 lines of about 2 meters length. These inscriptions written in Old Persian, that were simultaneously translated into
Elamite and Babylonian, narrate the victories of Dariush over the rebellious rulers of the kingdom. This magnificent monument is
carved on the stone wall of the holy mount of Bisotun in the western part of Iran. The monument was made at a height of about 80
meters above the road which made it almost impossible for anybody to get access to it. There has been a tendency since 450 years
ago to decode these texts and record the relieves. In 1834, Rawlinson, hanging himself form the top of the mount, attempted to make
a hand-recording and decoding of the entire monument which lasted 20 years. He could finally decode the old Persian language for
the first time. Following this work, Thompson and Cameron tried to perform some restoration and correction works by means of
photography and moulding. The new stage of this documentation process is the photogrammetric technique. For a long time, the
photogrammetric documentation of this valuable and unique monument was investigated and desired by the authorities of the Iranian
Organization of Cultural Heritage, but the dangerous situation of this monument that made the geodetic and photogrammetric
operation very difficult, was a major reason for Iranian and foreign companies to not accept the photogrammetric documentation of
this monument. This paper gives a scientific report on how this great job of" Documentation " was done within an academic project.
All relieves, more than 120000 elements of the inscriptions and the surrounding objects and area were photogrammetrically
documented and recorded with a precision of about 1 mm.
At first B.C. millenary a group of Aryans living in northern
lands emigrated and settled down on the plateau of Iran and at
8 century B.C. they founded the Persian dynasty, called
Achaemenes, from Hakhamanesh the name of the founder of the
dynasty (Eckerhard, 1890). In 550 B.C., Cyrus the Great,
established the Persian empire and set the chariot of the history
of the Orient in motion and very soon he expanded the kingdom
to Media, Lydia, Babylon and to the lands far from Persian
territory (Figure 1); the first empire and perfect government
made up of incongruous elements (Hegel, 1978). Cyrus ruled
over the hearts much more than the lands, the unique emperor
whose human rights decree made Persia name eternal.
When Cyrus was killed, the vast empire plunged in chaos from
which Dariush emerged, who was really capable to restore
Achaemenid empire. Dariush expanded the realm of the Persian
empire form India to Egypt. In 522 B.C., he erected his fabulous
ritual palace, Persepolis, where the Achaemenids and all ritual
people gathered together and set in festivity (Figure 2). For such
a vast empire and necessary fast communication, Dariush built
some 2500 km Royal Road in a short time (Hermann, 1977).
Figure 1. The Persian Empire
Figure 2. Persepolis
As an example, to erect the Persepolis as a symbol of the glory
of Achaemenids to be visited by historians and personalities of
all over the world and seen by the future generations of the
empire, various expertise, material and a management of high
level were necessary which are certified in 30000 inscribed clay
tablets, found recently in the ruins of Susa, Dariush gives a list
of materials, experts, talents and the regions from where they
are collected: " ... cedar wood from Assyria, gold from
Bacteria, agat from Sogdia, . . . goldsmith from Media, masons
from Babylon, ... ". All were used in the construction of
Persepolis (Sharp, 1997). The workers were paid regular wages
including silver, lambs, and so on. This deed will be
remembered for ever (Figure 3).
Figure 3. The Gate of Nations
To fix an excellent management and to have an exact
communication system between different parts of the empire,
Dariush arranged a precise calendar and set the first day of the
year coincide with the first day of spring, a tradition that is still
present in Iran and is celebrated as Now- Rooz (the New Day)
which is the official new year of the Iranians. During this ritual
feast, delegates of 28 nations under the rule of Dariush, became
the guests of emperor in Persepolis: "... May Ahura-Mazda
Bless the King of the Kings " (Figure 4).
After 220 years glorious government of Achaemenids, in spite
of Dariush wish that " ... no malevolent hand injure Persia ",
Alexander of Macedonia arrived in 330 B.C. and put the ritual
city of Persepolis in flame and the magnificent Persian empire
became part of history and myths (Frye, 1963). After the
occupation of Alexander, a high-level civilization was buried. It
is admitted that most of our modern ideas about open, free, and
progressing society, were realized in the Achaemenid
Civilization (Kock, 1998).
