Visit Us | Contact Us | Membership | Make a Gift | Calendar | Order Online | What's New

Print this Page

Home > Museum > Museum Collections > Photographic Archives > Persepolis and Ancient Iran

Oriental Institute Photographic Archives

The Royal Tombs and Other Monuments

About 4.8 kilometers northwest of Persepolis lies the imposing site of Naqsh-i-Rustam in the mountain range of Husain Kuh, where Darius the Great and his successors had their monumental tombs carved into the cliff. Here in 1933 Herzfeld conducted a short survey and made soundings, but it was not until 1936 that Schmidt started to clear and document the royal tombs and to excavate the Ka'bah-i-Zardusht.

Although Naqsh-i-Rustam had long been a sacred area (as the remains of a Pre-Achaemenid relief show), Darius the Great was the first to choose it as a burial place. His successors not only imitated his idea of a cliff tomb but also copied the layout of the tomb itself. The dramatic facade of the tomb is constructed like a cross. An entrance leads into the tomb chamber, cut deep into the rock. In the panel above this facade is a relief depicting the king standing on a three-stepped pedestal in front of an altar. His hand is raised in a gesture of worship. Above him floats the winged disk of Ahuramazda, god of the Zoroastrian religion. This scene is supported by throne bearers representing the twenty-eight nations of the empire. On the side panels are the king's weapon bearers and the Persian guards. The trilingual cuneiform inscriptions on three panels of the rock wall either enumerate the twenty-eight nations upholding the throne or glorify the king and his rule. Some traces of pigment found on the facade of the royal tombs suggest that all or most of the stone reliefs had been painted.

Only the tomb of Darius I can be identified beyond doubt by inscriptions. The three other tombs at Naqsh-i Rustam are attributed to his immediate successors, Xerxes, Artaxerxes I, and Darius II. Other royal tombs of similar form, thought to be those of the later Achaemenids, were built at Persepolis itself, cut into the rock face of the Kuh-i Rahmat, overlooking the Terrace. The two complete tombs are assigned to Artaxerxes II and Artaxerxes III; an incomplete tomb was perhaps meant for the last Achaemenid king, Darius III. About 2 km south of Naqsh-i Rustam, on the south bank of the river Pulvar, are the remains of an unfinished freestanding structure, perhaps the base of a tomb intended for Cambyses II, modeled on the imposing tomb of his father, Cyrus the Great, at Pasargadae, up the Pulvar 43 km northeast of Persepolis.


Revised: April 19, 2007

Home > Museum > Museum Collections > Photographic Archives > Persepolis and Ancient Iran