The case of Gotarzes II


Lendering’s understanding of Iranian archaeology is a serious cause for concern.  In his posting against Farrokh’s book Lendering confidently states that:


The relief of Gotarzes II at Behistun does not stand today (p.147): it was damaged when a later Iranian monarch "improved" the monument with a mihrab-shaped niche, and the relief is only known from a seventeenth-century drawing [Lendering then makes Note 9: Cf. Louis Vanden Berghe, Reliefs rupestres de l' Iran ancien (1983) p.44.]


Lendering’s statement that “The relief of Gotarzes II at Behistun does not stand today” is completely false. Vanden Berghe never made such a statement. The site does stand today and is located in Bisotun, Kermanshah province. Despite the site’s fame for its Achaemenid archaeology, there clearly are two Parthian bas-reliefs. Consult: (western site) (Iranian site)


Yes, the Parthian reliefs are partially damaged, due to post-Islamic Safavid inscriptions and simple erosion through time. The reality is that there are sections left on either side of the later carved inscription and there are still figures visible. The right panels of the Parthian bas-reliefs clearly display three scenes of Gotarzes II:

a] engaged in horseback riding and spearing an enemy

b] being invested with kingship

c] partaking in a religious (Zoroastrian or Mithraic) ritual

In addition, there are yet more carvings next to it as well as the Hunters Cave on three sides of a falling rock.

Lendering has clearly demonstrated that he:


a] is wrong about the site and provides false information

b] has never been to the site

c] has not read Vanden Berghe’s paper


While the late Professor Vanden Berghe was an excellent world-class scholar, Lendering’s citation of him is completely out of context. Lendering makes other errors as well, clearly indicative that he has not read the Van der Berghe reference properly. The mihrab-shape inscription (which is in fact a VAGHF-NAMEH) has been made by Sheikh Ali Khan Zanganeh, a minister in the Savafid court, not a "monarch" as stated incorrectly by Lendering.


We recommended that Lendering re-read the Berghe paper carefully as this will certainly help him avoid making more errors on the subject.  He is also more than welcome to consult Farrokh about the site as the latter has actually been to this (and many others inside Iran) during his archaeological research in 2001. 

Is Lendering actually suggesting that just because the site is “damaged” then all research there is rendered invalid? In that case we can now dismiss all research on the Acropolis as this was (partially) “damaged” during the Ottoman occupation of Greece!


The Gotarzes site misconception raises profound questions with respect to Lendering’s claim of being an expert of Iranian archaeology. This is worrisome as a number of visitors to the website may be under the impression that Lendering’s views of ancient Iranian archaeology are accurate. At the very least, we suggest that Lendering re-check his information.