Naqsh-i Rustam: Colossal Tombs of Persian Kings

Jan 14, 2012 3 comments

About 12 km northwest of the Iranian city of Persepolis, lies a rocky hill. Engraved on the almost perpendicular façade of the hill, at a considerable height, are rich ornamented reliefs dedicated to the Achaemenid kings belonging to the early first millennium BCE. This area is known as Naqsh-e Rustam, and also as Necropolis.

Naqsh-i Rustam (the Throne of Rustam, in English) was considered a sacred mountain range in the Elamite periods. The façades of Naqsh-i Rustam became the burial site for four Achaemenid rulers and their families in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE, as well as a major center of sacrifice and celebration during the Sasanian period between the third and seventh century CE

The oldest relief at Naqsh-i Rustam is severely damaged and dates to c. 1000 BC. It depicts a faint image of a man with unusual head-gear and is thought to be Elamite in origin. The depiction is part of a larger mural, most of which was removed at the command of Bahram II. The man with the unusual cap gives the site its name, Naqsh-e Rostam, "Picture of Rostam", because the relief was locally believed to be a depiction of the mythical hero Rostam.

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The tombs are known locally as the 'Persian crosses', after the shape of the facades of the tombs. The entrance to each tomb is at the center of each cross, which opens onto to a small chamber, where the king lay in a sarcophagus. The horizontal beam of each of the tomb's facades is believed to be a replica of the entrance of the palace at Persepolis.

One of the tombs is explicitly identified by an accompanying inscription to be the tomb of Darius I the Great (c. 522-486 BC). The other three tombs are believed to be those of Xerxes I (c. 486-465 BC), Artaxerxes I (c. 465-424 BC), and Darius II (c. 423-404 BC) respectively. A fifth unfinished one might be that of Artaxerxes III, who reigned at the longest two years, but is more likely that of Darius III (c. 336-330 BC), last of the Achaemenid dynasts.

The tombs were looted following the conquest of the Achaemenid empire by Alexander the Great.


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  1. How do you go here ? any travel/hotel tips?

  2. You didn't notice the Hyatt across the street?

  3. We got a tour bus from Shiraz September 2013


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