Qom, the capital of Qom province, is located 125 kilometers south of Tehran, on a low plain. The shrine of Fatimeh Masumeh, the sister of Imam Reza, is located in this city, which is considered by Shiʿa Muslims holy. The city is located in the boundary of the central desert of Iran (Kavir-e Markazi). At the 2011 census its population was 1,074,036, comprising 545,704 men and 528,332 women.
The present town of Qom in Central Iran dates back to ancient times. Its pre-Islamic history can be partially documented, although the earlier epochs remain unclear. Excavations at Tepe Sialk indicate that the region had been settled since ancient times (Ghirshman and Vanden Berghe), and more recent surveys have revealed traces of large inhabited places south of Qom, dating from the 4th and 1st millennium BC. While nothing is known about the area from Elamite, Medes, and Achaemenid times, there are significant archeological remains from the Seleucid and Parthian epochs, of which the ruins of Khurha (about 70 kilometres or 43 miles southwest of Qom) are the most famous and important remnants. Their dating and function have instigated long and controversial debates and interpretations, for they have been interpreted and explained variously as the remains of a Sasanian temple, or of a Seleucid Dionysian temple, or of a Parthian complex. Its true function is still a matter of dispute, but the contributions by Wolfram Kleiss point to a Parthian palace that served as a station on the nearby highway and was used until Sasanian times.
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