Asia: Processed stones / Bakhtiari lions

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PHOTO: Masoud Nemati 3230'34.39" 5013'41.87"

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LION TOMBSTONES, a type of tombstone in the form of a lion, found mostly on the graves of Lor and Qašqāʾi nomads in the west, southwest, and parts of southern Persia. These stylized, sculptured lions stare out from isolated Baḵtiāri graveyards in many valleys and along the migration routes of the tribes across the Zagros Mountains, from Lāli in Khuzestan (Ḵuzestān) to Zardkuh, the highest point of the Zagros range, in the Bāzoft district of the Baḵtiāri region. Found both individually and in clusters, they mark the graves of unknown chiefs and warriors who died in local battles. The great difference in the number of these stone lions in various cemeteries could be an indication of the wealth of the individuals whose graves they mark and the sanctity of a particular burial ground.

 

Bakhtiari lions

 

There are three stories about these powerful animals lying on Iranian tombs. The first is that they guarded the tombs, even straying the wild animals that neared the tombs; some people even considered them holy and asked them to make their wishes come true. The second story is that rich people put their valuable items such as jewelry inside the statue. Finally, it is said to be used as a gravestone to show the grandeur and courage of the departed.

The tradition was kept alive until recently in villages of Bakhtiari, Fars, and Azerbaijan and can still be seen in some of their graveyards. It was especially popular among nomads of the western province of Kurdistan.

This research project, which is a pilot study of cemeteries and funeral culture among the nomadic Bakhtiari in Khuzestan and tchahar mahal va bakhtiari, continued throughout 1995-2006. Lion was in the game category for royalty or just hunting for pleasure, and that's one of the main reasons for extinction of this animal. Many miniatures show kings go to hunting lion trips, alone or with troops. As late as the 19th century lion hunting was one of the favorite pastimes of the Iranian nomad khans too. The main emphasis is based on research about Lion tombstones, a field which until now has remained relatively unknown. This project has enabled a classification and analysis of this particular type of tombstones to be made. It is the first time that research of this type has been undertaken among a nomadic tribal group, which is a distinctive social formation of the past but is now under threat by the rapid urbanisation within Iran. The third and last phase of this field research will collect information from tribal groups living in the vicinity, who have preserved this tradition through oral history. The result will be a comprehensive study about funeral culture in a nomadic tribal setting.


 

17.05.2017 .

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11.04.2017

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31.10.2016 .

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