a plain and a town located in the western Bakhtiari Mountains of Iran and known as Malamir in the later Islamic period until 1935. The plain, approximately 22 km (14 mi.) long and 10 km (6 mi.) wide, is mainly used for agriculture. An archaeological survey uncovered numerous ancient sites from as early as the third millennium, but no full-scale excavation has yet been carried out there (Wright, 1979). Reliefs carved on the surrounding rocks and boulders testify to the site's importance from the early second millennium BCE until the Parthian period. The rock carvings are presented here in a proposed chronological order. The numbering of the individual reliefs follows Louis Vanden Berghe (1963).

Elamite Period.

In default of excavated finds, rock carvings are almost the only evidence for Elamite culture in the Izeh valley. They show people in cultic ceremonies. The earliest reliefs were manufactured in the Old Elamite period; the most important carvings range from the twelfth century BCE up to the Neo-Elamite period.

Shah Savar.

At the southeastern end of the plain, a smoothed panel is cut in a vertical cliff. Only the upper part of the panel was used for a frieze in low relief. Four standing orants are introduced by a fifth to a seated deity. The structure (the pictoral frieze over a blank area) and the topic (orants with an enthroned god) can be compared with the Elamite rock reliefs at Kurangun and Naqsh-i Rustam, dated to the seventeenth and sixteenth centuries BCE, respectively. [See Naqsh-i Rustam.]

Hung-i Nowruzi (mod. Hung-Azhdar).

At the northern end of the plain, two oblong panels are cut into a boulder. The relief is carved only in the lower space. Faint remains of at least seven standing figures can be discerned. The little that is preserved seems to resemble the Shah Savar panel and may date to the same period.


IZEH. Figure 1. Shikaft-i Salman II relief. (Photograph by Barbara Grunewald, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Tehran)

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Shikaft-i Salman I–IV.

At the southwestern border, there is a wide cave with a spring. Two reliefs (Shikaft-i Salman I and II) are carved on the outside, on the cliff at the right side of the cave, and two (III and IV) on the inside. Carved in relief I are two men, a child, and a woman who are standing and facing left, behind a thymiaterion (or censer); in II a man, a child, and a woman face left (see figure 1); in III a man faces right; and in IV a man wearing a long skirt faces right. All the figures face the place where water springs from the rock and where a huge water (?) channel comes from above. Their hands are posed in two different Elamite prayer gestures: one or both hands raised before the face or clasped at the waist (figure 1). The figures have stylistic parallels in a relief from Susa that was assembled by Pierre Amiet (Arts Asiatiques 32 [1976]; 13–28) from scattered glazed bricks; the Susa relief is dated to the time of Shilhak-Inshushinak (twelfth century BCE) by a contemporary inscription. The rock reliefs at Shikaft-i Salman are accompanied by cuneiform inscriptions that name Hanni son of Tahhi, chief of Ajapir, as having commissioned them. He is the same ruler who commissioned the inscription and relief Kul-i Farah I (see below); he may have lived anywhere between the late eighth and early sixth centuries BCE. Thus, the dates of manufacture of the reliefs and of the inscriptions are separated by several centuries, which can be explained only by means of a usurpation of older pictures by Hanni. Nevertheless, the late inscriptions may hint at the significance of the place. The large text to the left of relief III relates the dedication (?) of images of Hanni and his family to the goddess Mashti at a place called Tarrisha. As neither the deity's nor the place's name are mentioned in the Kul-i Farah inscription, both may be connected to Shikaft-i Salman, probably since deepest antiquity. This means that nameless men, women, and children from the end of the second millennium BCE may be represented at this cave with a spring venerating the goddess Mashti, mistress of Tarrisha.

Kul-i Farah I–IV.

Opposite Shikaft-i Salman, at the northeastern border, a ravine called Kul-i Farah with reliefs on its slopes and on boulders shows processions (III and IV), animal sacrifices (I–III, V) and a banquet scene (IV). Together with other scattered rocks (either roughly worked as platforms or with cavities on the top, or with smoothed panels on one side), the whole arrangement points to a cultic use. Based on their style, it appears that the reliefs were manufactured at different dates.

