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VO LU M E 1 9 N O.

3 S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 0

the journal of
the asian arts society
of australia

TAASA Review

ancient iran

c o n t e n t s
Volume 19 No. 3 September 2010



Tobin Hartnell and Josefa Green

Ch eshm eh Ali Wa re : A Pa i n ted C er a m ic T r a d i t i o n i n t h e I r a n i a n C e n t r a l P l ate au


Abn 64093697537 Vol. 19 No. 3, September 2010
ISSN 1037.6674

Edna Wong

Elamite Art

Javier lvarez-Mn


The Kazakly-Yatkan Wall Paintings: New Perspectives on the Art of the Ancient Iranian World

Fiona Kidd


Pers ep olis in t he Wes te r n I m ag i n at i o n

Tobin Hartnell


Love Thy Neighbour: The Intimate Art of Diplomacy in Persepolis Processional Sculptures

Stephanie Reed


S asanian Ro ck Rel i ef Pa nel s

Ali Asadi


In the Public Do m a i n: A P ersi an S h a hnama F ol io from t h e N G V

Susan Scollay

Registered by Australia Post. Publication No. NBQ 4134

e d i to rIAL email:

General editor, Josefa Green

pu b l i c at i o n s c o m m i t t ee

Josefa Green (convenor) Tina Burge

Melanie Eastburn Sandra Forbes Ann MacArthur
Jim Masselos Ann Proctor Susan Scollay
Sabrina Snow Christina Sumner
de s i g n / l ayo u t

Ingo Voss, VossDesign

pr i n t i n g

John Fisher Printing

Published by The Asian Arts Society of Australia Inc.

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S ilks of S asan i a n P e r s i a

Heleanor Feltham


Boo k Review: Parad ise Lost. Pers i a from A bove

John Tidmarsh


Exhibition Pr ev iew: Beauty A n d Betrayal : An c ient J e wellery at t h e N i c holson

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Elizabeth Bollen and Tobin Hartnell

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Trav elle rs Ta l e : Carpet Museum of Iran

Helen Holmes and Ros Hunyor


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Median Nobles approach the King, Persepolis, 5th Century BCE.

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G ill G ree n Pres id ent

Tobin Hartnell, Guest Editor

Art historian specialising in Cambodian culture

CHRISTINA SUMN ER Vic e Presi d ent

Principal Curator, Design and Society,

Powerhouse Museum, Sydney

Former Director of the Embroiders Guild (UK)


Intellectual property lawyer with

an interest in Asian textiles
Hwe i-f en ch eah

Lecturer, Art History, Australian National University,

with an interest in needlework

Visiting Professor, Department of Chinese Studies,

University of Sydney; former diplomat
Matt Cox

Study Room Co-ordinator, Art Gallery of New South

Wales, with a particular interest in Islamic Art of
Southeast Asia
Phili p Court enay

Former Professor and Rector of the Cairns Campus,

James Cook University, with a special interest in
Southeast Asian ceramics

Assistant Curator, Asian Art, National Gallery of Australia

Sandr a Forbes

Editorial consultant with long-standing interest

in South and Southeast Asian art
Jose fa Gree n

General editor of TAASA Review. Collector of Chinese

ceramics, with long-standing interest in East Asian
art as student and traveller

Collector of Chinese furniture and Burmese lacquerware


Curator of Asian Arts & Design at the Powerhouse Museum


Art historian with a particular interest in Vietnam


Has a long association with the Art Gallery of New South

Wales and a particular interest in the arts of China
Hon. Auditor

Rosenfeld Kant and Co

s t a t e r ep r e s e n t a t i v e s
Australian Capital Territory
Robyn Max we ll

Visiting Fellow in Art History, ANU;

Senior Curator of Asian Art, National Gallery of Australia
Northern Territory
Joanna Barr k man

Curator of Southeast Asian Art and Material Culture,

Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
Russ e ll Stor er

Curatorial Manager, Asian and Pacific Art,

Queensland Art Gallery
South Australia
Jam e s Be nne tt

Curator of Asian Art, Art Gallery of South Australia

Carol Cains

Curator Asian Art, National Gallery of Victoria International

This focus issue of the TAASA Review on

Ancient Iran demonstrates that Australia is
currently one of the leading contributors
to the study of ancient Iranian Art and
Edna Wong recently graduated from Sydney
University in Archaeology. Her piece on
Cheshmeh Ali ceramics investigates some
of Irans earliest art. Recent research reveals
the sophisticated techniques and emerging
themes of these Iranian ceramics from some
7000 years ago, which influenced western
Iranian art for millennia.
Javier lvarez-Mn originally graduated
from Berkeley and now works as a lecturer
on ancient Iranian art at Sydney University.
His piece covers the evolution of Elamite Art,
one of Irans oldest civilizations.
After considering the earliest art traditions in
Iran, following articles review the role of Persia
(modern Fars, southern Iran) in the Iranian
world. Two pieces deal with Persepolis, a site
that still embodies romantic ideas of Persia even
2300 years after its destruction. My own piece,
Persepolis in the Western Imagination, considers
how the meaning of Persepolis changed as the
West became more engaged in Iranian affairs.
Stephanie Reed explores how the Persepolis
reliefs stand apart from other decorative
programs of Ancient Near Eastern states by
focusing on communal aspects, rather than war.
Fiona Kidd works with Sydney Universitys
Chorasmia project (the lower Oxus region).
Her piece covers the newly excavated wall
paintings of Kazakly-yatkan in the eastern
Chorasmian oasis. Through this work, Central
Asian artists emerge as a new force in the
wider Iranian art world.
Ali Asadi, an Iranian archaeologist working at
Persepolis, covers the last stage of pre-Islamic
Art - the Sasanian period (224-654 CE). His article
records how the Sasanian kings chose a very
traditional art form, rock reliefs, as an important
part of the artistic repertoire of the time.
The Sasanian world existed at the centre
of the Silk Road, a link between China and
Europe. Heleanor Feltham considers the role
of the Sasanian court, not just in silk textile
production but in defining Western and
Chinese textile styles for centuries to come.
From archaeology and art history, the focus
shifts to museum collections. Susan Scollay
considers the significance of the Shahnama
(the Book of Kings), on the occasion of its one
thousandth anniversary, while examining a
folio from the Shahnama held in the National
Gallery of Victoria. Elizabeth Bollen, assistant

curator at the Nicholson Museum, reviews

its new jewellery exhibition which, while
focused on the classical culture of Greece
and Rome, also displays some important
examples of Persian and Persian-inspired
jewellery for the first time in Sydney.
John Tidmarsh reviews a nostalgic book about
Iranian culture and landscapes. Using aerial
photography, Paradise Lost: Persia from Above
captures a moment in time in Irans history
that is rapidly disappearing as modern Iran
The journal finishes with a Travellers Tale
item about the Carpet Museum of Tehran. Ros
Hunyor and Helen Holmes first examined the
extraordinary carpets displayed in the museum
and then travelled around Iran to experience
the diverse cultures that produced them.
The range of topics covered by the articles
in this issue starts to capture the vitality and
experimentation of artists in ancient Iran. The
cultural influence of these ancient works are
still with us, as Iranians and foreigners alike
look to Irans artistic heritage to experience
the enduring ideas of its layered past.
This special issue required the generosity
of many professionals. Thank you to the
generosity of the contributors, photographer
Koroush Mohammad Khani, the Oriental
Institute (Chicago), University of Pennsylvania,
University of Akron, University of Tasmania
and Sydney for your help.
This is a special issue in that it announces
the resignation of our current President,
Judith Rutherford. On page 27, we
provide a brief outline of Judiths
achievements and Im sure I speak for
all members in thanking Judith for her
outstanding contribution to TAASA over
the years and hoping that we will still
find her at all our future functions.
At the same time, this issue is happy to
announce the unanimous election of Gill
Green as our new President and Christina
Sumner as our new Vice President. Gill
will become just the 4th President since
TAASAs foundation in October 1991.
While Judith took over the reigns in 2001
(from Jackie Menzies) when TAASA was
10 years old, our new leadership comes
just one year before our 20th anniversary.
We can look forward to many more
years of TAASA continuing its work of
promoting Asian arts in Australia.
Josefa Green, Editor


Edna Wong
Map of Cheshmeh Ali Sites. Created by Tobin Hartnell and Edna Wong.

eramics are one of the oldest technologies

of ancient Iranian civilization. Early
ceramics were hand-made and decorated with
simple geometric patterns or even smudges of
paint. In the Central Plateau of northern Iran,
some of the earliest painted ceramics were
found in Tepe Sialk (modern Kashan). These
ceramics are dated to the Neolithic period,
over 7500 years ago. They are typically coarse,
buff ceramics with organic tempers and
decorated with simple geometric designs, net
and basketry patterns.
During the Transitional Chalcolithic period (c.
5300-4300 BCE), a new type of fine ceramics
made its appearance. These fine ceramics,
known as Cheshmeh Ali Ware after the village
in which it was first discovered, were exquisitely
painted and produced to a high technical
standard. The red fabric was specially prepared
to remove impurities. The best examples have
consistent, well-fired profiles suggesting that
their makers were expert craftsmen.

published, these ceramics have long been

used as markers for the interpretation of the
chronology of northern Iran. While the site
of Cheshmeh Ali has yielded rich findings
from the Neolithic to the Late Chalcolithic
period, this discussion will concentrate on the
fine ceramics of the Transitional Chalcolithic
period, also known in older literature as the
Sialk II period. Examples will be drawn from
material found in other sites across the Central
Plateau as well as from Cheshmeh Ali itself.

Not only does Cheshmeh Ali ware represent

a sophisticated ceramic culture of prehistoric
Iran, it was part of the social transformation
that was occurring in all parts of ancient
Iran. Hunters and gatherers were becoming
farmers or herders. Rare materials such as
obsidian and semi-precious stones such as
turquoise, agate and lapis lazuli were traded
over long distances across the Middle East.
Pottery production was becoming a more
specialised activity with advanced kilns and
dedicated craft quarters. Metal-working
also made its first appearance in the Central
Plateau at this time. Villages were becoming
sophisticated towns and would soon become
some of the earliest urban centres of Iran.

Cheshmeh Ali pottery in the Transitional

Chalcolithic period is characteristically
reddish-brown to orange-red in colour with
black or dark brown painted motifs. Painted
decorations are present on the interior,
exterior or both surfaces. Mineral paint
might have been used in the decoration that
turned dark brown or black on firing (Malek
Shahmirzadi 1977: 283).

Cheshmeh Ali ceramics have held special

interest for archaeologists, art historians and
collectors because they are one of the earliest
prehistoric painted pottery traditions found
in northern Iran. In 1934-1936, Erich Schmidt
first uncovered these ceramics at Cheshmeh
Ali, a village situated in Rayy, now part of
modern Tehran. Since then, similar ceramics
have been found in prehistoric sites across the
Central Plateau of northern Iran, spanning a
distance of over 300 km, from the Qazvin and
Kashan plains in the west to the Gurgan and
Damghan plains in the east.

The Cheshmeh Ali ceramicists painted flocks

of stylised birds with long legs and bent
necks, ibexes and wild goats with curved
and notched horns, even dangerous animals
such as snakes. When they painted plants,
they preferred wild flowers and trees rather
than the crops that they were planting. These
representational motifs were not present in
the preceding Neolithic period, but have since
remained distinctive features of the ceramics
from the Central Plateau of Iran for the whole
of the Chalcolithic period, which spanned
over 2000 years.

Although the initial excavation report for

Cheshmeh Ali itself has never been fully

Geometric motifs are well represented on

these vessels. Important designs include

basketry or brickwork that would have been

found in everyday lives. There were also
designs such as loops, triangles, ovals, wavy
lines, parallel bands, dots and dashes. As a
result, the painted designs on the ceramics can
be quite complex with various combinations
of naturalistic and geometric images.
Forms are open, consisting mainly of cups,
bowls, vases and goblets. There are also a
few jars and very distinctive basket-handled
bowls. The latter was decidedly an innovation
as it is not seen in any of the vessels from
the Neolithic period. The walls of the cups
and bowls are straight, oblique, concave or
carinated. The thin, smooth rims are without
mouldings. Bases are slightly concave, round
or pedestalled. The distinctive pedestalled
base would remain a hallmark of ceramics
from this region of Iran. The thin-walled, grittempered vessels are often coated with a slip
and burnished. Once decorated, the ceramics
were evenly fired at higher temperature
producing a characteristic clinking sound
when struck. The thicker walled vessels show
thin dark grey cores that suggest inadequate
firing. These are mainly larger storage vessels.
Earlier scholars have concentrated on
documenting and comparing designs and
typology in sites where this distinctive ware was
found in order to establish a relative chronology
and regional contact. Today archaeologists can
go beyond these chronological comparisons
to investigate social transformations. For
example, recent excavations have uncovered
craft quarters, while remains of kilns have been
found in settlements (Fazeli et al. 2005, 2007).

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3

A Selection of Cheshmeh Ali Ceramics, N. Iran c. 5300 4300 BCE, pigment on earthenware. Penn University, image no. 152832

Direct evidence of ceramic production, such as

moulds, ceramic polishers/scrapers, slag, waste
materials, prepared clay balls and red ochre
lumps, has been found within these contexts.
Not only were craftsmen deploying a
greater range of technology to produce these
ceramics but there is evidence for growing
standardisation which suggests a movement
away from household production. As part of
my doctoral work, I examined very thinlycut sections of the ceramics using a phase
contrast microscope with rotating stage. This
work at the microscopic level showed that
the fabric of the Cheshmeh Ali ware was
surprisingly uniform in sherds taken from
various sites in the Qazvin and Tehran plains.
The clay was well levigated with a low ratio of
coarse to fine inclusions, good homogeneity
and contained only very small amounts of
organic temper. The firing temperature for
the Cheshmeh Ali ware was likely to be above
850C, judging from the very low occurrence
of calcareous inclusions. To achieve this
quality of production, craftsmen would have
had to select and levigate the clay carefully
and achieve good temperature control of their
kilns. For this reason, we consider Cheshmeh
Ali potters as some of the earliest specialised
artisans of ancient Iran.
With the resumption of field work in Iran
during the last 15 years and improved
scientific techniques, a wider range of research
issues are now being tackled. Geochemical

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3

studies so far suggest that the ceramics were

made in the individual settlements rather
than centrally manufactured and distributed
(Wong 2008). X-radiographic analysis is
uncovering different forming techniques in
the manufacture of these ceramics. One of the
more interesting techniques associated with
Cheshmeh Ali ware was the use of sequential
slab construction technique in which round,
oval or polygonal slabs were used to form the
vessels. On the rim in particular, elongated
slabs on the surface show clear signs of
regular rotation causing the researchers to
hypothesize an early use of a fast rotating
device (Dipilato and Laneri 1988). If proven,
the use of a fast rotating device at this time
would be significantly earlier than known
examples from Mesopotamia, making
Cheshmeh Ali an example of an advanced
craft production society.
In 1977, anthropologist Martin Wobst
suggested that it might be useful to view
styles of artefacts as a means of transmitting
information. Visual information such as
pottery style and motifs, among other things,
indicates ritual contexts, ethnic affiliations
and self-created identities. The sharing of
visual information reinforces relationships
and thus promotes social cohesion and
negotiation between groups by providing a
recognised set of cultural symbols.
On this basis, Matney (1995) initiated the
study of the painted motifs on the Cheshmeh

Cheshmeh Ali sherds showing wild goats with curved

Field staff restoring Cheshmeh Ali ceramic vessel on site. 1930s. Photo: E. Schmidt. Oriental Institute, Chicago

Ali ceramics. He started by examining and

cataloguing all the design elements found on
the available pottery stored in the University
of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology
and Anthropology and the Oriental Institute
of the University of Chicago. He noted their
locations on the vessels, how they varied and
the combinations in which they occur. The
information was coded and entered into a
computerized database, which also contained a
wealth of information on the spatial location of
every object found in the excavation. The aim was
to generate patterns that would provide some
insight into what information was encoded in the
painted motifs of these vessels. At Chogha Mish
(southwestern Iran), this type of information
has been used to document design families that
might relate to the original households that
produced these ceramics. At Cheshmeh Ali,
this work should similarly promote scholarly
discussion on the social situation of the ceramic
producers of Cheshmeh Ali ware.
Matneys original project has since expanded
with a grant from the Shelby White-Leon Levy
Program. This enables the incorporation of
material from the re-excavation of Cheshmeh
Ali in 1997 and provides access to the material
held in Iran with the participation of Iranian
scholars. When completed, it would contain

the hereto unpublished manuscript detailing

the Schmidt excavation with a database of
architecture, ceramic vessels, sherds and small
finds together with new discoveries being
made at Cheshmeh Ali by contemporary
researchers and information obtained through
new scientific techniques not available in the
1930s when the site was first excavated.

horns, pigment on earthenware. Photo: Hassan Fazeli

Ultimately, the study of the Cheshmeh Ali

ceramics goes beyond the obvious aesthetic
appeal of these exquisitely painted vessels.
The study of the production and distribution
of the Cheshmeh Ali ceramics holds the
key to the transition of the pottery industry
from a household one to that of an organised
workshop industry of specialist potters with
increasing standardisation in production,
heralding the new era of craft specialisation
that was to become the hallmark of the
Chalcolithic period, an era of technological
breakthrough not only in ceramics but also in
metallurgy and social organisation.
Dr Edna Wong is Honorary Research Associate in the
Department of Archaeology, University of Sydney.