Figure 4. The Gift-Bearers in Now-Rooz
After 19 victorious battles in the first years, Dariush needed to
give a report of his victories to the nations all over his empire.
Furthermore, it was necessary to transmit his commands
everywhere. So he immediately started to use the Elamite and
then Babylonian writing style (Cameron, 1963). But it was not
meritorious to use the writing of the nations under his rule.
Hence, he ordered experts to create new and easier writing
called Old Persian (Figure 15) and afterwards all official
documents were written in Old Persian using cuneiform and
then translated into Elamite and Babylonian (Figure 8).
The Persian empire was forgotten for more than 2000 years in
such a way that people believed that the wonderful Persepolis
was built by Jamshid, the Persian epic, who had the demons
under his rule. That is why it is called Takhte- Jamshid (the
Throne of Jamshid). Even Sassanids did not mentioned them in
their documents. There is also no name of Cyrus or Dariush in
the Persian national and popular epic of Ferdowsi " Shah
Nameh" (the Book of Kings).
From the beginning of his kingdom, Dariush started to build his
special political capital in Susa and buried under the
foundations of his palace the stone tablets upon which all details
of his operations were recorded (Perrot, 1981). After the
invasion of the Macedonians, Alexander transferred all treasures
and precious objects to Greece by some 10000 horses and 5000
camels. But, some important treasures survived that calamity to
be witness for the next generations. Without these information it
would be quite impossible to discover the mysteries of the
ancient Persian empire and the nations under its rule. One of
these remaining objects is a set of tens of thousands of clay and
wooden tablets and stone inscriptions buried and hidden under
the ruins of the capital. But, the most important document that
has survived is the " relief and inscription of Dariush in Bisotun
" which is the largest rock inscription in the world.
Bisotun is situated 30 km apart form Kermanshah in the road to
Hamedan in an elevation of more than 3600 m (Figure 5).
Figure 5. Topographic Map of Bisotun Area
Bisotun documents were made at a height of about 80 m above
the road on a vertical and inaccessible rock. It consists of relief
sculptures surrounded by inscriptions (Figure 6).
Figure 6. Sketch Map of Dariush Monument
Dariush selected the holy mount of Bisotun for recording the
events of the first years of his kingdom for following reasons:
The mountain is situated close to a high-traffic road. There are
some attracting springs and rivers around the mount that make
that area a popular visiting and resting place. Furthermore, the
original name of he mount is Bagastan (residence of Gods) and
it is said that it has been a peaceful place for worshipers for
thousands of years (Figure 7).
Figure 7. The Holy Mount of Bisotun
Dariush figure has been made in his real size of about 180 cm
(Figure 11) with his foot over the chest of a liar priest. His
archer and his lancer are standing behind him. All arrested
rebellious rulers are shown in the front area. Above all is the
figure of God (Ahura-Mazda) to which Dariush was always
seeking mercy and help (Figure 13) .
/ 1 3
p>* — i
3: Old Persian
Figure 8. Different Writings of Dariush Inscription
For several centuries after the attack of Alexander,
Achaemenids were forgotten and nobody could understand the
meaning of the relief and inscriptions at Bisotun. The only
source of information about Achaemenids were the remaining
of the Roman and Greek writings. In 15* century, the European
tourists entered Persepolis and a lot of investigations on the
language and history of Persia began (Schlumberger, 1963).