Relief IV.

The banquet scene, with about 150 figures, covers several rock faces that jut out at various angles along the south side of the ravine. The central figure is seated in front of a stand that holds three goblets; he faces a table and is surrounded by his servants. His arms bearer is positioned in the register below. From both sides, figures arranged in registers face the center. Most of these hold their right hand to their mouth in a gesture of eating or of veneration, and some are playing musical instruments. The banquet scene has parallels on Middle Elamite seals. The shape of the throne is known from a bead of Shilhak Inshushinak (twelfth century BCE); the goblets represented were in use no later than about 1000–900 BCE.


IZEH. Figure 2. Kul-i Farah III relief, south side. (Photograph by Barbara Grunewald, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Tehran)

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Relief III.

The northern, southern, and the southwestern sides of a boulder are covered with processions moving east (see figure 2). The procession on the north is divided into three registers and headed by a man whose height fills all three registers. Encountering him are smaller individuals, similar to the participants in the procession, three of whom are playing harps. The southwestern and southern processions follow in four registers, a large figure supported by four kneeling men. He is preceded by three naked men and encountered by some ordinary people, as on the northern side. The destination of the processions seems to be the rounded east side, where three bulls and eighteen smaller animals are represented.

Relief VI.

The same large figure supported by kneeling men is shown in relief VI. He is followed only by a few smaller individuals, among them the arms bearer (cf. Kul-i Farah IV, I).

Style and iconography place reliefs III, IV, and VI in one group. They therefore may originate in roughly the same period, at about the end of the second or the beginning of the first millennium BCE.

Relief I.

A rectangular panel on the north wall of the ravine, relief I is the only inscribed monument at Kul-i Farah. On its upper part, a text of twenty-four lines covers the space unoccupied by the figures; short captions, or labels, are carved on or beside the human figures. The main figure is, according to the text on his skirt, Hanni son of Tahhi, chief of Ajapir, who dedicated his image to the god Tirutur. Behind him stand, in smaller scale, his arms bearer and another official in a long skirt. In front of Hanni in the upper part of the relief, are three musicians; in the lower part are four men engaged in sacrificial acts. The “one who delivers the sacrificial victim” leads a goat; the “priest” is occupied with a thymiaterion and the others with a bull; and three beheaded carcasses and loose heads of rams lie in between. The text contains invocations of Elamite deities, deeds of Hanni, and the dedication of the relief to the god Tirutur. For the text, Matthew Stolper suggests “a date within the seventh century” (Calmeyer and Stolper, 1988, p. 279). Although comparable Neo-Elamite art is scarce, there is no reason to doubt here—in contrast to Shikaft-i Salman—that the text and pictures are contemporaneous. In particular, the large figure of Hanni differs from the reliefs at Shikaft-i Salman and at Kul-i Farah III, IV, and VI in style and iconography. The headdress and the garment with its rosette border and fringes find their parallels in the clothing of the Elamite king Tepti-Humban-Inshushinak (Assyr, Te'umman), killed during a battle with Ashurbanipal in 653 BCE, that is pictured in Assyrian reliefs at Nineveh.

Reliefs II and V.

Similar in subject to most of the Kul-i Farah reliefs, in reliefs II and V a large man, followed by four smaller figures, is directed to a slaughtering scene where a naked man is occupied with a bull lying on its back. With the bull are six smaller animals in the same position (i.e., in the same numerical relationship as on relief III). On relief V, the large man is praying over a thymiaterion. Too few details are given or preserved to allow a positive dating. In all probability they were carved after IV, III, and VI, but their temporal relation to relief I cannot be fixed. Certainly, they were made before Achaemenid times.

Kul-i Farah, seen through its reliefs, seems to be a place of ceremonies with animal sacrifices, processions with music, and symposia.

Parthian Period.