Dipilato, S. and Laneri, N. 1998. Sequential Slab Construction
and Other Problems Concerning Hand-building Techniques in

Although we have known about the painted

Cheshmeh Ali ceramics for decades, it is
only in recent years that more systematic
investigations into these vessels have begun.
These investigations include re-excavations
of important archaeological sites, including
Cheshmeh Ali itself, Zagheh and Tepe
Sialk. The most important new site under
excavation is Tepe Pardis, a prehistoric
town that oversaw large-scale production of
Transitional Chalcolithic ceramics. These new
excavations and surveys provide absolute
dating using the radiocarbon dating method
and enable archaeologists to gain a better
understanding of the settlement pattern as
well as technological and socio-economical
developments in this region. All of these
results together will further the study of
the dynamics of interregional interaction
and growth of social complexity in the late
prehistoric period.

Chalcolithic Iran: Experimenting with Mammographic X-Ray Images.

Bar International Series, 720, pp. 59-68.
Fazeli, H., Coningham R. A. E. and Batt, C. M. 2004. CheshmehAli Revisited: Towards an Absolute Dating of the Late Neolithic and
Chalcolithic of Irans Tehran Plain, Iran 42: 13-23.
Fazeli, N. H., Coningham, R. A. E., Young, R. L., Gillmore, G. K.
Maghsoudi, M. and Reza, H. 2007. Social Transformations of the
Tehran Plain; Final Season of Settlement Survey and Excavations at
Tepe Pardis, Iran 45: 267-286.
Fazeli, H., Wong, E. H. and Potts, D.T. 2005. The Qazvin Plain
Revisited: A Reappraisal of the Chronology of northwestern Central
Plateau, Iran, in the 6th to the 4th Millennium BC, Ancient Near
Eastern Studies XLII: 3-82.
Matney, T. 1995. Re-excavating Cheshmeh Ali, Expedition 37(2):
Schmidt, E. 1935. The Persian Expedition, University Bulletin
5(5): 41-49.
Wong, E.H.Y. 2008. Ceramic characterization and inter-site
relationships in the northwestern Central Plateau, Iran, in the
Late Neolithic to the Bronze Age. Ph.D. dissertation, University
of Sydney.

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3

Javier lvarez-Mn
Ziggarat at Choga Zanbil, c. 1340 1300 BCE. Photo: J. lvarez-Mn

lamite civilization was the result of

interaction between low-land Susiana
(broadly the present day province of
Khuzestan) and high-land eastern Zagros
polities, which coalesced into the creation of a
multi centred Elamite state around 2000 BCE.
From the Mesopotamian perspective, Susiana
was the gateway to the eastern Iranian
highlands, the plateau beyond, providing
indispensable access to primary material
resources such as metals, timber, and stone.
From the highland perspective it was the
gateway to a web of flourishing, river bound,
urban Mesopotamian centres with luxury
manufactured goods and unmatched cultural
and social complexity.
The artistic heritage of Elam is dominated
by the material production unearthed at the
city of Susa. Founded at around 4000 BCE
on two natural prominent outcrops reaching
c.10.5 to 7 m high above the surrounding
Susiana plain, the southern town extended
over c. 7 ha (the alumelu high-rising city
or Acropole mound), the northern town
extended over c. 6.3 ha (the Apadana mound).
The Acropole hosted a massive monumental
terrace, grain storage facilities, and hundreds
of funerary remains including flat axes,
chisels, pins, flat mirrors made of copper

and finely decorated wares. So-called Susa

I style pottery is characterized by egg shellthin walled, slightly fired beakers and bowls
decorated with monochrome geometric and
naturalistic designs in black paint over a
cream background.
Elam as empire came to political maturity
around 1850 BCE. By the late 19th century BCE
the figure and authority of the Great King of
Elam dominated international politics to the
extent that Elam was orchestrating political

changes in Mesopotamian and Mediterranean

polities. The economic prosperity and political
influence of the Sukkalmah period (c. 1900 1500 BCE) is reflected by a wealth of artistic
and monumental architectural remains.
The city of Susa expanded to about 85 ha
towards the east with a succession of new
neighbourhoods, which included a school,
a tavern, and monumental compound elite
households organised along large courtyards
and reception halls. These mud-brick
constructions provide insights into traditional

Susa 1 vessels, c. 4000 BCE, pigment on earthenware, from The royal city of Susa: Ancient Near Eastern treasures in the Louvre,
(ed) P.O. Harper, J. Aruz, F. Tallon, Harry N. Abrams, NY, 1992 pp32, 35 & 40. Louvre Museum

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3

Statue of Queen Napir-Asu, c. 1340 BCE, bronze and

Life-size royal heads from Haft Tappeh, c. 1380 BCE, painted clay.

cast copper, Louvre Museum. Photo: J. lvarez-Mn

The Museum of Susa, Shush (Khuzistan). Photo: J. lvarez-Mn

vernacular architectural practices, sometimes

known as architecture without architects.
Situated between the ancient highway linking
the Elamite capitals of Susa and Anan, lies
the open-air sanctuary of Kurangun. It was
carved around 1650 BCE on top of a rock-cliff
overlooking the Fahliyan River majestically
flowing through the panoramic Mamasani
region. The sanctuary exhibits an exceptional
example of highland Elamite art and religious
ideology. Its manufacture required cutting deep
into the vertical side of the rock in order to make
three flights of staircases linked to a rectangular
5 x 2 m platform and three basins with carved
remains of 26 fish. The vertical surface of the
rock exhibits a rectangular panel carved in lowrelief with a pious religious image representing
the divine Elamite couple and worshipers. The
bearded male Great God is sitting on a throne
made of a coiled serpent. His right hand is
bestowing symbols of power (ring and rod) and
blessings (holy water) to the Elamite monarchs.
Sculpted along the staircases are three groups
of about 40 male worshippers represented in
profile and wearing long braided hair ending
on a looped knob, which were added to the
relief during the early Neo-Elamite period c.
800 BCE (Potts 2004).
Elams political rivals in Mesopotamia
were the Kassite tribes. No less than five
generations of Elamite rulers had Kassite
wives, mothers, or both. The enduring
association between Elamite and Kassite
royal elites established the basis for Elamite
claims on the Babylonian throne. These
claims eventually ended with the collapse
of the Kassite dynasty and sack of Babylon

in 1155 BCE, marked by the departure to

Elam of the statue of Marduk together with
large amounts of trophy. Amongst the
most celebrated artefacts placed in the sacred
Acropole complex at Susa in dedication to
the Elamite divinities were the Law Code of
Hammurabi and the Victory Stele of NaramSin. The resources accumulated during this
period of Elamite imperial expansionism
produced an unprecedented artistic golden
age from c. 1500 to 1000 BCE.
A mystifying aspect of Elamite funerary
practices consisted of placing life-size clay heads
next to the skull of the deceased. The heads
were modelled and painted with detailed facial
features suggesting individualised portraits.
Who the heads were meant to represent
remains open to speculation (Negahban 1991:
37-39, Alvarez-Mon 2006).
The most important Middle Elamite king
was Unta-Napiria of the Igehalki house (c.
1340-1300 BCE). The sculpture of his wife,
queen Napir-Asu, remains a masterpiece of
ancient metallurgical work. The 1.29 m tall
acephalic statue weighing 1750 kg was found
in the temple of the god Ninursag, in the Susa
Acropole mound. Until very recently the
techniques used to cast the copper and bronze
sculpture remained unknown. It was cast in
two parts using a clay core that allowed the
making of a single shell of copper by the lostwax technique. Once the core was removed,
the shell was filled with solid bronze. The
queens garments were chased after casting.
The upper short-sleeved blouse was decorated
with hundreds of little pointed dots probably
representing embroideries or, more likely,

metallic bracteates. The large skirt ends in a

long flared fringe and includes motifs in the
shape of bands and pointed dots. The surface
was further embellished with gold and silver
foils (Meyers 2000).
Unta-Napiria is credited with instituting
a religious revolution by founding a holy
city dedicated to the veneration of highland
and lowland divinities. Choa Zanbil is
located about 35 km southeast of Susa. It was
surrounded by three concentric walls enclosing
royal funerary monumental installations,
temples, and an estimated 53 m high ziggurat
built of millions of clay bricks. The ziggurat
had four levels and, at floor level, two main
entrances flanked by twin pairs of protective
blue-glazed bulls and bird-headed griffins The
staircases led to a brightly decorated temple
topping the ziggurat (the kukunnum) dedicated
to the highland god Napiria and the lowland
god Inuinak (Ghirshman 1966).
The interlude between c.1100 and 750 BCE
is a dark age period of Elamite history
reflected by the absence of material remains
in the archaeological record. During the
first millennium BCE the identity of Elam
underwent two alterations that forced a
reformulation of its political, social, and artistic
character. Socially, the genetic pool of Elam
was increasingly replenished by individuals
of ancestral Indo-European (Iranian) heritage
in parallel with the emergence of a dominant
class characterised by an equestrian culture.
Geopolitically, the constant Elamite challenge
to Assyrian authority over the Zagros and
Mesopotamia resulted in the devastation
of western Elam and saw a shift in cultural

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3

Open air sanctuary of Kurangun with relief carvings, c 1650 BCE. Photo: J. lvarez-Mn. Line drawing from L. vanden
Berghe, Reliefs Rupestres de LIran Ancien, Muses Royaux dArt et dHistoire, Bruxelles, 1984 p228 Copyright: J. lvarez-Mn

city of Behbahan. Inside the tomb a bronze

bath-tub style coffin contained the skeletal
remains of an adult male lying on his back.
Next to the skeleton lay a pile of cottonmade textiles folded in layers (the earliest
attested secure evidence of the presence of
cotton in the Near East) and gold rosettes
and disks. To the side of the skeleton lay an
iron dagger ornamented with precious stones
and gold filigree. The right arm was bent in
the direction of the chest, resting next to an
extraordinary gold ceremonial ring.
This artefact has no parallel in the arts of the
ancient world. It has a tubular grooved middle
shaft ending with circular plaques on which
can be found matching repouss and chased
designs of rampant lion-headed griffins posed
heraldically around a small palmette-tree. A
lid engraved with registers of floral buds and
lotus blossoms was placed over the coffin
and secured by ropes to the handles on the
sides. Outside the coffin were a number of
additional precious items of ceremonial and/
or functional use. This evidence of an Arjan
artistic school at around 600 BCE between the
ending years of the Elamite Empire and the
genesis of the Achaemenid-Persian Empire
suggests an historical nexus where the process
of transference and cultural continuity
between Elam and Persia can actually be
documented (lvarez-Mn 2010).
Dr. Javier lvarez-Mn is a Fulbright-Hays
Scholar in the Near Eastern Art and Archaeology
Department of Archaeology, School of Philosophical
and Historical Enquiry, University of Sydney.

lvarez-Mn, J. 2006. Elamite Funerary Clay Heads, Near
Eastern Archaeology 68/3: 1142.

and political power eastwards towards the

highlands (lvarez-Mn 2009).
The Zagros highland region of Izeh/Malamir
is nested in a mountain valley located about
100 km to the east of Susa. Carved over the
sides of cliffs and boulders are a series of 12
Elamite bas-reliefs without parallel in the
artistic historical record of the ancient Near
East. Two reliefs are of particular interest
because of their size and subject matter.
They depict complex ceremonial sacrifices
accompanied by musical performances and
banquet ceremonies. Dated around 800 BCE,
the relief of Kul-e Farah number IV captures a
frozen-in-time communal banquet centring
on the figure of a king sitting on a throne
and surrounded by at least 140 participants
consuming meat. The aesthetic choices
and distribution of the various registers,
which group servants, high status nobles,
and possibly a priestly and military class,

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3

illustrates a distinctive artistic production and

represents a clear hierarchical order organised
by social status (lvarez-Mn forthcoming).

lvarez-Mn, J., 2010. The Arjan Tomb: at the Crossroad of the

The standard view of the end of the Elamite

Empire brings the period to a close with the
assumed destruction of Susa by the Assyrian
king Ashurbanipal in 647 BCE, the progressive
abandonment of urban centres paired with
political fragmentation, the reversal to a
pastoral nomadic socio-economic existence,
and the ultimate disappearance of Elam from
the historical record. A recent reassessment
of the textual and archaeological sources has
prompted alternative views of the end of the
Elamite empire and consequently, of the genesis
of the Achaemenid Persian period (lvarezMn, Garrison and Stronach, in press).

lvarez-Mn, J., [forthcoming] Braids of Glory, Elamite Sculptural

Elamite and the Persian Empires, Peeters, Leiden.

lvarez-Mn, J., 2009. Ashurbanipals Feast: a view from Elam,
Iranica Antiqua 44.

Reliefs from the Highlands: Kul-e Farah IV, in K. Degraef and

J. Tavernier (eds.), Susa and Elam, Archaeological, Philological,
Historical, and Geographical Perspectives, Brill, Leuven (expected
lvarez-Mn, J., Garrison M.B. and Stronach D. [in Press].
Introduction for Elam and Persia, in J. lvarez-Mn and M.B.
Garrison (eds.), Elam and Persia, Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake.
Ghirshman, R., 1966. Tchoga Zanbil, Vol 1 (La Ziggurat),
Mmoires de la Dlgation en Perse 39, Paris.
Meyers, P., 2000. The Casting Process of the Statue of Queen
Napir-Asu in the Louvre, Journal of Roman Archaeology,
Supplementary Series 39: 118.
Negahban, E., 1991. Excavations at Haft Tepe, Iran, University
Museum Monograph 70, Philadelphia.
Potts, D.T., 2004. The Numinous and the Immanent, Some
Thoughts on Kurangun and the Rudkhaneh-e Fahliyan, in K. von

In 1982 a stone-walled burial was accidentally

discovered near the ancient city of Arjan,
situated to the northeast of the present-day

Folsach, H. Thrane, and I. Thuesen (eds.), From Handaze to Khan,

Essays Presented to Peder Mortensen on the Occasion of his 70th
Birthday, Aarhus: 14356.