Many orientalists tried to decode the Old Persian writings. In
1621 Pietro Delia Valle (Italian), in 1647 Jean Chardin (French)
and in 1765 Neibuhr (Danish) have made copies of Bisotun
document. Tychen (German) discovered the meaning of one
alphabetical letter in the inscription! An important report is
given by Grotefend (German) in 1802. He found 13 different
forms of the proper names and distinguished the word
VAZARKA (big) and also the word Dariush. During period
1831-1837, Sir Henry Rawlinson hanged himself from the top
of the Bisotun mountain to make hand-copies of the inscription
■ *t T > ' -
Figure 9. Signature of Rawlinson on Dariush Inscription
Rawlinson worked for more than 20 years on the cuneiform
writing and succeeded to read Old Persian, Elamite and
Babylonian. He was awarded and acknowledged by the Iranian
and British governments. But this was not the end of work in
Bisotun and other experts continued to find better recording and
decoding for that monument, among them G.G. Cameron, R.G.
Kent, L.W. King and R.C. Thompson were the major
The nearly vertical location of the bed rock of the document and
its height cause difficult situation for making copies or
moulding of the relief and inscriptions. This has led to the
unreliability of the documentations and decodings. To overcome
this deficiency photogrammetry should be employed which was
the subject of this report and one of the stages of Bisotun Relief
and Inscription Documentation project. For a long time, the use
of photogrammetric technique for the documentation of this
valuable and unique monument was investigated and desired by
the authorities of the Iranian cultural heritage. But, the
extremely difficult and dangerous position of the monument for
photogrammetric and geodetic operations, was the major reason
for national and international companies to refuse undertaking
In spite of the mentioned problems, the photogrammetric
approach was performed through an academic project. Among
other difficulties of the project, it should be mentioned that the
form of the narrow valley in front of the document dictated to
perform the geodetic operations on a semi-hanged scaffolding
(Figure 10). Bad climate conditions and changing weather were
another problems that were taken into account.
Figure 10. Scaffolding
The scale of the produced maps is 1:5 with 5 mm contour
intervals (Figure 12). In this project, a P31 Wild
photogrammetric camera was used. The photography scale was
1:30 and Control network was established using a Sokkia
PoweSet 1000 total station (Figure 14). All relieves and
inscriptions (more than 120000 cuneiform elements) as well as
the surrounding objects were photogrammetrically documented
with a precision of about 1mm (Figure 17). More detailed
technical information can be found in our previous report in
(Zolfaghari and malian, 2000).
ft I Ad
Figure 11. Overall Image of the Sculptures
Figure 12. Detailed 3D Photogrammetric Map of Dariush
Figure 13. Image of Ahura-Mazda sculpture
Figure 14. Photogrammetric Map of Ahura-Mazda Sculpture
Says Dariush the King : Who that shall worship God,
divine blessing will be upon him, while living and when
dead ... Says Darius the King : If you shall behold this
inscription or these sculptures, and shall not destroy
them and shall protect them as long as to you have
strength, may God be a friend to you, and may family be
to you in abundance, and may you live long, and what
you shall do, that may God make successful for you.
Figure 15. Old Persian Writing (Cuneiform) and Its Translation
This paper is related to " Documentation of Dariush Relief and
Inscription at Bisotun " project executed by Dr. Ing. M.
Zolfaghari at the University of Tehran for the Iranian
Organization of Cultural Heritage. The valuable collaborations
from both of them and all other colleagues of the projects are
acknowledged and greatly appreciated.
Cameron, G., History of Early Iran, 1936.
Eckerhard, S., Inschrift aufdem Thoncylinder des Curus,
Konigs von Babylon - Persien, 1890.
Frye, R.N., The Heritage of Persia, 1963.
Hegel, G.W.F., Reason in History, 1978.
Hermann, G., The Iranian Revival, 1911 .
Kock, H., According to Dariush, 1998.
Perrot, J., L 'Architecture militaire et palatiale des Achemenides
a Suse, 1981.
Schlumberger, D., Cambridge History of Iran, 1963.
Sharp, R.N., Achaemenian kings' Decrees, 1997.
Zolfaghari, M., Malian, A., Non-Metric Cameras in
Architectural Photogrammetry, XlXth ISPRS Congress, pp.
501-508, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2000.
Figure 16. 3D Photogrammetric Map