Naqsh-e Rustam is an archaeological site located about 12 km northwest of Persepolis, in Fars province, Iran. Naqsh-e Rustam lies a few hundred meters from Naqsh-e Rajab.
The oldest relief at Naqsh-i Rustam is severely damaged and dates to c. 1000 BCE. It depicts a faint image of a man with unusual head-gear and is thought to be Elamite in origin. The depiction is part of a larger mural, most of which was removed at the command of Bahram II. The man with the unusual cap gives the site its name, Naqsh-e Rostam, "Picture of Rostam", because the relief was locally believed to be a depiction of the mythical hero Rostam.
Four tombs belonging to Achaemenid kings are carved out of the rock face. They are all at a considerable height above the ground. The tombs are known locally as the 'Persian crosses', after the shape of the facades of the tombs. The entrance to each tomb is at the center of each cross, which opens onto to a small chamber, where the king lay in a sarcophagus. The horizontal beam of each of the tomb's facades is believed to be a replica of the entrance of the palace at Persepolis.
On a natural rock platform in front of the Darius II tomb you can see a cube-like construction known as platform known as Ka'ba-ye Zartosht - the ka'bah of Zoroaster. This ka'bah was built by the Achaemenid Empire.
It is not knowns the exact use of this structure... at the beginning people had thought that it could been a Zoroastrian shrine would have housed the eternal-flame of Zoroaster, but its architecture would not allow a flame to keep burning.
Scholars have recently suggested that this construction ought to have been a tomb - most precisely that of Cyrus. However, if you visit nearby Pasaragae, you will see a tomb there, which is attributed to Cyrus. No one knows the truth, apparently.
At Naqsh-e Rostam, under the tombs, you can admire seven large and beautiful bas reliefs dating back to the Sassanid period. These bas reliefs represent the kinds of the Sassanid Dinasty.They are:
- the investiture of Ardashir I
- the triumph of Shapur I
- the "grandee" relief of Bahram II
- the two equestrian reliefs of Bahram II
- the investiture of Narseh
- the equestrian relief of Hormizd II.
The triumph of Shapur I is the most stunning of the seven, and the best preserved one. Shapur is portrayed after his victory over the Roman emperors Valerian and Philip the Arab. it is not the most important, though. In the investiture relief of Ardashir I, the founder of the Sassanid Empire, you can see - on the king's ring - the oldest attested use of the term 'Iran'. The Sassanid Empire was the third Iranian dynasty
Naqsh-e Rostam is a wonderful sight not far from Persepolis and, although smaller and completely differenent, is just as charming - as well as far less crowded. Moreover the surrounding scenery is truly breathtaking.
Cut in the bare face of a rock you can admire four tombs that belonged to four Achaemenid kings. As you can see from the photos, these tombs are shaped as crosses and their entrance is quite high above ground, right in the middle of the crosses.
Only one tombs has been identified without doubts, and it is the tomb of Darius I. The remaining three are believed to be those of Darius II, Xerxes I and Artaxerxes I. There is also a fifth tombs, which was never finished, and which might have been built (well, carved) for Darius III.
The Achaemenid Empire was the second major Persian Empire (it controlled 20 nations and covered an area of about 7.5 mn square kilometers over 3 continents) and used Aramaic as its official language. There was no state-enforced religion, although the kings were followers of Zoroastrianism: for this reason the practice of slavery was not allowed.
These stone reliefs are showing the power of Sassanian kings - that kings get power from Ahurza Mazda, Zoroastrian divinity as well Sassanian king defeating Roman emperors. There could be seen small part of one stone reliefs of Elamite era under Sassanian stone relief.
Not far from there is Naqsh-e Rostam where you can see few some stone reliefs from Sassanian period.
The information from local guide differs from the one can be read in Lonely Planet which tomb is for which of the kings.