Fiona Kidd
Field photo of a portrait fragment, Eastern Chorasmia, Uzbekistan, c late 3rd/early 2nd century BCE. Photo: Fiona Kidd

ome of the best preserved early Iranian

mural art is currently being excavated
by the Karakalpak-Australian Expedition to
Chorasmia, in modern Uzbekistan. Dating
to the end of the first millennium BCE, and
perhaps an early forerunner to the flourishing
early medieval mural art traditions of
central Asia, the paintings demonstrate an
unprecedented diversity of colour, style
and imagery; they provide critical new
perspectives on both the foreign relations of
the ancient Chorasmian oasis, and the visual
art of the ancient Iranian world.
Chorasmia forms an agricultural wedge in
the delta region of the Amu Darya where
it flows into the Aral Sea. Located between
the agricultural world to the south and the
vast steppe region to the north, Chorasmias
location is important in understanding its
role as a contact zone in the wider Iranian
world (Francfort 2005). The region is perhaps
best known as the northeastern buffer of the
Achaemenid Empire. Despite ceding early
from the Empire - probably around the end
of the 5th century BCE recent research
demonstrates a distinct Near Eastern heritage
in Chorasmian visual art.
The wall paintings from the monumental site
of Kazakly-yatkan in the eastern Chorasmian
oasis reflect clear links with its sedentary
and nomadic neighbours, providing a rare
snapshot of a thriving and syncretic local
visual art culture in the little known eastern
Iranian world. Built in the late 3rd or early 2nd
century BCE, Kazakly-yatkan is the largest
site in Chorasmia during this period and a
possible regional ruling centre. The most
impressive structure at the site to date is the
KY10 monumental building complex, which
comprises a central building apparently
surrounded by a corridor on all sides, and a
series of rooms and circulation spaces around
this. Although its exact function is unclear,
the building was characterized by a diverse
program of display. Monumental mural art
is just one element of this program, which
included moulded copper alloy and gold
leaf architectural ornamentation, painted
sculpture, painted columns and perhaps even
decorated ceilings.
One of the most impressive preserved
sections of the paintings is an image gallery in
the western corridor surrounding the central
building (Yagodin, Betts, et al., forthcoming).


The images in the gallery provide for the

first time in pre-Islamic Iranian mural art an
extensively preserved group of individually
framed, almost life-size bust portraits
though this term is loosely applied as these
schematic images do not represent a likeness
as such. At least 36 personages can be identified
from over 100 fragments found in the fill of
the corridor. The busts are shown frontally,
while the profile head of each personage faces
either right or left. The physiognomy of the
personages appears to be the same: full, red
lips, strong nose, unique eyes with stylised
eye lashes, and red ears with the details of the
cartilage clearly defined.
Although no fragments of the portraits were
found in situ in the corridor, several large
fragments preserving multiple portraits
provide an indication of the original structure
of the gallery. A surviving column shows
three framed portraits, suggesting that they
were painted in three tiers across the wall face.
The location of the fragments in the fill of the
corridor indicates that only the eastern side of
the wall was painted. Given that the gallery is
less than 2 m wide these images were clearly
not made for a large, public audience. Who
was the intended audience of the gallery?
Perhaps the most vexing question about the
portraits is their identity. All of the personages
wear a spiral torque with zoomorphic terminals

a clear indication of elite identity. Other

elements of the costume such as the headdress
and the colour and patterning of the dress
are almost certainly gender, ethnic and other
status indicators, but these signifiers are not yet
understood. The absence of facial hair on the
portraits compounds the gender issue.
Fragments of painted text found in the
corridor mention the word king in the
ancient Chorasmian language. This has led to
speculation that the images comprise a portrait
gallery of royal ancestors. Other interpretations
are possible. Spiral torques are unknown in the
archaeological record of Chorasmia; they find
their best parallels in steppe burials, and on
ruler portraits on Parthian coins (Reeder, 1999;
Sellwood, 1981). A steppe identity for at least
some of those portrayed in the gallery cannot
be ruled out and may also hint at a political
function of the KY10 complex. A steppe identity
is further supported by comparative evidence
of the unique bird protome headdresses shown
on some of the portraits. The closest parallels to
date for these headdresses come from nomad
warrior burials in the Pazyryk region of the
Altai Mountains dated generally to the second
half of the first millennium BCE.
In addition to a steppe connection, other
fragments underline the Near Eastern
heritage of at least some of the visual art at
Kazakly-yatkan. A fragment of wall painting

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3

Digitised tracing of wall painting fragment preserving four portraits,

Eastern Chorasmia, Uzbekistan, c late 3rd/early 2nd century BCE. Photo: Fiona Kidd

What was the direction of the spread of

these influences? From a more art historic
perspective, who were the designers, artists
and craftspeople involved in the construction
of the building? Where were they trained?
In the absence of any targeted study of
Chorasmian - or even eastern Iranian/
central Asian - art, the rich corpus from
Kazakly-yatkan will play an intrinsic role in
understanding broader developments in the
visual art of the ancient Iranian world. Is the
syncretic style exhibited at Kazakly-yatkan
representative of Chorasmian art? Equally as
significant is the idea that the Kazakly-yatkan
mural art does not blatantly copy images and
designs from surrounding regions: designers
of the Kazakly-yatkan display program were
certainly influenced by surrounding cultures,
but their interpretations of these influences
were unique. Ongoing research at Kazaklyyatkan will surely continue to provide rich
insights on the visual art of the ancient
Iranian world.
The Karakalpak-Australian Expedition to Chorasmia
is directed by V.N. Yagodin and A. Betts. The project
has received substantial support from the Australian
Research Council as well as National Geographic
and many volunteers. C14 analyses were largely
funded by support from ANSTO.
Dr Fiona Kidd is an Australian Research Council
Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Archaeology,
University of Sydney. Her current research explores
ancient Chorasmian visual art, with a particular focus
on the Kazakly-yatkan wall paintings.

Faccenna, D., 1981. A new fragment of wall-painting from
Ghaga Sahr (Kuh-i Hvaga - Sistan, Iran), East and West 31 1-4
(1981): 83-97 + plates.
Francfort, H.-P., 2005. Asie centrale, LArcheologie de lEmpire
Achemenide: nouvelles recherche de P. Briant, and R. Boucharlat,
de Boccard, Paris. 6: 313-352.
Ghanimati, S., 2000. New perspectives on the chronological and
functional horizons of Kuh-e Khwaja in Sistan, Iran 38: 137-150.

from a circulation space to the west of the

central building shows a face with grapes
and a vine leaf. In close proximity to this
fragment was another one, showing what
appears to be a tendril. The best parallels for
this combined grape, vine leaf and tendril
motif come from the Parthian site of Old Nisa,
where a spectacular horde of ivory rhytons
was found. A similar motif combining the
grapes, leaves and tendrils was used as part
of a frieze on some of the rhytons (Masson
and Pugachenkova 1982: Pl 12,1). An as
yet unpublished magnificent carved ivory
furniture element from the central building
finds remarkable parallels with Parthian and
Achaemenid throne legs (Jamzadeh 1996;

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3

Pugachenkova 1992). Also unpublished is an

ornamental pattern comprising at least three
decorated concentric circles. This motif can
be traced back to the Achaemenid and
Assyrian empires.

Jamzadeh, P.,1996. The Achaemenid throne-leg design., Iranica

Antiqua 31: 101-146.
Masson, M.E. and G.A. Pugachenkova, 1982. The Parthian
rhytons of Nisa, Casa Editrice le Lettere, Firenze.
Pugachenkova G.A., 1969. Tron Mitridata I iz Parfyanskoy Nisy.
Vestnik Drevney Istorii 1 (107): 161-171.
Reeder, E., 1999. Scythian Gold.Treasures from Ancient Ukraine,

A painting fragment showing a crowd scene

from the centre of the buildings finds its best
parallels in an image from the site of Kuh-i
Khwaja in Sistan, almost certainly dated to
the early centuries CE if not later (Faccenna
1981; Ghanimati 2000). These linkages raise
further critical questions. From a political
perspective, what was the nature of the
relations between Chorasmia and the ruling
Iranian heartland, and the steppe world?

Harry N. Abrams in association with The Walters Art Gallery and

the San Antonio Museum of Art, New York.
Sellwood, D., 1981. An Introduction to the Coinage of Parthia,
Spink, London.
Yagodin, V, Betts, A. et al. Forthcoming in 2010. KarakalpakAustralian excavations in ancient Chorasmia. An interim report on
the Kazakly-yatkan wall paintings: the portrait gallery. Journal of
Inner Asian Art and Archaeology 4.


Tobin Hartnell

Darius I took the throne in 522 BCE,

W hen
he planned a new city to symbolise the

luxurious palace complex ever built up until

that period in Persias history.

and Susa overshadow Persepolis in Greek

writing until the campaigns of Alexander.

ideals of the Achaemenid Empire. Unlike

Cyrus (559 - 530 BCE) in nearby Pasargadae
who emphasised his Ancient Near Eastern
heritage with traditional images of winged
genii and half-man, half-animal priests, Darius
wanted to create an environment that was
quintessentially Persian. Yet Darius Persia
(modern Fars or Pars Province, southern
Iran) was still tribal and it was only one
generation since Cyrus had built the oldest
known recognisably Persian monumental
architecture. Therefore Parsa (Greek
Persepolis) represents more than a city; it
represents a major step in the transformation
of Persia and an extension of the identity of
the land and its people. It was so important
that even 2000 years after its destruction,
visitors recognised the grandeur of ancient
Persia at the site.

In the construction of Persepolis and other

early palaces, the Achaemenid kings needed
to introduce new arts into the Persian idiom.
The earlier Elamite canon of monumental
architecture emphasised solid mass broken
up by barrel vaults; in Persepolis, a Greekstyle post and lintel design was used with
stone-framed windows bringing light into
the interior. Egyptians and Medes (western
Iran) fashioned gold inlay to accentuate the
intricate relief panels that served as orthostats
for the palaces. Lydians and again Egyptians
were the master woodworkers; Babylonians
(southern Iraq) were the masters of baked
brick installations, glazed with bright
colours. The result is a masterpiece of Persian
architecture that is still visited by over one
million Persian tourists each year.

For Alexander, Persia was the enemy of

all Hellenes and Persepolis the most hated
city in Asia (Diodorus Siculus, 17.70-72).
After his victory against the Persian army
at Gaugamela (near Arbela, northern Iraq),
Alexander rested the army at Babylon before
moving against Persia in January 330 BCE.
He knew of Persepolis cultural importance to
the Persians and understood that to capture
Persepolis was to symbolically defeat the
enemy, leaving Darius III as a king without a
throne. Alexander correspondingly acted not
just as victor but liberator, sending any Greek
slaves home with high honours. Revenge for
Persias ancient aggression against Greece
was at hand.

The defining feature of this city was the

grand terrace and its monumental palaces.
The major buildings were Iranian-inspired.
The Apadana (public palace of Xerxes r. 486
- 465 BCE) resembles in form the columned
halls of elite Iranian houses in 9th century
BCE Hasanlu (northwestern Iran) that were
used to entertain guests. The grand courtyard
of Persepolis is a formalised version of
Hasanlus arrangement of columned halls
around courtyards. Even the terrace is a
formalised extension of the high places
used for sanctuaries, such as the Iranian fire
temple at Nush-e Jan (western Iran). The
innovation lies in the planning and execution
of Persepolis, the largest, most intricate and

Yet in classical Greek sources, historical and

literary, Persepolis is barely visible. There
is no direct evidence that any resident of
mainland Greek ever went further east than
Susa (southwestern Iran) before the time
of Alexander. Indeed, Aeschylus play The
Persians dramatises the Achaemenid court
mourning the naval defeat at Salamis (near
Athens) at Susa. When Artaxerxes IIs brother
Cyrus the Younger hired Greek mercenaries
to march against the Persian king, they
marched from Sardis (the capital of Asia
Minor) to Babylon. Arguably the two most
important contemporary Greek authors on
Ancient Persia, Herodotus and Xenophon,
never mention Persepolis. Instead Babylon

What Alexander found at Persepolis far

exceeded expectations, even for the famed
luxury of the Achaemenid Empire. According
to Diodorus Siculus (17.70), Persepolis was
the greatest city under the sun. As the new
master of Asia, this luxury presented a
conundrum for Alexander. Persepolis was
his property and he could have left the city
intact like he did with Memphis (Egypt),
Babylon (Iraq), and Susa (southwestern
Iran). Alternatively, Alexander could follow
the model of Tyre, the capital of Phoenicia,
which had to be destroyed in order to secure
his control of the Mediterranean. Whether
through accident, or whether Alexander
was spurred on by the prostitute Thais - as
suggested by ancient writers such as Quintus
Curtius - Persepolis was burnt to the ground.

Panorama of Persepolis, 5th century BCE. Photo: Shervin Afshar, 2006


TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3

View of Darius Palace, Persepolis, E. Flandin and P. Coste pencil drawing, 1840s,
from Voyage en Perse, Gide et J. Baudry, Paris, 1851-54

This act of destruction still reverberates

through history: locals still hold Alexander to
account for cultural vandalism.
Arrian (6.30) described how Alexander
regretted the destruction of the city on his
return from India and Central Asia. Alexander
started the process of rehabilitating Persepolis
with the construction of altars dedicated to
himself and Phillip. He prosecuted Orsines,
governor of Persia, for desecrating Persian
royal graves. In his stead, Alexander appointed
Peukestas, a Persian-speaking Macedonian
and one of Alexanders Companions. From
the most hated city in Asia, Persepolis had
become Alexanders favoured city of Persia.
The subsequent development of Persepolis
embodied Alexanders idea of a union between
Macedon and Persia to enable control of Asia.
When Alexander returned to Babylon, he
organised a joint religious ceremony officiated
by both magi (Zoroastrian priests) and Greek
diviners. In 317 BCE, Peukestas copied
Alexander with a massive joint ceremony of magi
and diviners attending the altars of Alexander
and Phillip at Persepolis. Archaeologists have
also found a Greek religious precinct near
Persepolis with dedications to Zeus, Athena,
Apollo, Artemis, and Helios (Callieri 2007).
Immediately to the south of this complex
appears to be a fire temple with a relief panel
showing a magus holding the barsom (sacred
wood) that he is offering to the holy fire.
Over time, Persepolis again faded to obscurity.
The Roman geographer Strabo (64 BCE - 24
CE) correctly recounted the climate of Persia
but was much more interested in the fertility
of Susa and Babylonia. Isidore of Charax (1st
century CE) described the Silk Road passing
from Seleucia-on-the-Tigris (the Hellenistic
capital of southern Iraq) to Media (western
Iran) and then through the north of Iran to

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3

Merv (Turkmenistan) before entering Central

Asia. As a result, Persia was becoming a
relative backwater and Persepolis itself was
supplanted by neighbouring Istakhr. At some
point, the ruined city of Persepolis became
mythologised as the capital of Yama, the first
king of Iran, and therefore the birthplace of
Iranian civilization. The citys true history
was being progressively lost.
Starting in the 16th century CE, Iran emerged
as a Middle Eastern superpower under the
Safavid kings. As a young king, Shah Abbas
I (1587 - 1629) reached out to his British allies
to help evict the Portuguese from the Persian
Gulf and his Uzbek enemies in Central Asia.
Following his military success, Abbas I started
to expand the Iranian economy with a new
port on the Persian Gulf to capture part of
the East Indies trade and a series of 999 royal
caravanserais that spanned the breadth of his

kingdom. He also opened up relations with

Europe and these visitors started to leave
their impressions of Iran in travel accounts.
These early European visitors were clearly
impressed by Persepolis. An anonymous
17th century author proclaimed: There
stood, in stately solitude, the pride of ages,
which appear almost fabulous from their
distance. Dom Garcias de Silva Figueroa
(the Spanish Ambassador to Shah Abbas I)
proclaimed the monument as greater than
any in Rome as it was the only monument
without imposture. He appears to be the
first European to correctly identify the site as
Persepolis (Mousavi 2002). Ouseley credited
the venerable monument with inspiring
even sober-minded judges. At the ruins of
Persepolis, these visitors were encountering
the romance of the Orient, irrefutable proof
of the legacy of Persia.


