The ‘cursed’ stone of Kelashin
For centuries, the secret of the 2 meter tall inscribed stone in the Kelashin Passage, one of the most precipitous areas of the Zagros Mountains, was unknown.
For centuries, the secret of the 2 meter tall inscribed stone in the Kelashin Passage, one of the most precipitous areas of the Zagros Mountains, was unknown. The monument was at 3000 meters altitude and was called the Kelashin Stone, and kept its secret for more than a century after it was first discovered in 1828. In 1961, the inscription was fully deciphered and an interesting piece of information surfaced: The stone was cursed.
Kurdistan has seen a flood of explorers, archaeologists and travellers from early 19th century to mid-20th century. Artifacts from ancient civilizations in these lands that are the cradle of history were met with great interest from Westerners. This period was also a time of great pillaging. Many historic artifacts were smuggled into Europe from Kurdistan.
One of the men who was very interested in historic artifacts in Kurdistan in the 19th century was Friedrich Eduard Schulz from the French Orient Foundation.
Schulz was a young professor of philosophy in Germany’s Giessen University, and was regarded as one of the most promising scientists of the time. Schulz started working for the French Orient Foundation due to his interest in the oriental sciences and an invitation from Paris.
Schulz arrived in Kurdistan in 1826 and started excavations in Van and its surroundings first. In these excavations, the ancient Bronze Age city of Behura’s ruins were discovered. Schulz’s efforts helped unearth the first discoveries about the Urartus.
SCHULZ KILLED FOR BEING AN OTTOMAN SPY
Schulz went on a journey in Iran and Kurdistan in 1828-29. During this journey, he discovered the Urartu stone monument in the Kelashin Passage. Schulz worked on the inscription on the Kelashin Stone and documented all of them, then moved on to Başkale.
Schulz spoke with the villagers there and took notes. Hakkari Mir Nurullah Bey heard of his visit and Schulz was killed on Nurullah Bey’s orders on suspicion that he was an Ottoman spy. Most of Schulz’s notes were destroyed.
Nurullah Bey participated in the Bedirhan insurgency in 1847 and after the insurgency failed, he turned himself in in 1849 and later on died in Crete where he was exiled.
38 PEOPLE’S BODIES HACKED
British Assyriologist Sir Henry Crexwicke Rawlinson was among the explorers travelling in Kurdistan during the same period. Rawlinson came from the Iraq side and arrived in Kelashin, but it was very cold and the Kelashin Stone had frozen over. Rawlinson stayed in the region for a while and attempted to access the inscription on the Kelashin Stone several times, but was hindered by the cold in all his attempts.
After Rawlinson also returned from Kelashin empty handed, German orientalist R. Rosch set out for the Kelashin stone. Rosch arrived in Kelashin with a group of 38 people, but never returned. Rosch and his companions were found shot and hacked.
After this incident, Western archaelogists had trouble finding guides for a long time. The locals knew from their ancestors that the Kelashin Stone was cursed, and they believed it brought misfortune to anybody who touched it. The inscriptions could not be read and deciphered. It was like the Kelashin Stone was protecting itself.
MISFORTUNE OR CURSE?
In 1857, German orientalist Otto Blau also set out to explore the Kelashin Stone. Blau arrived accompanied with a veritable army, and he made a mold to copy the Kelashin Stone’s inscriptions. Blau thought he had accomplished a great feat, but the mold broke on the way back to the plains. Blau considered returning to the Kelashin Stone for a new mold, but was sent to Trabzon with an urgent letter.
Another German orientalist, Waldemar Bleck, wanted to go to the Kelashin Stone in 1891, but was attacked by Kurdish horsemen on the way and barely escaped with his life. In this attack, Bleck’s 15 companions were killed.
In 1892, Bleck went up to the Kelashin Stone accompanied with another orientalist Lehmann-Haupt but the weather didn’t allow them to read the inscription. The Kelashin Stone had frozen over. Afterwards, Bleck was attacked once more and never returned to the passage where the Kelashin Stone stands again.
SECRET OF THE STONE UNVEILED
Until American archaelogist George Cameron in 1951, very few people went up to the Kelashin passage again, and they all failed like the others. Cameron was the first in history to successfully copy the inscriptions. He covered all the writing with latex and sent the latex copy to the University of Michigan to be inspected.
Research of the inscriptions took over 10 years. Scientists researching the inscriptions on the Kelashin Stone were faced with an interesting thing: The monument that stood at 3000 meters altitude for 2760 years was cursed.
The monument was erected by the Urartu King Ishpuinis in 802 BC. The King was returning from the conquest of the city of Musasir, home to the war god Haldi’s temple, when he passed through the Kelashin Passage. One side of the monument was written in the Urartu language, the other in the Assyrian, and told the story of how Musasir was conquered and how big a sacrifice was made in the name of Haldi.
SENTENCES CURSING THE MONUMENT
The monument had been cursed by King Ishpuinis with the following:
“Aluse tulie (whoever destroys this monument)
Aluse pitulie (whoever harms it)
Aluse iphulie (whoever breaks it)
Aluse qiuraedi sepulie (whoever buries it underground)
Aluse husulie (whoever throws it into water)
Aluse ini pulusi esini suidulie (whoever tears it out)
Aluse kaini serdulie (whoever hides it from the sun)
Aluse ainiei inili dulie (whoever encourages others)
Aluse giei inukani esinini siulie (whoever carries something away from this place)
turunini haldise mani (may Haldi’s wrath be upon him).
After Cameron unveiled the secret of the stone, an Italian archaelogist went to the Kelashin Passage in 1976 with a large group and worked on the monument. But this trip did not reveal anything new.
IRAN SMUGGLED THE KELASHİN STONE TO URMIYE
The Kelashin Stone was removed from its place by the Iranian army and taken to Urmiye after the Iran-Iraq war that broke out in 1980. The monument was put on display in the Urmiye Archaelogical Museum after the war ended. The “cursed” monument is still on display in this museum.
Some believe that the monument that stood until 1980 had finally lost its powers. Others think it’s now in the hands of those who would protect it. Others still believe the curse of the stone will come back again and it will be returned to the Kelashin passage.