The latest rock reliefs are Parthian. They are located on the northern side of the valley. The subject of these carvings is different from the Elamite ones. They show people of rank facing the sovereign.

Hung-i Nowruzi (Hung-i Azhdar).

The boulder with the faint Elamite relief bears a Parthian relief on its back side, facing the cliff; in front of it, an isolated stone relief is lying on the ground. The rock relief shows a horseman with his attendant moving to the right and four standing men in front of him, in frontal view. The two parts of the relief differ in style and iconography. The rider is Greek in inspiration. Comparable heads can be found on Arsacid coins of the second half of the second century BCE. The four standing men have their closest parallels in Parthian reliefs from the beginning of the third century CE. Various proposals, the following among them, have been made to explain this discrepancy.

The entire relief has been dated based on the elements of the left side, the rider. Louis Vanden Berghe (1963) compares the head with that of Mithridates I (171–138 BCE) on a coin, interpreting the relief as the representation of Mithridates I as he is received by Elymaean nobles after the Parthian conquest of Elymais in 140/39 BCE. This would make the four men the oldest examples of frontal representation. To support this view, other scholars argue with sculptors from different schools or with the ecclecticism of Greco-Iranian art.

The entire relief has also been dated, based on the elements of the right side, the four standing men. Trudy S. Kawami (1987) argues that the artistic style and details of dress and hairstyle of the four nobles indicate a date in the Late Parthian period, at the end of second or third centuries CE. She suggests that a local ruler and his entourage are represented as they pay homage to their ancestor, sculptured in the fashion of the Hellenistic period.

Other scholars have harmonized the dating discrepancy by proposing a date between the two extremes (first century BCE and first century CE) for the entire relief. However, Hans E. Mathiesen proposes that an unfinished relief of the victorious Mithridates I (second century BCE) was “completed” by a Parthian or Elymaean king in about 200 CE, which means that the carvings on the left and right sides belong to different times. (The relief lying on the ground shows a man in frontal view, who may have been part of a larger nearby composition.)

Hung-i Yar-i Alivand.

The weathered rock relief at Hung-i Yar-i Alivand shows two standing figures in frontal view. A shallow circular element between them suggests the interpretation that this is an investiture scene. The dating for the carving ranges from the first century BCE to the late second century CE.

Hung-i Kamalvand.

The rock relief at Hung-i Kamal-vand shows a horseman and a standing figure pouring a libation before him. An inscription names “Phraa]tes the priest, son of Kabniskir.” The date of the carving is usually given as second century CE.

[See also Elamites; and Susa.]


  • Calymeyer, Peter, and Matthew W. Stolper. “Mālamīr.” In Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archäologie, vol. 7, pp. 275–287. Berlin and New York, 1988.
    Discussion of the Elamite reliefs and their inscriptions, with an extensive bibliography
  • De Waele, E. “Travaux archéologiques à Šekāf-e Salmān et Kūl-e Farah près d'Iẕeh (Mālamīr).” Iranica Antiqua 16 (1981): 45–61, pls. 1–4. Geographical evaluation, being one of several preliminary reports based on an unpublished doctoral thesis.
  • Kawami, Trudy S. Monumental Art of the Parthian Period in Iran. Acta Iranica, vol. 26. Leiden, 1987.
  • Mathiesen, Hans E. Sculpture in the Parthian Empire. 2 vols. Aarhus, 1992.
  • Vanden Berghe, Louis. “Les reliefs Élamites de Mālamīr.” Iranica Antiqua 3 (1963): 22–39, pls. 9–28. Treatise of the Elamite reliefs (exclusive of Khul-i Farah VI) with good illustrations.
  • Vanden Berghe, Louis, and Klaus Schippmann. Les reliefs rupestres d'Elymaïde (Iran) de l'époque Parthe. Iranica Antiqua, supp. 3. Ghent, 1985.
  • Wright, Henry T., ed. Archaeological Investigations in Northeastern Xuzestan. Ann Arbor, 1979.

Ursula Seidl