Gate of All Nations, Persepolis, 5th century BCE. Photo: Kourosh Mohammed Khani

Persepolis was the leading city of its

era, the height of Persian luxury and
sophistication. Despite, or perhaps as a result
of, his destruction of the city, Alexander
chose Persepolis as an important site to
implement his policy of political unification
between Persians and Macedonians. As time
progressed, Persepolis faded in the historical
literature and became a mythological
landmark - the city of Yama, first king of Iran.
Starting in the Safavid times under Shah
Abbas I the ruined city of Persepolis again
became an emblem of the magnificence of
ancient Persia. It functioned as a pilgrimage
site of sorts for learned European travellers
who recognised its symbolic importance.
During the 19th century, the citys ancient
heritage was intensively recorded through
drawing and photography but the site
remained largely hidden beneath the piles of
ancient dirt. In the 20th century, it became the
first major American archaeological project in
Iran and subsequently an important site for
Iranian archaeologists working to uncover
their own heritage.
Initially, the site took on biblical undertones
(Vaux 1855). Visitors were greeted at the
gate by lamassu (winged guardian spirits
in the form of a bull). The winged bulls
were compared to Ezekials descriptions of
monstrous animals or Daniels half-human,
half-bestial prince. The Apadana was known
as the Chehel Minar (or Forty Minarets), a
strange coincidence as neighbouring Istakhr
preserves the first purpose built mosque
in Fars Province and possibly Iran (c. 660
CE: Whitcomb 1979). In the royal tombs
overlooking the site, Kaempfer saw the Ark
of the Covenant. Even after making a detailed
description of the monument in the early
19th century, Porter described the Hundred
Column Hall of Artaxerxes II as a temple
for the performance of Mithraic Mysteries.
Fergusson (1851) drew a reconstruction of
Persepolis after the fashion of Solomons
house. These biblical impulses derived from
the religious symbols carved into the walls,
though the primary function of Persepolis
was to host public meeting halls, private royal
residences, and administrative buildings of a
royal capital.
Persepolis started to come into its own
again in the 19th century (Mousavi,
2002). Grotefend started the translation of
Persepolis inscriptions in 1802 by recognising
the royal names of Darius and Xerxes. The
earliest excavations in the early 19th century
were at best highly unethical, as Morier
appears to have excavated Persepolis without
permission in search of objects to sell on the


art market in England. In 1842, Texier took

a more scientific approach, using chemical
analysis to document colour on the original
relief panels. French artists Flandin and
Coste visited the site in the 1840s and they
are credited with the earliest accurate and
reliable drawings of Persepolis. The Italian
Luigi Pesce was the first known photographer
of Persepolis in 1857, an early example of
photography in archaeology. The ancient
ruins were becoming famous in Europe. Yet,
by the turn of the 20th century no scientific
excavations had taken place at the site.

In sum, Persepolis was a city of firsts and

in each era it was reinvented as new people
encountered this magnificent capital of
ancient Persia.
Tobin Hartnell is a Ph.D Candidate in Iranian
Archaeology, University of Chicago. He is currently
co-director of an archaeological project at Persepolis.

Arrian,. 1983. Anabasis of Alexander, Indica, Volume II, translated
by P.A. Brunt. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
Callieri, Pierfrancesco, 2007. Larchologie du Fars lpoque
hellnistique: Quatre leons au Collge de France 8, 15, 22 et

It was only after World War I that Persepolis

became the subject of intense archaeological
speculation. Herzfeld petitioned the new
Pahlavi dynasty (1925 - 1979) to open Iranian
archaeology to a wide range of international
projects in return for a share of the finds.
He and his rival, the American art historian
Arthur Upham Pope, both wanted to work
at Persepolis because of its importance to the
history of Persia. Herzfeld won the day and
started to excavate for the Oriental Institute
of Chicago; in the process the site became the
first major American archaeology project in
Iran. After World War II, Iranians continued
the archaeological work with important
excavations by Ali Sami, the first Iranian
director of Persepolis, and Dr Tajdivi, as
well as important historical publications
by Dr Shapur Shahbazi. All of these works
culminated in the choice of Persepolis as the
site of the ill-fated celebration of 2500 years of
Persian kingship in 1971.

29 Mars 2007, Persika, Volume 11.

Diodorus Siculus, 1946 - 1967. Bibliotheca Historica, Translation
by C. H. Oldfather, Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
Fergusson, James, 1851. The Palaces of Nineveh and Persepolis
Restored: An Essay on Ancient Assyrian and Persian Architecture,
John Murray Publishers, London.
Mousavi, Ali, 2002. Persepolis in Retrospect: Histories of
Discovery and Archaeological Exploration of Ancient Parseh,
Ars Orientalis, Volume 32, pp. 209 - 251.
Vaux, William Sandys Wright, 1855. Nineveh and Persepolis:
Sketch of Ancient Assyria and Persia, Arthur Hall, Virtue, and Co.
Publishers, London.
Whitcomb, Donald, 1979. The City of Istakhr and the Marvdasht
Plain, Archaeologische Mitteilungen aus Iran, Ergnzungsband 6,
pp. 363 - 370.

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3


Stephanie Reed

Medes and Persians approach the Royal Throne Room,

Persepolis, 5th century BCE, stone relief. Oriental Institute, Chicago

n the 6th century BCE the Achaemenid

Persians, an Indo-Iranian tribe and former
vassals of the Medes, became the new rulers
of the Ancient Near East, founding the first
Iranian empire. For roughly 200 years, from
about 550 to 330 BCE, Cyrus II (the Great) and
his successors controlled the largest territory in
the ancient world before the advent of Rome.
During the reign of Darius I (c. 522-486 BCE),
Persian dominance extended from Libya in the
west to the Indus River in the east. The Persian
kings constructed new cities and palaces in
strategic imperial centres, including Babylon,
Pasargadae, Susa, and Ecbatana. But it is
Persepolis, the masterpiece of Darius I, which
became the heart of the empire. Its imposing,
sophisticated monuments represent the height
of ancient Iranian art and architecture, and are
a tribute to Achaemenid royal ideology.
The brilliance of Persepolis is in its subtle
appropriation of the symbols of conquered
lands. The Persians were relative newcomers
to Iran, and with no known traditions of
monumental art and architecture, they
engaged the talents of foreign craftsmen to
build their imperial palaces. This approach
not only created a distinct multi-national
style, but also promoted a sense of internationalism, a visual culture celebrating the
disparate traditions of an immense realm.
administrative texts tell us little about the
belief systems, rituals, and court life of
this period, which leaves many questions
concerning the function and symbolism
of Persepolis and its sculptures, while
magnifying the importance of the visual
record. Whatever the Persian kings intended
to convey, the complex reformulation of Near
Eastern iconography reveals a unique sociopolitical philosophy, and a revolutionary
approach to imperial identity-making in the
ancient world.
The dominant theme of Persepolis is the
tribute procession, an ancient Near Eastern
idiom of religious celebration or royal victory.
Although Iranian or Elamite processions may
have had some bearing upon Darius choice
of subject matter (Porada 1965: fig. 41), the
Persepolis reliefs are most heavily influenced
by works from imperial Neo-Assyria. The
Neo-Assyrian kings (9th to 7th centuries
BCE) left an indelible legacy of imperial
artperhaps the most dynamic display of

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3

imperial strength in the ancient Near East

(Barnett 1982). Their palaces at Nimrud and
Nineveh were decorated with monumental
wall reliefs narrating the kings duties and
achievements, and most famously, battle
campaigns illustrating the details of the
assault and the enemys ignominious fate.
Assyrian processions were typically after
the battle scenes, showing vassals delivering
tribute-gifts, soldiers bringing booty and
prisoners to the king, or deported peoples on
forced march to other parts of the empire. The
reliefs were designed to instil fear and awe
by depicting what happened to rebellious
kingdoms that dared to challenge the king,
viewers might be dissuaded from conspiring
against the Assyrian crown.
The Achaemenids emulated the majesty of
the Assyrian sculptures, borrowing images of
the king enthroned, battling fierce beasts and
receiving tribute in ceremonial processions. Yet
the Achaemenid versions are symbolic rather
than literal, abbreviations of royal idioms
lifted from their original narrative context. The
realities of imperial conquest, such as warfare,
forced submission, and the extraction of
material resources do not appear in the known
sculptures of Achaemenid palaces. With the
possible exception of a monument erected
early in Darius reign - the Behistun relief in
the Hamadan mountain pass (Porada 1965: fig.
77) - there is a continuous, conscious effort in
Achaemenid court sculpture to show subject
nations as loyal supporters rather than as the

enemy. For the first time in the history of Near

Eastern art, a monarch seems to have initiated
a decorative program centred on cooperative
relations between ruler and ruled, elevating
the status of the conquered.
Darius message is conveyed through the
body language, gifts, and accoutrements of
royal courtiers and foreign peoples, and in
their interactions with one another. At the
Apadana, the largest and highest palace of the
Persepolis precinct, grand tribute processions
grace two sets of monumental stairways on
the northern and eastern sides of the building.
On the left side of each stairway are rows
of gift-bearing delegations representing the
conquered peoples of the empire. Median
and Persian ushers grasp the hand of each
leading delegate, guiding the group toward
their royal audience The nationality of each
delegation is carefully distinguished by mode
of dress; hats and hairstyles alone are useful
indicators of ethnicity. The gifts borne by
each group are also specific to their land
and special skills. Almost all of the gifts,
including jewellery, gold vessels, and textiles,
correspond to actual objects found in the
remains of the Persepolis Treasury, and in
archaeological finds like the well-known
Oxus Treasure (Porada 1965: 173-4, 184).
The climactic processional relief, once
seen in mirror image in the centre of the
Apadana staircases, featured the enthroned
king awaiting his guests. Here we witness the


The King awaiting approaching ambassadors, Persepolis, 5th century BCE, stone relief. Oriental Institute, Chicago

first usher, in Median dress, bowing before

Darius and the crowned prince Xerxes, who
looks on from behind the throne. The Mede
is bent slightly at the waist, his fingertips
shielding his mouth in a gesture of obeisance.
His head, however, is tilted upward, meeting
the eye of his sovereign. The scene signals
the introduction of the first delegation, yet
the absence of any foreign group suggests
that none are especially favoured, and all
would have the opportunity to present their
gifts directly. This can be contrasted with
Assyrian gift processions, in which a row of
court officials traditionally buffers the king
and his foreign tributaries. At the same time,
the genericism of the Achaemenid version
marks the exclusivity of the king, his heir, and
attendants of his inner court, who represent
the only other figures in the scene. Variations
of this image are found throughout the empire
on cylinder seals. It seems to have been a
favourite of ambitious provincial officials, for
it was synonymous with royal authority and
suggested close ties to the king.
The processional sculptures on the right side
of Apadana staircases represent those closest
to the king, or the peoples of Iran. The royal
entourage includes lance-bearing Susian
guards, groomsmen, charioteers, and local
dignitaries dressed alternately in Persian robes
and Median riding habits These noblemen, or
Peers, do not carry gifts, but ceremonial lotus
buds and blossoms, an ancient Near Eastern
emblem of special status. Lotus blossoms
were normally the symbols of gods and
rulers; in Neo-Assyrian art, for instance, only
kings are shown with the flower (eg Barnett
1982: 105). At Persepolis, however, it is borne


by both the ruler and privileged members of

his court and/or the members of his extended
family. It may be seen as a token of royal
allegiance and kinship, and the importance
of the court structure that supported the
Persian monarchy. The alternating Median
and Persian costumes also suggest the united
strength of the Aryan (Iranian) peoples
and the imperial core, in the same way
that Assyrian art highlights alliances with
Babylon, the cultural heart of Mesopotamia,
and the Egyptians intertwined the symbols
of Upper and Lower Egypt, illustrating the
unification of the two lands.
The special connection between the Medes
and Persians is emphasised by their body
language. Often they are clasping hands, or
one is turned toward the peer behind him,
giving or acknowledging a touch upon the
shoulder. The intimate gestures between
subjects are one of the most striking features
of the Achaemenid processions, and have been
largely reinterpreted from the pious imagery
of Mesopotamia and Egypt. The grasping
of hands, for instance, is found in Egyptian
funerary art, where a line of supplicants or
lesser deities wait to greet the gods of the
underworld (Root 1979: pls. LXIV, LXV).
In Mesopotamian introduction scenes, a
popular cylinder seal motif, a petitioner is
led into the presence of a god through an
intermediary or lesser deity. In these images,
however, the intermediary will usually
grasp the petitioner by the wrist, rather
than by the hand as seen in the Apadana
reliefs. There are no intermediary deities
in Achaemenid art; the petitioners, or gift-

bearers, are led into the presence of the

king by their Iranian hosts. Similarly intimate
and conversational gestures are perhaps best
known in processional Greek sculpture, most
famously in the Parthenon marbles, which
date over a half-century after the founding
of Persepolis. While Greek sculptors were
likely employed at Persepolis, it is difficult to
establish the path of influence. Certainly, this
ethos of camaraderie between ruling elites,
and between ruling and subject peoples, was
an innovation in the Near Eastern imperial
context (Boardman 2000; Root 1985).
The cooperative message of the Apadana
processions is complemented by atlas motifs
of Achaemenid subjects placed in the doorways
of the Throne Hall, or Hall of 100 Columns,
and on the royal tombs of Naqsh-i Rustam
(Root 1979: Pl. XIII, 13a; XI). The uppermost
panels of the Throne Hall reliefs are abbreviated
audience scenes, showing the king enthroned
attended by a single fan-bearer. The three
panels beneath form an imitation of the threetiered legs of the throne above, supported
by three rows of atlas figures representing
various peoples of the empire. This motif is
likely borrowed from Neo-Assyrian reliefs, in
which Sennacheribs throne struts, for instance,
were supported by the repetition of a single
atlantid figure in Assyrian dress (Root 1979: pl.
XLII). Near Eastern kings commonly showed
defeated peoples underfoot (Strommenger
1962: figs. 138, 39), and although the Persian
throne-bearers are clearly subordinate to their
sovereign, the peoples of the Achaemenid
realm, once again in their individual costumes,
are depicted with arms lifted, carrying their
ruler as a unified nation.

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3

In ancient Near Eastern art, portrayals of king

and subject were ubiquitous, refined over
the millennia through warfare and exchange
of ideas. Subject nations were traditionally
depicted as the enemy - weaker peoples
with lesser gods, and rightfully subject to
the conqueror. Tributary processions were
a common medium for illustrating foreign
conquests. The context of these scenes, as
well as the humbled postures and pleading
gestures of individual figures, typically
conveyed forced submission. The proper
body language for foreign processions in the
time of Ashurnasirpal II of Assyria (883-859
BCE), for instance, was a slight stoop and
raised, supplicating hands. Moreover, the
body posture or use of social perspective
further distinguished Us (the ruling body)
and Them (the ruled).
The Persepolis subjects, when not in the direct
presence of the king, are always depicted
erect, and with the exception of the king
and crowned prince, the figures are all the
same height. Whether the subject is bearing
tribute-gifts or making a sign of respect,
the formal placement of his hands imparts
reverence rather than fear. The use of local
ushers as processional guides imparts a sense
of community, and implies that the foreign

delegations (by merit of their gifts, or symbols

of loyalty) were also a part of, or might aspire
to, the elite ranks of the kings Peers.
The Persepolis program might be summarised
as persuasive rather than coercive: it suggests
that devoted subjects were treated with
dignity, that each individuals identity and
special skills were valued, even essential to the
unified whole, and the general benevolence of
Achaemenid rule. This is not to say that the
Persian monarchy was less autocratic than its
Near Eastern predecessors; taxes and tributegifts were required from vassal nations, and
the Persians were at war with Greece while
Persepolis was under construction.
Yet while Persepolis couches the realities
of imperialism in a political encomium,
history also testifies to an ethnically diverse
Achaemenid empire, where foreign customs,
cults, and local governments flourished
alongside a competitive system of loyalty
and reward; one in which exemplary service
to the crown, even by non-Persians, was
recognized with lavish gifts such as lands,
titles (including The Kings Friend), and
personal adornments in the Persian court
style (Briant 2002: 347ff.). Persepolis reflects
this administrative approach through subtle

changes in human action and interaction,

creating an idyllic vision of international
collaboration, unity-in-diversity, and an
asymmetrical, yet mutually beneficial bond
between a king and his peoples.
Stephanie Reed is a PhD candidate studying
Achaemenid art at the University of Chicago.

Briant, Pierre. 2002. From Cyrus to Alexander: A History of the
Persian Empire, Winona Lake, Eisenbrauns, Indiana.
Barnett, R. D. 1982/1960 (rev. W. Forman et al.). Assyrian Palace
Reliefs and their Influence on the Sculptures of Babylonia and
Persia, Batchworth Press, London.
Boardman, John. 2000. Persia and the West: An Archaeological
Investigation of the Genesis of Achaemenid Art, Thames and
Hudson, London.
Porada, Edith. 1965. The Art of Ancient Iran, Crown, New York.
Root, Margaret Cool. 1979. The King and Kingship in
Achaemenid Art: Essays on the Creation of an Iconography of
Empire. Acta Iranica 19, E. J. Brill, Leiden.
_____. 1985. The Parthenon Frieze and the Apadana Reliefs at
Persepolis: Reassessing a Programmatic Relationship. American
Journal of Archaeology 89:1, Centennial Issue (Jan., 1985),
Strommenger, Eva. 1964. 5000 Years of the Art of Mesopotamia,
Harry N. Abrams New York.

visit Sabratha, Leptis Magna Ptolmais and Cyrene and some WW11 sites. Tour leader is Leonie Hayne.
Land Only price per person, twin share: $5,740
We offer over 20 study tours each year, of which the following scheduled during
2010 and 2011, may be of interest to TAASA members.
Led by Gay Spies this tour takes you inside the culture of the gentle Lao and includes the annual That
Luang Festival in Vientiane, an extended stay in Luang Prabang and an overnight in a local house to
experience true Lao hospitality.
Land Only per person, twin share: $4,695
TAASA member Terry Bisley leads this comprehensive exploration of a troubled country whose people
have undergone so much misery because of political circumstances. Visit bustlingYangon, Sittwe and
Mrauk U, Bagan, Heho, Inle Lake, Indein, Kakku, Mandalay, Amarapura and Mingun.
Land Only per person, twin share: 4,840
07 - 28 FEBRUARY 2011
This comprehensive tour of Egypt includes cruising from Luxor to Aswan, for the Luxor temples and
Valleys of Kings and Queens. You will also visit Abu Simbel. Time to explore the ancient sites around
Cairo but also the Islamic Cairo as well. Visit Alexandrias UNESCO Library and travel to the fabulous
Siwa Oasis. The tour is led by Melanie Pitkin.
Land Only price per person, twin share: $7,495
02-22 MARCH 2011
In Tunisia explore some of the best Roman sites in North Africa including Dougga, El Djem, Bulla Regia
and Sbeitla, but also take in mosques, soukhs, and Kairouan, the fourth holiest city in Islam. In Libya,


21 MAY - 09 JUNE 2011
From Turkey's lush Black Sea coast, through dense pine forests and hidden valleys, this tour visits some
of Turkey's most dramatic scenery. Even more striking are the layers of civilisation revealed here,
including Gobleki Tepe, a religious sanctuary dating from c9000BC. Also includes Trabzon, Erzerum,
Kars, Dogu Beyazit, Van, Mardin, Sanliurfa, Gaziantep, Antakya and Adana. Tour is led by Rob Lovell.
Land Only price per person, twin share: $6,995
23 MAY - 13 JUNE 2011
Sri Lanka's Buddhist legacy of dagobas, relic fortresses, statues and temples awaits to be explored along
with national parks, colonial architecture, tea plantations and elephant orphanages. Bawa officionados
will be satisfied. John Barclay will be your tour leader.
Land Only per person, twin share: $4,975
06 - 24 SEPTEMBER 2011
Compare both the Communist north and the extremely capitalist south of this riven nation. By train from
the Chinese border into Pyongyang with local touring and one of the spectacular parades. In the south
explore the three great dynasties, the beautiful autumn colours of the mountains on the eastern side of
the peninsula and the unique cuisine. Tour is led by Simon Gentry.
Land Only per person, twin share: $8570
John Tidmarsh (Near Eastern Archaeology Foundation) leads his second tour to Iran for us, exploring
pre-historic sites, the cities of the Persians and Sassanians, whose sophisticated society challenged the
Byzantines and laid the foundations for an advanced Islamic succession. Includes fabled Isfahan and Shiraz.
Land Only per person, twin share: $TBA

For a brochure on any of the above tours, or to receive our quarterly newsletter Bon Voyage, please phone:
(02) 9290 3856 or 1300 799 887 (outside Sydney metrop.), fax: (02) 9290 3857, e-mail:;

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3


Ali Asadi
The Battle of Hormozgan, Tangab Gorge, Southern Iran, c. 224 CE, rock relief. Photo: Ali Asadi

he Sasanian dynasty (224 654 CE)

represents a new golden age in Iranian
civilization, emerging more than five centuries
after the fall of the Achaemenian Empire (330
BCE). The Sasanians started their expansion
from Istakhr city, located about five km north
of the ruined city of Persepolis. Ardeshir (224
240 CE), the founder and first king of the
dynasty, conquered the lands of a multitude of
neighbouring rulers and with the final defeat
of the Parthian king Artaban V in the Battle
of Hormozdgan (location unknown), all of
Parthian territory came under Sasanian control.
Some of the most famous Sasanian kings, like
Shapur I and II and Khosro I and II, extended
the borders of the empire from western India
and Afghanistan in the east to Iraq in the west.
The Sasanian Empire lasted for more than four
centuries until the end of the Arab invasions.
During the Sasanian period, Iranian culture
and traditions again started to evolve after a
long depression under the Parthians (c. 147
BCE - 224 CE). Sasanian textiles, metallurgy,
and glass manufacturing gained a strong
reputation amongst contemporaries and these
crafts were exported to the farthest points
of the known world. However, one of most
innovative fields of art in the Sasanian period
was in one of the most traditional mediums rock relief panels.
Today about 30 Sasanian rock relief panels are
known from the lands of their empire. More
than 80% of these artworks are located in Fars
Province (southern Iran), the homeland of the
dynasty. Other important works are found at
Taq-e Bostan in Kermanshah (Western Iran)
and at Salmas (northwest Iran) and a recently
discovered relief in Afghanistan. The majority
of these relief panels were carved during the
1st century of Sasanian rule (between 224
and 309 CE). The most important subjects of
these carvings are investiture scenes, victory
scenes over Sasanian enemies, especially
Romans, and the king with dignitaries and
his family. This article will review these relief
panels chronologically from the Early to Late
Sasanian period.
Approximately 50 km south of Shiraz (modern
capital of Fars Province), Ardeshir built a city
and a palace at Firuzabad before the overthrow
of the Parthian kings in 224 CE. Near this new
city, he chose a huge flat rock in the Tangab
Gorge and commissioned the carving of the
Battle of Hormozdgan. The actual battle is not


depicted but the relief shows Ardeshir, his son

Shapur I and one of his nobles at the moment
each has defeated his Parthian adversary. The
relief is carved rather flat in a style known as
line drawing and has often been compared
with similar panels from the Parthian dynasty at
Tang-e Sarvak (Bakhtiari Mountains, southwest
Iran) and Kermanshah (western Iran). However
the Tangab relief is more detailed than previous
Parthian examples, showing a higher degree of
artistic development. The costumes, headdress,
weapons and insignia of the individual figures
and of their mounts are treated carefully.
The sculptors do not represent their fallen
adversaries convincingly but the overall
impression of the scene is effective.
Three other relief panels of Ardeshir show
investiture scenes. In the history of Near Eastern
Art, Sasanian investiture scenes may represent
the last and most complex examples of an
ancient tradition. The Sasanian examples show
a very intimate connection between the concept
of kingship and god. In previous periods, gods
were depicted differently from kings but here
their mannerisms are very similar. Because of
this similarity there is still occasional debate
about which figure is a god and which a king.
Indeed, one of the main sources for Ferdosis
epic, the Shahnameh (History of Kings) was
the Khodaye Namak (Letter of God), which
shows the equal situation of god and kings in
the Sasanian period.
In these investiture scenes, the king and god
are shown as either standing or mounted on

horseback, symmetrically as mirror images,

and the kings often receive the beribboned
diadem, the divine symbol of power from the
hand of the gods Ahura Mazda or Anahita.
Even in the lifetime of Ardeshir, Sasanian
relief art showed dramatic development. The
example at Firuzabad is crude and rigid,
whilst the two other panels (one at Naqsh-e
Rajab and Naqsh-e Rustam) are more fluid
in style. At Naqsh-e Rajab, the flat panel is
replaced by a greater sense of depth, with
members of the court gathered around to
watch Ardeshir taking a beribboned diadem
from the hand of Ahura Mazda.
Ardeshirs Naqsh-e Rustam investiture scene
is one of the most magnificent carvings from
the 1st century of Sasanian rule. Apart from
the high quality of carving, it is also the first
time that god and king are shown mounted
on their horses in the Ancient Near Eastern
rock relief tradition. This relief shows one
figure handing the beribboned diadem of
kingship to the other with defeated enemies
lying dead beside them. Prior to the reading
of the trilingual inscription carved on the
horses shoulders, various interpretations of
this scene had been proposed. For instance
some travellers such as Sir William Ouseley
(Ouseley 1819, I, 285-6; 1821, II, 294) and Sir
Robert Ker Porter (1821 I: 556-7) suggested
the subject of this relief as a handover of
power by Ardeshir to his son Shapur I rather
than as an investiture scene.

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3

The Mounted King and God with enemies underfoot, Naqsh-e Rustam, 3rd century CE, rock relief. Photo: Ali Asadi

Technically, the relief is very deep, resembling

sculpture in the round. The symmetrical
gesture of the god and Ardeshir and the
calmness of their horses standing face to face
create a serene composition. The concept of
divine kingship was an old tradition in the
Ancient Near East. Seleucids (c. 305 - 147
BCE) and Parthians depicted divinity on their
coins and seals with images of Nike, Mithra
and Anahita as gods or goddess of war or
victory (Shepherd 1983:1080). Ardeshir used
the concept of divine right to affirm his
rule over the country. Indeed, the symbol of
double snakeheads is shown on the forehead
of an enemy lying beside Ahura Mazdas
horse. These snakes are a link to the legendary
history of Zahhak, an evil king who grew two
snakes on his shoulders.
Shapur I (240 272 CE), son of Ardeshir,
defeated three Roman emperors and
commemorated these victories with seven
rock relief panels at three different sites
in Fars Province (southern Iran). Near to
Shapur Is new city of Bishapur there is a
narrow gorge called Tang-e Chugan, which
preserves a major group of relief panels.
The main subjects of these carvings are the
three defeated Roman emperors: Gordion
III, Philip the Arab and Valerian. They are
respectively shown slain, kneeling and
captured (Ghirshman 1962:159). While typical

Sasanian compositional forms first developed

under Ardeshir, Shapur I introduced Roman
imperial iconography in his designs. During
his victories, Shapur I captured many Roman
sculptors who were forced to work in the royal
workshops. The later relief panels of Shapur
showing emperor Valerian (i.e. after 260 CE)
represent a high point in Sasanian reliefs: in
their vitality and sense of movement, their
increased detail and richness of decoration
and their elaborate and lavish treatment of
the folds of the diaphanous garments. The
billowing garments effectively suggest a sense
of arrested motion: one can easily imagine
that Shapurs horse has suddenly stopped
dead as the desperate Philip rushes forward
to beg for mercy (Shepherd 1983:1084).

After Shapur I, the development of Sasanian

relief carving continued for a few generations
before it started a long period of decline.
Bahram Is (273 276 CE) divine equestrian
investiture scenes at Bishapur and Sar
Mashhad, and Bahram IIs (276 293 CE) relief
showing the submission of an Arab delegation,
are the last examples of considerable artistic
value. The main subject of subsequent relief
panels was jousting, such as Narsehs (293

It is still not easy to understand who originally

designed Shapur Is relief panels. If Roman
sculptors composed these works, then they
ignored classical western standards such as
proportionality and the realistic depiction of
motion. For example, the defeated Valerian
standing at the kings side is reduced to less
than normal size. Instead these scenes adhere
to time-honoured Near Eastern concepts where
stress is placed on symbolic values over realism
(Shepherd 1983:1084). In this case, Iranian
artists probably designed the outlines of the
relief panels and the Roman sculptors were
used as technicians to work on the details.
Hunting scene, Taq-e Bostan, Western Iran, late 6th/early
7th century CE, rock relief. Photo: Tobin Hartnell

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3


Valerian pleads for mercy, Naqsh-e Rustam, c.260 CE, rock relief. Photo: Ali Asadi

302 CE) and Hormozd IIs (302 309 CE)

panels at Naqsh-e Rustam. These later works
are not considered as important artistically,
compared to the achievements of Ardeshir
and Shapur I.
In the following three centuries after Hormozd
II, there are only three relief panels created and
none show any development in the quality of
their carving. The most likely reason is that
the centre of the Sasanian Empire moved
to Mesopotamia (modern Iraq). The new
capital of Ctesiphon stood near the Roman
frontier, away from the Zagros Mountains or
other comparable ranges. It appears that the
Early Sasanian relief panels were replaced
by stucco art in these centuries, with artists
using plaster to create relief sculpture for
urban contexts.
In this period, under Ardeshir II (379 383
CE), the site of Taq-e Bostan (near modern
Kermanshah, western Iran) was selected for a
new series of rock relief panels. The carvings
of Taq-e Bostan overlook an important large
spring, situated on the old silk trading route.
Under Shapur III (383 388 CE), an artificial
cave was created in the shape of an aivan (open
archway). On the back wall of this small cave,
Shapur III is shown standing by his father.
Two centuries later, Khosro II (590 628 CE)
significantly expanded the site of Taq-e Bostan
by creating a larger cave; the facade shows
Roman-inspired designs with two great angels


floating over the spandrels of the arch and

acanthus leaves framing the lower portion.
Inside Khosro IIs cave are preserved two
seemingly unrelated motifs. The upper
scene shows the king receiving a diadem
from Anahita (Fukai & Horiuchi 1972: pls.
IV, XXIII-XXIV) and from Ahura Mazda.
Beneath the king and gods is a mail-clad
knight on horseback, who appears to protect
the investiture scene. The sidewalls of the
grotto were covered with scenes of royal
hunts. The one on the left takes place in a
paradise, surrounded by hedges. The king
stands erect in a boat shooting at wild boars.
On the right wall is a stag hunt, with the
king on horseback, surrounded by musicians
and singers (Ghirshman, 1962:193). The relief
carving combines the traditional bold relief of
Early Sasanian art with a new fine, detailed,
low relief used to tell the story of the hunt.
Khosro IIs monument at Taq-e Bostan is
one of the most significant later monuments
of Sasanian art. However the monuments
meaning has never been fully interpreted.
Traditionally, the scenes have been considered
as a miniature pleasure palace in which the
principal motifs were the kings investiture,
his portrait as a knight on his favourite
steed, and hunting scenes representing royal
pastimes (Shepherd 1983:1086). Collectively,
they show the rich complexity of Sasanian
society, art, and government.

This final stage of Sasanian relief carving

under Khosro II represented a conscious
revival of an ancient Sasanian art form and
shows a renewed mastery of the medium,
with both bold and delicate compositions
created side-by-side.
Ali Asadi works at the Parsa-Pasargadae Research
foundation and is a PhD student of Tarbiat Modares
University (Tehran).

Curzon, G. N., 1892. Persia and the Persian Question II, London.
Flandin, E and P. Coste, 1843-54. Voyage en Perse, pendant les
annees 1840 et 1841: Perse Ancienne I, Paris. (publisher?)
Fukai Sh and K. Horiuchi, 1969, 1972. Taq-I Bustan I-II, Tokyo.
Sh. Fukai, J. Sugiyama, K. Kimata and K. Tanabe, Taq-i Bustan III,
Tokyo, 1983. Sh. Fukai, K. Horiuchi, (?)
Ghirshman, R, 1962. Iran. Parthians and Sassanians, Trans. by
Stuart Gilbert and James Emmons, Paris, (publisher?)
Sir Robert Ker Porter, 1821. Travels in Georgia, Persia, Armenia,
Ancient Babylonia, etc. during the years 1817, 1818, 1819 and
1820, London. (publisher?)
Sir William Ouseley, Travels in various Countries of the East, more
particularly Persia, London, 1819-1821. (date of publication,
Shepherd, D, 1983. Sasanian Art, Cambridge History of Iran,
S. Shahbazi, 1987. Studies in Sasanian prosopography, AMI
N.S. 16, 1983, pp. 255-68. Idem, Ardashir II, Encyclopaedia
Iranica II, pp. 380-81.
L. Vanden Berghe, 1959. Archeologie de lIran Ancien,

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3

Susan Scollay

A page from a Shahnama manuscript: Siyavush undergoes

the ordeal by fire, 15th - 16th century, Persia, opaque paint and
gold on paper. National Gallery of Victoria. Purchased, 1946

his year marks the 1000th anniversary

of the completion of the great Persian
epic, the Shahnama, or Book of Kings. Written
by the poet, Abul-Qasim Firdausi of Tus,
in northeast Iran, the works 50,000 couplets
had a significant impact on the culture and
identity of the Persianate world from the time
of its writing right up to the present day.
Originally presented to the great Central Asian
Turkic leader, Mahmud of Ghazna, who was
aggressively expanding his rule into eastern
Persian territory, the Shahnama recounts the
history of the ancient kings of Iran. Rousing
verses extol their heroic deeds and romances,
glorify their ethical behaviour and praise their
exemplary leadership from the beginning of
human history right up to the destruction of
the Persian Empire by invading Muslim Arab
armies in the early 7th century CE.
Over time the book was seen as a guide to
royal image and decorum, numerous copies
being made for distribution among the courts
of the various non-Persian dynasties that
subsequently ruled Iran and its neighbouring
empires. From the 13th century onwards,
these outsiders justified their imperial
ambitions in Iran and beyond by absorbing
the legendary history and courtly demeanour
of the ancient Persian kings. No wonder then
that so many copies of the Shahnama were
made, and that a relatively high number of
them have survived many embellished by
exquisite miniature paintings illustrating the
romantic and much-loved heroic tales that
make up the body of the work.
The National Gallery of Victoria has a
number of disbound leaves from Shahnama
manuscripts in its Asian collection. One
elegant example, dated by the NGV to the late
15th century/early 16th century, depicts in
graceful detail the legendary Persian prince,
Siyavush, who was the son of Kay Kavus, one
of the earliest Shahs. A symbol of innocence
and purity in Persian literature, Siyavush
risked false accusation of serious crime rather
than succumb to the sexual advances of one
of his fathers wives. Subjected to an ordeal
by fire to prove his innocence, Siyavush rode
into the flames on his black horse, Siah.
In the NGV work the intensity of the flames
is accentuated by the way their tendrils reach
up to almost lick the faces of the watching
courtiers and pages arranged in the upper

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3

register of the painting behind

the rocky setting of the ordeal.
The flickering fire is shown
engulfing Siyavushs helmeted
head and white-robed body,
forming a symbolic echo of the
flaming aureole surrounding
figures of the prophets, so
widely depicted in Islamic
As in most illustrations of
episodes from the Shahnama,
the figures are not presented as
historical characters. Instead the
robes, headgear, royal canopy
and tiled pavilion from which
the women watch in the upper
right hand corner of the scene,
reflect the contemporary style of
Persian court life. In illustrated
manuscripts this courtly style
is characterised by the delicate
plant forms that dot the arid
landscape, the distinctive cloud
forms suspended in the distance
behind the line of figures and,
above all, by the vigorously
drawn cloud-band formation
of the fire itself. This fusion of
Turkoman and Timurid style that resulted
from the reunification of eastern and western
Iran in the early 16th century formed the
foundation for the later flowering of the arts
of the book under the Safavid Dynasty and
its neighbouring empires in Ottoman Turkey
and Mughal India.
The Fitzwilliam Museum at the University
of Cambridge will mark the Shahnamas
millenium with a major exhibition of books
and manuscripts from a wide range of
periods and sources. Works from Cambridge
collections will be augmented by others from
the Royal Collections of Britain and from the
Bodleian Library at Oxford, amongst others.
At the conclusion of the Cambridge exhibition,
some of the Bodleian Librarys magnificent
plates from an early 15th century Shahnama
will be prepared for loan to the State Library
of Victoria for its major exhibition of Persian
manuscripts in March, 2012: Love and Devotion:
From Persia and Beyond.

leaves from the Bodleian Library travelling

to the State Library of Victoria for what will
be the first large-scale exhibition of Persian
manuscripts to be shown in Australia. The
Oxford loan will be augmented by selected
works from the SLVs rich holdings that are
European in origin, yet echo Persian literary
and historical themes. Additional books and
manuscripts, centred on classic Persian tales
and poems of human and divine love recently
acquired by the SLV, and loans from other
Australian collections including several works
from the NGV, will complete the display.
Epic of the Persian Kings: the Shahnameh of
Ferdowsi, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge,
UK. 11 September 2010 9 January 2011.
Love and Devotion: from Persia and Beyond, State
Library of Victoria, Melbourne. 9 March
1 July, 2012.
Susan Scollay is an independent art historian
specialising in the art and culture of the Islamic world.

The disbound Bodleian Library Shahnama

folios selected for travel to Australia will form
the nucleus of about 70 rare manuscripts and

She is guest co-curator of Love and Devotion: From

Persia and Beyond, State Library of Victoria, 2012.



Heleanor Feltham

he Sasanian Empire (224-654 CE) was

founded by Ardeshir I, who claimed
descent from the old Achaemenid rulers of
Persia. With popular support, he spearheaded
a movement to restore Persian rule after
several centuries of first Seleucid Greek and
then Parthian rule. Under Ardeshir and his
successor, Shapur I, the Sasanian empire
expanded to include most of Central Asia
and areas of North India.
While the Gandhara style was developing under
the Kushan rulers of Central Asia, Christianity
was evolving in the divided Roman Empire
and Buddhism was establishing itself in the
equally divided empire of China - Sasanian
Persia became the most entrepreneurial and
politically significant power within Eurasia.
It was their luxury goods and their imagery,
based on earlier Persian models of power,
protection, and status, that came to dominate
the arts of Silk Road countries, and would
continue to do so long after the last of the
dynasty had fled to China.
Imperial ateliers at the centre of the empire
produced trade items and diplomatic gifts,
especially silks and metalwares (Harper
and Meyers 1981). Their distinctive style,
a stylised heraldic image within a circle,

became a visual lingua franca, found dispersed

from Japan to Europe. The lion, symbol of
kingship, power, prestige and the protection
of sacred spaces, was a dominant motif, either
as the dying lion which confers status on its
royal hunter or as the guardian lion of the
empire. Other traditional images of power,
especially deer, rams and wild boar and the
mythical senmerv with its lions head, wings
and peacock tail; the winged horse, symbol
of the Persian god of war, Verethragna; birds
such as peacocks, pheasants, cocks and ducks,
often wearing jewelled collars and imperial
scarfs; the ubiquitous tree of life and images
of the King hunting on horseback are all
recurring themes.
Only around two dozen textiles that can
be unequivocally traced to Persian sources
actually survive, many in European cathedrals
where silks were the material of choice for
wrapping relics. However, literary references
both Western and Eastern, and sculptural and
silverware images substantiate designs, while
copy textiles from Coptic Egypt, Byzantium,
Spain, Central Asia, China and Japan in both
silk and wool are well documented.
Initially raw silk was imported along the Silk
Road from China to the near East, mainly

to Persia and Byzantine Syria, where it

was then dyed and woven into twills and
brocades. These value-added textiles were
then re-exported back along the trade routes
to China and beyond to Japan or shipped
westward to Byzantium and the emerging
kingdoms of Europe (Volbach 1969). As more
and more Central Asian and Western cultures
acquired knowledge of sericulture, the designs
were widely copied. The most common form
is a silk weft-faced compound twill (samit),
though tapestry weaves, often of wool or wool
and linen, are also found, and gold thread
brocades are recorded as a luxury commodity.
The most common decorative motifs are
contained within a circle of pearl rondels,
usually paired, with squares or crescents at
the points where the circles touch. Between
the circles are vegetal motifs in geometric
arrangements, usually of stars or discs.
Sogdiana (modern Uzbekistan) was a centre of
trade both in raw silk from China and in textiles.
Part of the Sasanian Empire until the mid 6th
century, its oasis cultures traded in and copied
luxury goods, particularly silks, developing
looms and techniques designed to produce
the highly desirable international style. In the
late 6th century, the Sogdian merchant and
weaver, He Tuo, arrived in Nanjing, China.

Princely childs coat with lining, Sogdiana, c.8th century CE, weft-faced compound silk twill lined with Chinese silk damask. Cleveland Museum of Art


TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3


His skill in weaving gold thread brocades

and his financial acumen helped him amass a
considerable fortune, allowing him to launch
his younger son on a career in the Chinese
bureaucracy. His nephew, He Chou, was sent
to Changan where he obtained a post in
the court ateliers, eventually becoming head
of the imperial wardrobe due to his ability
to teach the imperial weavers to produce
fabrics adorned with medallions surrounded
by pearls which constitute the usual tribute of
the Persian empire (De la Vaissire).
It is now believed that the majority of Persianstyle textiles excavated in the Tarim Basin
are of Sogdian rather than Persian origin
(Compareti 2003), though the spread of actual
Persian textile is attested to by a spectacular
Syrian cushion cover featuring lions on leashes
on either side of a date palm from the Shosoin depository in Nara, gifted by the Emperor
Shomu in 754 (Ryoichi 1975). Fascinatingly,
wherever the textiles are produced, ones
showing the king hunting on horseback almost
invariably include the elaborate Persian royal
crown. These differ from king to king, allowing
a comparison with Persian coins and giving a
specific identity to the hunter.
Wealthy Sogdians wore kaftans woven with
rondel designs featuring Persian senmurvs,
boars heads and occasionally camels.
Samarkand frescos showcase well-dressed
ambassadors while an 8th century Sogdian
childs jacket featuring ducks in rondels (in
the Cleveland Museum of Art), and images of
bedecked camels indicate wide-spread use of
these lovely and expensive textiles. They can
also be found pictured in Dunhuang covering
the cushions on which the Buddha sits. A
recently discovered Tibetan 7th century silk
riding coat with confronted stags, of Sasanian
or Sogdian origin, featured in the US art market
in 2007 with an asking price of USD$1.2 million.
The advent of Islam and its conquest of the
Persian Empire in the 7th century did little to
disrupt the silk and silver trade, or radically
alter the designs. Even the iconoclastic strictures
of Islam at its most austere failed to transform
the design of luxury goods or the enthusiasm
of the growing Western markets. Moreover
the spread of sericulture and commercial silkweaving technology to Byzantium in the 6th
century, and the integration of silk textiles, often
replicating or reprising Persian designs, into the
Byzantine diplomatic culture (Muthesius 1995),
ensured that the same imagery that had already
travelled eastward as far as Japan, now spread
equally far westward.
According to Procopius, enterprising
monks, possibly Nestorians whose diocese

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3


Silk simurgh (phoenix) from the Reliquary of St Leu


in Paris, Sasanian Persian, c.7th century CE, now in the


Victoria and Albert Museum

was centred on Samarkand and possibly

anxious to repair their heretic status with
the Byzantine church, brought the secret of
sericulture to Constantinople. The emperors
of Byzantium established workshops there to
produce their own silks, usually copying the
coveted trade items (Mango 2002).

helmets (Krenn and Karcheski 1992). Within

a generation, a complex system of symbols
had evolved from fanciful designs on tunics,
flags and shields, studied and controlled by
heralds. Lions, boars, deer, eagles and other
Persian-influenced motifs abounded, issued
by national authorities such as the Scottish
Court of the Lord Lyon or the English College
of Heralds founded in 1484. Today the coat of
arms - personal, public or promotional - is as
popular as ever.

Under the Umayyads (661-750), Islamic armies

swept across the Mediterranean to Spain in 711.
Defeated in 732 by Charles Martel, and effectively
stopped from further advances into Europe, the
Umayyads established a remarkable intellectual
and courtly culture centred on Cordoba, where
the last Caliph of the Umayyads died in 1031.
They spread both sericulture and Persian-style
weaving westward, further increasing European
access to Persian motifs.
Despite these developments, imported silks
continued to be the most desirable. Whether
produced in the Islamic world, in Byzantium,
or in Hispano-Moresque Spain (El Andaluz),
the style of the textiles and other luxury
goods almost always followed that of the
Sasanian Persians.

Sasanian silks utilised traditional Persian

symbols and images dating to at least the
5th century BCE, using principally imported
silks and creating a commodity which was
greatly valued across the Eurasian world
from Germany to Japan. Widely copied,
the designs became part of an international
repertoire and came to influence other arts
and designs including western heraldry and
Chinese sculptural motifs. Traded along the
Silk Road, they encouraged the spread of
complex weaving techniques along with their
distinctive styles.
Heleanor Feltham has a PhD from UTS

As late as the 14th century, Western textiles

continued to be imported, often from China
and still incorporating elements of Sasanian
design. The Wilton diptych panel showing the
coronation of Richard II, now in the National
Gallery of London, has the king kneeling
accompanied by saints, one of whom wears a silk
robe with confronted Chinese phoenix. The king
himself wears a robe with roundels containing
kneeling deer, his own heraldic motif, but one
also originating in the Near East and spread
through Persian textiles and silverware.

(International Studies) and specialises in Central

Asian material culture. She was a founding member
of TAASA and the first Editor of the TAASA Review.

Compareti, M. 2003. The role of the Sogdian Colonies in the
diffusion of the pearl roundels pattern, Transoxiana on-line
journal available at
Harper P. and Meyers P., 1981. Silver Vessels of the Sasanian
Period. Vol 1. Royal Imagery, The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
New York, and Princeton University Press, New York.
Hayashi, Ryoichi,1975. The Silk Road and the Shoso-in.
Heibonsha Survey of Japanese Art vol 6. Weatherhill/Heibonsha,
New Your/Tokyo.

By the 12th century a new form of image,

echoing earlier Sasanian designs, had
emerged in Europe, that of heraldry. The
Crusades, which lasted until the late 13th
century, brought Western knights into a
more direct contact with Islam and its riches,
including vastly improved metalworking
techniques reflected in the development of
new forms of arms and armour, notably the
closed helmet and plate mail.
Heraldry was one means of identifying
armed warriors in their new face-concealing

Krenn P.and Karcheski, Jr W. J., 1992. Imperial Austria: Treasures

of Art, Arms and Armor from the State of Styria, Art Exhibitions
Australia Ltd, Melbourne.
Mango C. (ed), 2002. The Oxford History of Byzantium, Oxford
University Press, Oxford.
Muthesius, A., 1995. Studies in Byzantine and Islamic Silk
Weaving. Silken Diplomacy, The Pindar Press, London.
Scott, P., 1993. The Book of Silk, Thames & Hudson, London.
Vaissire . de la (Trans. J. Ward), 2005. Sogdian Traders, a
History: Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section 8: Central Asia,
vol. 10 Sogdian Traders, Brill, Leiden and Boston, citing He Chous
biography in the Suishu (Dynastic history of the Sui Dynasty).
Volbach W. F., 1969. Early Decorative Textiles, Paul Hamlyn, London.


John Tidmarsh

Paradise Lost
Persia from Above
By Georg Gerster. Ed by Maryam Sachs
Phaidon, 2009
rrp USD$59.95

In June 1931, the University of Pennsylvania

Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology,
along with the Pennsylvania (later
Philadelphia) Museum of Art launched their
Joint Archaeological Expedition to Persia. A
young German-born archaeologist, Erich F.
Schmidt, was chosen to direct excavations
at the Bronze Age site of Tepe Hissar, along
with the Sasanian Palace nearby. Schmidt
commenced work in late June of the following
year, and from this time on, his archaeological
career was largely focussed on Iran,
culminating in his directing three seasons of
excavation at Persepolis.
Arguably just as important as his fieldwork,
was Schmidts remarkable series of aerial
explorations conducted during the middle
period (19351937) of the first Shahs reign.
In his Waco cabin biplane, accompanied by
his wife Mary-Helen, pilots Lewin Barringer
and (later) William Benn and a Lieutenant of
the Iranian Air Forces, Schmidt was able to
cover much of Iran. As well as photographing
existing excavations and known sites, Schmidt
aimed to explore those parts of the country as
yet archaeologically unknown.
At a time when surveys of this nature were very
rare and not particularly methodical, Schmidts
well-planned aerial reconnaissance was both
remarkably innovative and highly successful
as can be gauged by his magisterial Flights
over the Ancient Cities of Iran published in 1940.
Although Flights is now out of print, many of
Schmidts aerial photographs have been made
available through the website of The Oriental
Institute of the University of Chicago.


After a gap of almost 40 years, during 1976

1978, Georg Gerster, another pioneer of aerial
photography, undertook a similar series
of aerial reconnaissance flights over Iran
totalling some 300 flying hours. Although
accompanied by a German archaeologist
(shades of Schmidt!), Gersters main aim
was to record Irans natural and cultural
landscapepredestined to be viewed from
the air, with its salt deserts, gardens like slices
of paradise, and waterless wind-sculpted
wastes. The result is a striking and nostalgic
collection of colour images (slides taken with
Nikon cameras on Kodachrome film), from
the last years of the Shah, encompassing
all of Iran from Khorasan and Baluchistan
in the east to Azarbijan, Kermanshah, and
Khuzistan in the west.
The images are arranged according to
geographical region. They are accompanied
by a foreword from Gerster, a short and fairly
superficial introductory section by Iranianborn Maryam Sachs on some of the natural
and cultural features of these regions along
with brief comments on some of the aerial
photographs themselves, and then three pages
of poems (selected by Sachs) by Ferdowsi,
Rumi, Sadi, Hafez, Farrokhzad and others.
Among the images it is the landscapes that
are the most compelling. The sheer diversity
and beauty of Iran can often be difficult to
comprehend when travelling long distances
by road through apparently featureless
and unchanging countryside. Google Earth
cannot hope to compete with images such
as Gersters views of the cloud-covered
Elburz dominated by Mount Damavand, the
wonderfully fertile and heavily exploited
Caspian coastline, the sparsely populated
Zagros foothills of Luristan and, to my eyes
the most striking of all, the superb patterns
created by the ever-moving sand dunes of
Sistan and Baluchistan or by the constant
salt erosion along the shores of the Gulf to
the south.
Also beautifully documented from the air
are the villages of Iran. With their cisterns
and adjacent fields often nourished by qanats
(underground water channels), these villages
may seem uniform and timeless but, as
Gersters images so clearly demonstrate, there
were (and, to a diminishing degree still are)
marked regional variations in organisation
and architectural forms amongst the villages

from Khorasan, Fars, Azarbijan, and the

Caspian and Gulf coasts. These variations are
often much more apparent from the air.
A number of the great Persian cities and
archaeological monuments are also included,
although often not as strikingly depicted
as they were by Schmidt in the 1930s.
Nevertheless, it is instructive to compare
the present state (Google Earth) of these
monuments and their surrounds with their
appearance in the late 1970s (Gerster) and the
1930s (Schmidt).
Some of these sites (eg Takht-e Soleyman,
Pasargadae) show evidence of much
archaeological clearing and reconstruction
during the 40 years between the images
of Schmidt and Gerstner. Others (eg Susa,
Firuzabad) appear relatively unaltered whilst
the surrounding towns and villages have
grown significantly. A comparison between
Gersters images and those of Google Earth
suggest that this latter state of affairs has
largely continued over the last 30 years,
although things may well change if the
current increase in archaeological activity
jointly undertaken by Iranian and overseas
institutions is maintained. Finally, it is
pleasing (although sad) to see such a fine
photo of the citadel of Bam, taken well before
the tragic earthquake of December 2003.
As with quite a few images in this book,
however, its power is somewhat diminished
by its spread over two pages, making the
central part of the image hard to read.
Although it is now some 30 years since Gerster
took the photos that appear in this book, their
attraction is in no way diminished. This book
should certainly appeal to anyone interested
in the wider world and, especially, to the everincreasing numbers of travellers who, rather
than relying on biased or frankly ignorant
accounts in the local press, wish to see the
real Iran for themselves. To get the most out
of it, however, I recommend that it be read
in conjunction with the wonderful black-andwhite photos of Schmidt discussed above.
Dr John Tidmarsh is President of the Near Eastern
Archaeological Foundation at the University of
Sydney. He has travelled widely in Iran and has led
numerous tours to that country.

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3

E XHIBITION P R E VI E W: B E A U T Y A N D B E T R A Y A L : an c i ent je w eller y at t h e N i c h olson

Elizabeth Bollen and Tobin Hartnell

he lure of jewellery, its beauty, the desire

to create it, to possess it, to adorn a loved
one with it, is common to us all and provides
a strong connection to the people of the past.
Through time and across cultures people
have found gold, silver and polished stones
attractive. The continued appeal of ancient
jewellery, an attraction that prompted emulation
in the 18th and 19th centuries, propels this
exhibition. Today we can look at the jewellery
worn over 2000 years ago and not only recognise
its beauty but even think I would wear that.
Jewellery can be a potent symbol of protection or
of power. It can speak of the individuals status,
of their wealth, their good taste, their education,
their international connections. Jewellery can
be intensely personal; it can represent strong
bonds of unity between individuals or within
a group. Or it can be desired and worn simply
because it is beautiful.
Collected together in this exhibition and
catalogue are over 70 objects from the
Nicholson Museum, other Australian
university museums and public and private
collections.Each piece displays the techniques
of the jeweller, its varied purpose and above all,
captures something of the appeal of jewellery.
For those interested in ancient Iranian
jewellery, this exhibition includes three
objects from Luristan, western Iran. From the
12th-8th centuries BCE, the area produced
many decorative bronzes: horse trappings,
standards, weapons and jewellery. These

objects are artefacts of Irans nomadic

tradition. The exhibited pieces include two
bronze torcs and a thick ring that served as
an anklet, armlet or bracelet. Excavations of
burials and depictions in art indicate that both
men and women wore anklets, either singly
or in stacks of two or three, while rings worn
on the upper arm was a dress convention of
Assyrian and Persian men.
The Luristan bronzes are amongst the mostlively pieces of ancient jewellery from Iran.
These pieces represent the tradition of Iranian
nomads to wear their wealth because they
were moving with every season. The choice
of torcs and arm decorations for display is
meaningful because necklaces and bracelets
still function as the centrepiece of an Iranian
womans wedding service (a present given to
her by the husband to mark her transition into
a new stage of life). They probably served as a
similar marker of status in the tribe.
Ancient jewellery also functioned as a kind
of currency. Before coined money was
introduced in the 6th century BCE, metals
held their value according to their weight. In
Iran, gold and silver is still valued this way.
In some cases, excavations have found hoards
of scrap metal buried under the doorstep of
ancient houses. In others, there is evidence for
cutting pieces from metal objects, presumably
to serve as payment. Thus a womans bride
price, when offered as jewellery, could serve
as financial insurance against hardship, just
as it does in modern Iran and India.

These Luristan bronzes are also evocative

forerunners to the jewellery of ancient Persia.
The circle of the ring was deliberately left
incomplete. The two ends were then engraved
with geometric markings, similar to those
found on the bronze sculpture of Queen
Napir-Asu (dated to the late 14th century
BCE). As time would pass, this nomadic style
of jewellery would be re-interpreted with rings
of silver or gold finished with animal heads.
Persian kings would give them out as presents
to court favourites. In essence, armlets and
bracelets became the height of fashion in the
Achaemenid court of Persepolis. The influence
of Persian design in the West is demonstrated
in this exhibition by a silver bracelet with
gilded dog heads and a pair of animal-headed
earrings from 5th century BCE Greece.
The final part of the exhibition concerns the
Neo-Classical world. These displays investigate
how the ancient designs of the Greco-Roman
world were reinterpreted as part of the 18th
and 19th century Neo-Classical movement.
These later versions symbolise the continued
attraction of the ancient world in modern times.
Beauty And Betrayal: Ancient And Neo-Classical
Jewellery is being held at the Nicholson
Museum, The University of Sydney from
30 June 28 November 2010.
Elizabeth Bollen is Assistant Curator at the
Nicholson Museum, Sydney University and curator
of this exhibiton. Tobin Hartnell is a PhD candidate
in Iranian archaeology at Chicago University.

Arm ring or anklet, Luristan, Iran, early 1st millennium BCE, bronze,

Bangle with dog-head terminals, Greece, 5th century BCE, silver and gold,

Nicholson Museum, University of Sydney. Photo: Phil Rogers

COURTESY OF John Elliot Classics Museum, University of Tasmania, GX19

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3


Helen Holmes and Ros Hunyor

Knotted pile rug, Chahar Mahall Province, West Iran,

late 19th century, wool and silk, 178 x 126 cm,
Carpet Museum of Iran. Photo: Ros Hunyor

inging our way into Tehran we were

W alerted
to a story in the Economist about
a mid 17th Century Kirman vase carpet from
southern Persia, formerly in the collection of
the Comtesse de Behague, sold at Christies
London auction in April 2010 for a staggering
USD9.59 million, far exceeding any record of
an auctioned work of Islamic art. This was
a fitting introduction to the delights of the
Carpet Museum of Iran.
The museum was to reveal many beautiful
Kirman carpets amongst other treasures,
including a copy of the famous Pazyryk
carpet believed to date from the 4th century
BCE, the subject of an article by Leigh Mackay
in the December 2009 TAASA Review.
The Carpet Museum of Iran, designed by
Queen Farah Diba Pahlavi, is located in Laleh
Park in Tehran. Built in 1978, its modern tentlike faade resembles a carpet-weaving loom.
With the aim of reviving and developing the
art of carpet weaving, it has two exhibition
galleries displaying carpets from the 17th to
mid 20th century as well as a fine library and
space for teaching carpet weaving, design and
The museum represents about 60 different
carpet weaving centres in Iran of which only
four are covered here, based on the places we
visited on our recent trip.
From Tehran, we travelled into the Zagros
mountains to Kermanshah and south to the
plains of Ahvaz. Here, we skirted the area
of the Bakhtiari carpet-makers, settled tribes
of Armenians, Kurds, Lurs and others. The
quality of their carpets varies, with the finest
carpets, with floral medallion/ all-over motifs,
coming from the town of Chahal Shotur.

Designs also vary from town to town but

the ubiquitous garden designs predominate:
rectangular panels of motifs such as summer
houses, grape vines, stylised flowers, large
cypress trees and weeping willows, as well
as boteh (or paisley motif) and vase. They
use a symmetrical knot known as Turkish
and an asymmetrical knot known as Persian.
Predominantly natural dyes were used until
the end of the 19th century, and both the warp
and weft are usually cotton.There were many
glorious, brilliantly coloured carpets from this
area in the museum, the most notable being a
prayer rug with cypress tree motif, embraced
by trees of life laden with fruit and flowers
and bordered with a floral scrolling pattern.
Back into the Zagros mountains to Shiraz, the
next nomadic carpet makers we visited were the
Qashqai, a confederation of tribes who speak a
Turkic dialect. Their 19th century carpets are
made from the softest wool from under the chin
of the sheep, which take up a deeper shade of
colour when dyed.These carpets are commonly
an all wool construction of ivory coloured warp
and dark or red dyed weft using mostly an
asymmetrical knot and strong deep colours.
Modern village carpets produced in the region
are known as Shiraz, with geometric floribunda
style designs, typically with rows of three or five
diamond shapes down the middle (or centre
and corners), or the whole field covered with
small geometric motifs. They use birds, tree of
life and two-headed animal motifs. The museum
displayed a number of geometric Qashqai carpets.
Travelling northwest, we reached the city of
Esfahan. Shah Abbas 1 (r. 1587 to 1629) was
responsible for bringing Armenian weavers from
the town of Jalfa in the Caucasus to New Jalfa
in Esfahan where he established the weaving
trade. During his reign, carpets reached the
pinnacle of artistic achievement and manywere
sent as gifts to western rulers. The extraordinary
Safavid period designs are reflected in the
symmetrical patterns evident in modern carpets
from the region and include overall floral,
vase, palmettes and hunting designs. The most
popular use a circular medallion/dome design
said to have been derived from the famous
mosque of Sheikh Lotfollah in Esfahan.
Esfahan carpets are made of the most
consistently fine wool pile and silk, using an
asymmetrical knot construction, with mainly
silk warps and often two wefts. Many of the
numerous Esfahani carpets in the museum

are from the Shah Abbas period, and one in

particular stood out from the others, not least
for its grand size. We admired the amazing
detail of this silk and wool central medallion
carpet surrounded by pairs of tigers, leopards,
monkeys, deer and wild goats swirling
amongst scrolling vines and flowers, with
ornate vases filled with flowers in each corner.
Our route took us finally to the town of
Kashan, once on an important caravan route,
whose carpets saw an export driven revival
during the second half of the 19th century. Most
use a very fine weave and follow a medallionand-corner pattern, sometimes referred to as
the book-cover or Quran design. Amongst
many Kashan carpets seen in the museum was
a splendid double-sided scrolling vines and
garden patterned carpet made from silk and
cotton. The border of this carpet appeared to
have a similar feathered leaf pattern to that of
the auctioned Kirman carpet.
The Carpet Museum of Iran constantly rotates
its display and is well worth a visit just for the
sheer beauty of its carpets. At a deeper level
it set the context for our travels, allowing us
to appreciate the connections between carpet
design and so many aspects of life in ancient
and modern Persia its nomadic herdsmen, its
landscapes, gardens and its architectural styles.
Ros Hunyor and Helen Holmes are Volunteer Guides
in the Asian Galleries of the Art Gallery of NSW.

Faade of Carpet Museum of Iran.

Photo: Malcolm Holmes


TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3


TAASA is very fortunate to be able to

welcome Gill Green and Christina Sumner
as its new President and Vice President,
following the resignation of Judith Rutherford
after 9 years of sterling service to TAASA.
Judiths wise leadership will be sorely missed,
but we can look forward to committed and

expert leadership in Gill and Christina.

Judith and Ken Rutherford have been given
life membership of TAASA as a mark of
gratitude for their contribution, and a gift of
a celebratory dinner at well-known Sydney
restaurant, Aria.


Judith first experienced Asia in Brunei
where she and Ken Rutherford, employed
by Shell, were transferred as newly-weds.
Asian traders came to the door with
enormous bundles containing everything
from antiques to contemporary items. Her
interest was particularly piqued by items of
Chinese dress and that is where her career in
collecting, dealership and research took off.
Having joined TAASA right at its beginning
in 1991 she approached then President Carl
Andrews with the idea of starting a Textile
Focus Group. This was a rather radical idea
in those days when textiles did not enjoy a
high profile. From this beginning emerged
many TAASA -devised seminars and
lectures devoted to textiles from all regions of
Asia. Soon after, a Textile Study Group based
in Sydney and hosted by the Powerhouse
Museum, was initiated in 1994. It continues
to this day a testament to Judiths foresight
in an emerging field of interest.
Over the years, Judiths expertise was called
on to advise and assist major institutions
such as the Art Gallery of NSW with such
major events as Dancing to the Flute in 1997,
and Celestial Silks in 2004. Her knowledge
of collections and collectors abroad were
seminal to this last event, where her
relationship with the movers and shakers
encouraged their confidence to allow the
most significant examples of amazing
Chinese robes, one dating back to the 6th
century, to be brought to Australia. In 2001
she succeeded Jackie Menzies, Head Curator
of Asian Art at the AGNSW, as President of
TAASA and has held this position until she
stepped down in mid-2010.
Judith recounts that another highlight has
been her research into Vietnamese textiles
and rank insignia. Her initial interest in
Chinese rank insignia led her to recognizing
Vietnamese examples, usually incorrectly

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3

labeled as Chinese, as a distinct category.

She managed to put together a small
representative collection dating from the
18th to19th century and donated them to
the AGNSW where they remain, arguably,
the largest collection of Vietnamese rank
insignia in a public institution worldwide.
But TAASA has not had an exclusive call
on Judiths time. Over the same period,
she was involved in and became the
President of the Nordhoff-Robbins Music
Therapy organisation in Australia; she has
for many years acted as an independent
Councillor on Willoughby Council on
Sydneys northshore, becoming Deputy
Mayor at one time. She and Ken are wellknown and respected participants and
experts in antique fairs both in Australia
and abroad, notably in the annual Asian
arts fairs in New York; and she serves on
the VisAsia Council. The culmination of all
these activities was the award of the AM,
Member of the Order of Australia, to Judith
in the Australia Day Honours List in 2010.
Her wise counsel and experience has been
a significant asset to TAASA in all this
time and has certainly been a benchmark
for the TAASA Committee and all those
who sought her advice over the years in so
many capacities. We look forward to seeing
Judith and Ken around and about and not
least the TAASA End of Year parties!
Gill Green



TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3




Exhibition floor talk on Batik of Java:

Poetics and Politics
On Thursday 8 July, TAASA members
attended a preview of this exhibition at the
Caloundra Regional Art Gallery. On display
were batiks from the collection of Greg Roberts
and Ian Reed and paintings by Indonesian
artist, Dadang Christanto, curated by TAASA
member Maria Wronska-Friend (see exhibition
preview in the TR June 2010 issue).

Textile Study Group meeting - 9 June

Carole Douglas, an expert on the traditional
textiles of the tribal women of Kutch in
Northwestern India, brought in a lavish array
of examples to illustrate her well attended talk
on the place of Kutch and its traditions in the
larger picture of Indian textile trading history.
Textile Study Group meeting - 28 July
Terry Bisley and Sue-Ann Smiles covered the
fascinating topic of lotus stem fibre weaving
at Lake Inle in northern Burma (Myanmar).
Together they travelled there in April and
documented and collected an array of fabrics
and scarves made from this precious fibre
with its important Buddhist connotations.

Kutch textile study group meeting. L- R Carole Douglas,

Greg Roberts at the Batik of Java exhibition.

Soraya Raju, Dianne Schultz-Tesmar examining some of the

Photo: Deborah Halls

textiles on display. Photo: Gill Green


Trade Ceramics in Southeast Asia.

Lecture by David Rehfuss, Freer Museum,
Washington DC.
7 pm on Tuesday 14 September at Nomadic
Rug Traders, 123 Harris Street, Pyrmont.
Numbers are limited so bookings essential.
Please contact Ann Proctor
Iranian Arts and Craft - a one-day
TAASA Seminar on Saturday 30 October
Coles Theatre, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Our guest speakers will include:
Dr John Tidmarsh providing an
introductory overview.
Dr Stefano Carboni, Director, Art Gallery
of Western Australia - previously Curator
of Islamic Arts at the Metropolitan Museum
of Art, New York - on Iranian glass.
Nasser Palangi on traditional and
contemporary Persian calligraphy. As a
practising artist, he will also demonstrate how
contemporary Middle Eastern artists integrate
traditional Persian and Arabic calligraphy into
their own work with dramatic effect.

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3

Dr Kate Radford discusses the significance

of imagery depicting female forms on
Sasanian period (224 654 CE) silver bowls.
Dr Heleanor Feltham will focus on
magnificent Sasanian silk textiles using
examples archaeologically recovered
along the Silk Road.
Leigh MacKay completes the program
elucidating visual symbols found on Persian
carpets, particularly garden designs.
A small exhibition of contemporary
Iranian art is planned on the day. Detailed
information on the days program will
be available in September. All enquiries,
contact Gill Green on 9331 1810 or at
Textile Study Group
6-8 pm, Briefing Room, Powerhouse Museum
15 September: Kate Johnston talks about
her recent trip to West Timor and will bring
the many exciting textiles she collected.
13 October: Chris Reid (Australia Museum)
discusses an unusual Sumatran traditional
tampan cloth featuring a European style ship.

10 November: Sally Powell and Gill Green

focus on dress and adornment of Papua New
Guinea as seen on their recent travels there.
All enquiries, contact Gill Green on
9331 1810 or

Wayang Kulit - Shadow Puppet

Drama of Java
6.30 pm on Friday 3 September in the
foyer of the Queensland Conservatorium,
South Bank.
The performance will be presented by Joko
Susilo (Dhalang - puppet master) and the
Queensland Conservatorium Gamelan
Ensemble with guest artists Pak
Hardjodikoro Soegito, (musician in
residence, Embassy of Republic of
Indonesia, Canberra) who will lead
the gamelan, Ilona Wright (Melbourne
Community Gamelan) and Julia Pope.
This performance of approximately 1.5
hours duration will present an episode
from the epic Mahabharata entitled Bima
Founds the Kingdom.



Compiled by Tina Burge
Life, death and magic - 2000 years of
Southeast Asian ancestral art
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
13 August 31 October 2010

Life, death and magic assembles some of the

finest and rarest works of Southeast Asian
animist art, showing the ancient and enduring
links between the arts of the Philippines,
Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and
East Timor. The exhibition features dramatic
sculpture, jewellery and textiles revealing the
power of art made for rituals of life and death
from prehistoric to recent times.
A series of talks will take place in association
with the exhibition:
Lucie Folan, Curator Asian art speaks about
the art of the Yami people from Taiwan on 9
September at 12.45 pm

National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
1 October 2010

Connections explores the synergies between

works of art across cultures, place and time.
Islamic works of art are paired with others in
the NGAs collection under themes such as
calligraphy, geometry, colour and the garden
to develop an understanding of their influence.
A series of lectures is scheduled including
a talk on the exhibition by Frances Wild,
Gallery educator and curator of the
exhibition on 5 October 12.45 pm. On 7
October at 12.45pm AustralianIranian artist
Hossein Valamanesh will share the stories of
his art, which poetically combines Australian
and Persian experiences.
For further information go to:

Robyn Maxwell, Senior Curator, Asian Art,

and curator of the exhibition will discuss art
and the cycle of life in ancestral Southeast
Asia on 14 September at 12.45pm.
Textile conservators from the NGA will give a
general overview of the conservation of Southeast
Asian textiles and cover a number of different
conservation treatments on 21 September at
12.45pm and 12 October at 12.45pm.
Dr Hwei-Fen Cheah, Lecturer, Art History,
ANU, will discuss the ritual textiles from
Sumatra on 19 October at 12.45pm.
Professor James Fox, Professor of
Anthropology, ANU College of Asia and
the Pacific will lecture on Life from death:
sacrifice for creation on 21 October at
Niki van den Heuvel, Exhibition Assistant,
will discuss the sumptuous gold objects
made for the veneration of ancestors in the
exhibition on 23 October at 2.00pm.
Dr Peter Bellwood, Professor of Archaeology,
ANU will lecture on Tracing the deeper
ancestries of Southeast Asian peoples archaeology, languages and genes on 28
October at 12.45pm.
For lecture details and other
cultural activities go to:


The Indian empire, multiple realities Selections from the Portvale Collection
The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
19 August 7 November 2010

This ambitious exhibition presents aspects

of the Indian empire when artistic patrons
were as diverse as Indian maharajas, East
India Company employees, and the military
and administrative personnel of the British
Raj. When foreigners started arriving in
India centuries ago, they were captivated
by the people, architecture, customs and
costumes of the subcontinent. By the late
18th century, when the British presence
was more widespread through India, artists
were commissioned to portray the world the
foreigners had encountered.
The imaging of India coincided with the
development of new, multiple printing
techniques such as lithography and, from
the 1850s, photography. At the same time,
local traditions of painting and embroidery
Art After Hours program on Wednesday
evenings until 9pm will focus on the
exhibition on 1, 8 and 15 September. Expert
talks in the exhibition at 5.30pm are followed
by celebrity events at 6.30pm and live Indian
music in the Artbar from 7.30pm. Celebrities
include Claire McCarthy, writer and
director of The Waiting City (2009), the first
Australian feature-length film entirely filmed
in India, on 8 September.

Simryn Gill: Gathering
Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane
28 August 17 October 2010

Simryn Gills work explores questions of

place and history, and how they might
intersect with personal and collective
experience. Born in Singapore, Gill lives in
Sydney and Port Dickson, Malaysia. She
uses objects, language and photographs to
convey a deep interest in material culture
and the ways that meaning can transform
and translate into different contexts.
For further information go to:
The Zhongjian: Midway
Cairns Regional Gallery
29 October 5 December 2010

A travelling exhibition from the Wollongong

City Gallery continues in Cairns. Leading
Australian and Chinese contemporary artists
provide insights into questions of personal
and cultural identity, and the implications of
finding oneself midway between cultures.
For further information go to:
Giuseppe Tucci - Explorer and
Extraordinary Scholar
Monash University, Melbourne
1 October 2010, 10am - 5pm

The Monash Asia Institute, the Italian

Institute of Culture (Melbourne) and the
Istituto Italiano per lAfrica e lOriente have
organised a symposium on the work of
Giuseppe Tucci (18941984), the inveterate
scholar and explorer. Ahead of his time,
Tucci recognized the internationalist
nature of Buddhism, and charted its
spread into areas that scholarship had
not yet investigated. The symposium will
particularly highlight his contribution to
the study of Tibetan culture, history and
religion, fields in which he was the preeminent scholar over several decades.
For more information on
the symposium go to:

TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3

Fluid Borders Ways of Seeing Oriental Rugs

The Johnston Collection Gallery, Melbourne
5 July 22 October 2010

By exhibiting rugs from a wide range of

traditions and styles, Fluid Borders will
explore the impact of oriental rugs on
western dcor, art and thinking, and how
history has placed oriental rugs in the
scholarship of oriental textiles. Susan Scollay
has curated the exhibition with selected
works from The Johnston Collection and
private collections in Melbourne.
For further information go to:

For further information go to:
Freer Gallery of Art, Washingon
7 August 2010 7 August 2001

Blue-and-white Chinese porcelain became

a hot item in London in the 1870s, a
craze the British press mockingly dubbed
Chinamania. James McNeill Whistler, an
early collector of Chinese porcelain, helped
stimulate this fad by depicting such wares
in his paintings. Featuring 23 works of art,
the exhibition explores Chinese porcelain in
Whistlers England, where it was first valued
as aesthetic inspiration but soon proliferated
as a commodity.

New Research on Buddhist Sculpture Symposium
The V&A Museum, London
8-9 November 2010

This two day symposium will bring together

new research by 15 leading scholars in the
field of Buddhism and Buddhist arts. The
first day will concentrate on South Asia and
the Himalayas, the second on South East



and Eastern Asia. The symposium aims to

further debate on regional stylistic schools,
stylistic development, the relationship of
iconography to religious doctrines and key
cross-cultural and international links.

The Grandeur of Chinese Art Treasures The
Min Chiu Society Golden Jubilee Exhibition
Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong
25 September 2010 2 January 2011

Founded in 1960, the Min Chiu Society is a

group of local collectors who possess eminent
collections of Chinese art. This year, to
celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Min Chiu
Society is collaborating with the HK Museum
of Art to present an exhibition showcasing
over 300 fine Chinese art treasures from
prehistory to the Qing dynasty, including
excellent examples across all media.
Important paintings and calligraphy by
renowned artists from the Tang to the Qing
dynasties and early modern masters will be
a feature of the exhibition.
For further information go to:

For further information go to





November December 2011

October - November 2011
28 October 16 November 2011
July 2011
This program offers a relaxed but
Angkors timeless grandeur is unmissable.
Designed and hosted by TAASA
Mountains, jungles, ruined cities, vast
comprehensive tour of two destinations,
Combining it with majestic Preah
contributor Dr Bob Hudson, our
lakes, impressive Theravada Buddhist
both slowly emerging from tumultuous
Vihear and other Khmer sites results
longstanding annual Burma program
temples and statuary, fertile uplands: Sri
recent history and containing memorable
in an unforgettable travel memory.
features extended stays in medieval
Lankas tapestry of landscape, people
yet highly contrasting UNESCO World
Yet Cambodia offers a host of other
Mrauk U, capital of the lost ancient
and culture overwhelms and delights the
senses. Kandy and the pageantry of the kingdom of Arakan (now Rakhine State) important cultural and travel experiences: Heritage listed sites. Visit Vientiane and
romantic Luang Prabang in landlocked
outstanding ancient, vernacular and
and Bagan, rivalling Angkor Wat as
Esala Perahera Festival, with its ancient
Laos plus Cambodia and its capital
French colonial architecture; spectacular
Southeast Asias richest archaeological
procession of robed elephants, dancers
and acrobats, forms the centrepiece of precinct. Exciting experiences in Yangon, riverine environments; a revitalising urban Phnom Penh and the superb Khmer sites
capital in Phnom Penh; interesting cuisine at Angkor plus other less well known
Inle Lake, Mandalay and a private
our Sri Lankan circuit. Before and after
travel experiences. Join our enthusiastic
and beautiful countryside. Expatriate
cruise down the mighty Ayeyarwady
Kandy we explore World Heritage listed
museologist, author, Siem Reap resident and knowledgeable team of author, art
are also included.
and other sites such as Colombo; the
important Cultural Triangle cities of
Land Only estimated cost per person and TAASA contributor Darryl Collins has historian and TAASA Committee member
designed and hosts this latest, updated Gill Green and Darryl Collins, museologist,
Anaradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya;
twinshare ex Yangon $3995
author and Siem Reap resident on an
version of his annual program.
the groomed tea estates of the Hill
interesting and worthwhile journey.
Country around Nuwara Eliya; the gem
Land Only estimated cost per person
town of Ratnapura; and the south-west
Land Only estimated cost per person
twinshare ex Phnom Penh $3775
coast around Galle. Fighting between the
twinshare ex Phnom Penh $4500
Sri Lankan military and the LTTE (Tamil
Tigers) has ceased and travellers are
returning. Archaeologist Dr Bob Hudson
is leader.
Register your interest now and qualify for a special early discount. Contact Ray Boniface
Land Only estimated cost per person
at Heritage Destinations on +61 2 4228 3887 or email
twinshare ex Colombo $3900
or visit our website


TA A S A R E V I E W V O L U M E 1 9 N O. 3

PO Box U237, University of Wollongong NSW 2500 Australia

p +61 2 4228 3887 e
ABN 21 071 079 859 LIC NO TAG 1747