IRAN

ARCHAEOLOGY, ART AND ARCHITECTURE

This part of the web site contains academic papers written by leading scolars in the field of Iranian studies on topics mainly relating to archaeology, architecture and other arts. They include:

Introduction to the Study of Achaemenid Iran

by Sabrina Maras, University of California, Berkeley

"The archaeology of Achaemenid Iran is best known today from studies of three major sites: Pasargadae and Persepolis in the Persian heartland, in Fars, and Susa in lowland Khuzistan. In various ways each of these sites also offers a certain reflection of Iran's long and extraordinary past—a past that could perhaps be said to find one important measure of its singular quality in the attainments of the Achaemenid period (550-330 BC).

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Achaemenid Architecture: An Overview

by Sabrina Maras, University of California, Berkeley

The architecture of the Achaemenid Persian Empire (from the early or 'archaic' period under Cyrus the Great to the fully developed, 'mature' phase under Darius and his successors) is formidable as a unique style that is both instantly recognizable as Persian, while undeniably citing many still older, architectural traditions. It is an architecture that, in its initial phase, drew on local Iranian and Mesopotamian concepts as well as on skills and innovations that were representative of still wider areas that Cyrus came to conquer.

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The Small-Scale Arts of Achaemenid Persia

Sabrina Maras, University of California, Berkeley

The small-scale arts of the Achaemenid empire display a remarkable propensity to incorporate hybrid artistic themes. However, in contrast to what would appear to have been certain planned political messages that were transmitted through the character of the Empire's always recognizable, iconic reliefs and architecture, it is more than likely that much of the iconography that is found in small-scale objects was simply a product of the many separate artistic currents that were in vogue at the time. The hybrid aspects of glyptic art, for example, would often appear to have been consistent with the specific artistic tastes that obtained in one or another specific regions. Even so, within the world of minor arts (with its wide range of influences) there is a definite style that deserves to be considered Achaemenid Persian.

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Development of Achaemenid Studies in the West after 1979

by Dr Mohammad T. Imanpour
Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Iran

Abstract:

Following the Islamic revolution of 1979, archaeological excavations and Achaemenid studies ceased in Iran. Almost all foreign archaeologists and scholars of ancient Iranian history, as well as many Iranians who were known as historical nationalist and supported Achaemenid studies, left the country. The politicization of the ancient history of Iran halted studies of the ancient history of Iran, in particular Achaemenid history which had been encouraged and supported during the Pahlavi dynasty. In contrast, after the Islamic revolution of 1979, it was ignored by officials who saw this dynasty as a symbol of ignorance and despotism. However, in spite of the lack of support for Achaemenid studies by Iranian officials during the last three decades, western scholars in general and European scholars in particular continued to study Achaemenid history in their institutions without hiatus, using new methodologies through various disciplines; philology, archaeology, Assyriology, Egyptology, Classical history, Semitic studies etc.

During this time many conferences and meetings have been organized, numerous ancient texts have been translated and studied, many new archaeological excavations and researches have been carried out within the territory of the Achaemenid Empire, from Central Asia to Egypt, and from the Indus valley to the Aegean Sea. A huge number of titles (books and articles) related to Achaemenid history have appeared during the last thirty years in the west, keeping Achaemenid studies very much alive. This paper, attempts to review and introduce some major academic activities and works undertaken during the last three decades (1979-2011) in western countries. Additionally it will explain why, regardless of the politicization and ignorance of Achaemenid history by officials inside the country, attempts by senior scholars and a new generation of scholars of Ancient Near East from different disciplines utilising new approaches in studies of Achaemenid history, mean the field has developed and will continue to develop in the future.

Download the rest of this paper as a pdf (approx 33 pages) including a very comprehensive bibliography.