Bisotun Archaeological Site | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Bisotun Archaeological Site

chm chmal, Kermanshah Province, Iran

Peta Stamper

08 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Bisotun Archaeological Site

The Bisotun Archaeological Site near the modern city of Kermanshah, Iran, is known for containing one of the most important artefacts to have survived from the Persian Empire: the Behistun Inscription. Carved directly into high rocks, the Behistun Inscription recounts the life and victories of Darius the Great in 3 different languages – Elamite, Babylonian and Old Persian.

The site at Bisotun is a World Heritage Site as the inscription is a significant site of monumental art and writing, and is open to visit. However, check your government’s advice on travelling to Iran before arranging your visit.

Bisotun Archaeological Site history

Though hard to date exactly, the Behistun Inscription would have been produced around 520 BC and recounts the campaign waged by Darius the Great (who ruled between 522 and 486 BC) to secure his supremacy over usurpers to the throne. The inscriptions not only recounted his successes against Cyrus the Great and controlling the Persian Empire, but demonstrated his royal lineage.

The inscription was around 15 metres high and 25 metres wide, carved 100 metres up a cliff along the ancient road linking the capitals of Babylonia (Babylon) and Media. The text was written in 3 languages and was illustrated by life-size pictures of Darius I holding a bow – the sign of kinship – with his foot squashing the pretender, Guamata.

In the mid-19th century a British officer, Sir Henry Rawlinson, was able to copy and translate the inscription. Rawlinson’s work was influential in the future study of these languages, prompting many to liken the Behistun Inscription to the Rosetta Stone.

Bisotun Archaeological Site today

As well as the inscription, the archaeological site also contains remains from the Median, Achaemenid and post-Achaemenid periods, including a statue of the king Bahran as Heracles and a number of other rock-carved reliefs.

Expect to spend around 2 to 4 hours exploring the immense ancient site at Bisotun, and wear comfortable footwear as the site climbs a slope. A pair of binoculars will also help to see the reliefs more easily.

Getting to Bisotun Archaeological Site

Located just off the highway 48, Bisotun Archaeological Site is only a 38 minute drive from Kermanshah.

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