“Building a New Vision of the Past in the Sasanian Empire: The Sanctuaries of Kayānsīh and the Great Fires of Iran”

in Journal of Persianate Studies
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This article analyzes how Zoroastrian holy sites as celebrated in the Avesta or elaborated in later, related traditions, emerged as important architectural and ritual centers in late antiquity. Instead of ancient foundations whose details were lost in the depths of time, this paper argues that some of the holiest sanctuaries of the Zoroastrian religion, including Ādur Gušnasp, Ādur Farnbāg, Ādur Burzēn-Mihr, Ādur Karkōy and Lake Kayānsīh, emerged no earlier than the Arsacid era, and were actively manipulated and augmented by the Sasanian dynasty. These ‘Avestan’ sites of memory emerged at locales with no previous Achaemenid monumental construction, but did benefit from beautiful and dramatic natural features. In late antiquity these natural features, usually mountains or lakes, took on the names and significance of the sacred geography of as found in the Avesta. The Sasanian dynasty in particular built grand monumental complexes as its sovereigns sought to take control of these ancient Iranian traditions.

“Building a New Vision of the Past in the Sasanian Empire: The Sanctuaries of Kayānsīh and the Great Fires of Iran”

in Journal of Persianate Studies



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  • View in gallery
    Map of Iran with important cities, indicating known and conjectured locations of sites related to the ‘Avestan’ past and the Great Fires of Iran (map by author).
  • View in gallery
    Plan of the ‘Core Area’ of Kuh-e Khvājeh (plan by author adapted from Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran).
  • View in gallery
    Plan of the sanctuary of Ādur Gušnasp (plan by author adapted from Schippmann 1971).
  • View in gallery
    View of the lake, the remains of the right pier of the Royal Ayvān (left), and the entrance to the temple complex, sanctuary, of Ādur Gušnasp (photo by author).
  • View in gallery
    View from the south of the main chahār tāgh of the sanctuary of Ādur Gušnasp (photo by author).

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