Persepolis, other Iranian sites attacked by algae, not 1991 Kuwait oil fires

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BOLOGNA, Italy -- Italian researchers have determined blue-green algae, not smoke from oil well fires, caused discoloration of some Iranian archaeological treasures.

The scientists say black deposits soiling and discoloring monuments at some important Iranian archaeological sites did not result from smoke produced by oil well fires in Kuwait during the first Gulf War, as had been claimed.

Alessandra Bonazza and colleagues from Italy's National Research Council said Iranian authorities claimed that Persepolis, the Tomb of Cyrus and other cultural treasures in southern provinces had been severely damaged by smoke from the fires ignited by Iraqi forces after their 1990 invasion of Kuwait...

In the new study, researchers used varying laboratory techniques to analyze samples from the monuments. They concluded the discoloration results from crusts of blue-green algae, an organism that often grows naturally on damp rocks and leaves a black residue when dry.

The findings [are to be published in]the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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