Towers of Silence (Dakhmeh-ye Zartoshtiyun)
Whilst travelling through Iran I spent a short time in Yazd and I took a shared taxi out to the outskirts of the city with a few friends to see the Towers of Silence. The towers (or dakhmeh) at Dakhmeh-ye Zartoshtiyun are towers build on the top of two hills and were places where Zoroastrian’s left their dead.
Zoroastrianism is an ancient religion based on the teachings of a prophet called ‘Zoroaster’. It was a popular religion in Persia a couple of thousand years ago. Water and fire represented purity and were very important and Zoroastrian ‘fire temples’ are dotted all over Iran – I saw one in Isfahan and also in the ancient village of Abyenah.
The hills at Dakhmeh-ye Zartoshtiyun are each crowned with round towers where the dead were left out for the vultures to pick clean the bones, then what was left was dissolved in acid in accordance with Zoroastrian belief that the dead should not contaminate the earth.
I’ve been told that the dead were disposed of in this way right up until the 20th century in this part of Iran, but now the dead are buried in the ground in concrete coffins.
Zoroastrian tradition says that a corpse is a host for decay and evil spirits, so the dead must be disposed of “safely” and in a way that does not pollute the earth – their solution was the practice of “ritual exposure”.
The Towers of Silence are perhaps an unusual place to visit, but Dakhmeh-ye Zartoshtiyun is well worth a visit if you ever go to Iran, and it is also an awesome place to watch the sun go down over the mountains…
Here are some more photographs of the Towers of Silence near Yazd, Iran: