The National Museum of
Iran, whose construction began in 1934 and which became operative in two
sections in 1937, not only constitutes the largest museum of Iranian archeology
and history, but also ranks among the few great museums of the world with
regards to volume, quality and diversity of its collections. This museum is
considered to be Iran’s mother museum. The National Museum of Iran comprises
two sections, housed in separate buildings: the Iran-e Bastan Museum,
inaugurated in 1937, and the Islamic Period Museum, opened officially in 1996.
In 1929, following the
ratification of the law on the preservation of national artifacts, the
Anjoman-e Asar-e Melli was founded and, in order to assure the protection of
Iranian historic objects, the French architect André Godard, then also the
director of Iranian archaeology began preparing the plans of the Iran-e Bastan
Museum, drawing inspiration from the Arch of Chosroes (Ctesiphon). Red bricks
were chosen for the building to recall Sasanian architecture. The museum
building has an area of approximately 11,000 square meters and has three
At present, bringing
together the Iran-e Bastan Museum and the Islamic Period Museum within a
perimeter of 18,000 square meters, benefiting from a built area of more than
20,000 square meters, and housing approximately 300,000 historic items from
different historic periods, the National Museum of Iran is the greatest art and history in the world.
The oldest item attesting to the presence of man on the Iranian Plateau, which
dates back to 600,000 years ago, is preserved in this museum. Various objects
unearthed in past years, undergo scientific research in the museum’s
laboratories located on its basement floor, before being transferred to the
The Prehistory section
of the National Museum of Iran is devoted to artifacts ranging from the Stone
Age to the Iron Age. Covering a wide spectrum of materials ranging from terracotta,
metal, stone, and bitumen… the objects preserved in this section were
discovered either through scientific archaeological excavations or by accident.
The oldest items here are stone blades from Kashafrood, discovered during an
archaeological survey carried out in 1974-5
in Khorasan, on the banks of Kashafrood river. Various opinions have
been expressed on the age of these artifacts. Claude Thibault attributes them
an age of 800,000 to 1 million years, while others make them date back to
between 600,000 and 700,000 years ago. According to Thibault, this is the
earliest period in which man is known to have appeared on the Iranian Plateau.
Another category of
these stone instruments was discovered in the Masileh area, 50 kilometers south
of Varamin, by Dr. Sadeq Malek Shahmirzadi. These items date back to between
45,000 and 60,000 years ago.
The oldest artifacts
reflecting the religious and spiritual thoughts of prehistoric man are human
and animal statuettes discovered at Tappeh Sarab, east of Kermanshah, in 1960.
One of these, a clay figurine named “Venus” is 6.5 centimeters high. Red
earthenware items discovered at Cheshmeh ‘Ali and Esma‘il-abad, which belong to
the 5th millennium
BC, are also among the oldest objects visitors can admire. One of these is a
vessel in which four human figures are represented facing each other two by two
and holding their arms raised, as in some devotional dance.
Notable among the
objects discovered in Fars is a footed terracotta plate belonging to the 4th millennium BC, on which ritual dances are
depicted. Another is a conical terracotta bowl from Tall-e Bakun, in ,
on which an ibex is represented with exaggeratedly large horns, in homage to
this highly valued animal in prehistoric times.
Amid the highly varied
objects from Khuzestan, one may point out the bull statue from the temple of
Chogha Zanbil. This 106 centimeter high and 108 centimeter long glazed
terracotta statue was installed at the temple’s gate, as its guardian.