The Iraqi authorities announced that the Iwan of Al-Madaen, or what is known as the archaeological tag of Khosra, southeast of the capital, Baghdad, which is more than 1,400 years old, and is the largest arch built of bricks in the world, is undergoing restoration works as part of efforts to restore its former luster.
The Iraqi Minister of Culture, Hassan Nazim, said during a tour of the site on Wednesday that the ongoing work aims to develop studies on the soil and foundations and “consolidate” the site near the bank of the Tigris River, which is at risk of groundwater intrusion.
Heritage preservation expert David Michelmore, who works with a team of archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania, said the first phase of the “emergency” work that began last March ends next month.
Michelmore added that “what is currently falling apart is not the original Sassanid building, but the modern restorations,” explaining that “there was a lot of reconstruction in 2013-2014, and perhaps all of this needs to be removed and replaced.”
For his part, the head of the Iraqi Antiquities and Heritage Authority, Laith Majid Hussein, said that the current stage is funded by the International Coalition to Protect Heritage in Conflict Areas, with a budget of $700,000.
And he regretted “several mistakes” in the previous restoration, including “placing a cement layer over the roof.” He added that “there are great plans to completely rehabilitate and restore the taq, so that it is in a stable and solid state that is not exposed to vibrations and collapses.”
And the World Heritage Fund announced in 2004 that the arch of the archaeological site is in danger of “collapse due to water leakage. The fall of a two-meter slab in late 2012 confirmed the accuracy of these warnings.
Restoration work was carried out on this archaeological site in 2013 after a large part fell due to dampness caused by heavy rains, but the new bricks also began to wear out after last year’s rains.
The construction of the 37-meter-high arch began in 540 AD during the long wars of the Sassanid Persian dynasty with the Byzantine Empire. It is the last building still standing from the complex of the palaces of Kisra Anushirwan, and is located on the site of the ancient Persian imperial capital, Ctesiphon, in the Mada’in district of the Baghdad governorate.