News | Cultural Heritage
The National Museum of Iran, the House of the oldest Mosaic of the World

Date: 8 January 2017

In contrast to what is believed, mosaic did not arise in Ancient Greece or Rome, but in Ancient Iran (Prehistoric era), with its oldest specimen now preserved in the National Museum of Iran.

This mosaic dating back to the third millennium BCE was unearthed in Shahdad in the Province of Kerman. It was discovered by the Iranian Archaeologist Ali Hakemi before the Islamic Revolution and taken to the National Museum. It is now on display for the occasion of the registration of the Lut Desert on the World Heritage List for a month.
 The Oldest Mosaic preserved in the National Museum in Iran with no counterpart found anywhere else
According to Miradbedin Kaboli, Ali Hakemi's colleague and one of the pioneers of the Iranian archaeology, this kind of mosaic is a box filled with clay covered with surface decorations. Similar examples have been found in other parts of the ancient Iranian World and Mesopotamia. For certain unknown reasons its industry suddenly ceased until the Sassanid and Byzantine era when the Greeks rediscovering it in the second millennium BCE.

Jebreil Nokandeh, the director of the National Museum also believes and assures that "Mosaic has an Iranian root, not influenced by any other art. We have it in Marlik Goblet whose date goes back to 14th-12th BCE ."  According to Nokandeh, whenever mosaic is mentioned, it is said that it emerged under the influence of Byzantine Art. Unfortunately, such an erroneous belief is even found in major sources like "The Art History of Iran" and "Architecture of Art" taught at Iranian Universities. Nevertheless if you compare the mosaics belonging to the Byzantine era with those belonging to the ancient Iran, you can easily ascertain their exact antiquity."

According to the Iranian Student News Agency ISNA, based on all the accessible information on the mosaic industry, the most famous mosaics unearthed were those from the ashes of Mumbai, which show a scene of The Battle between Alexander of Macedonia with the Sassanid king Daryush (Darius). Similar examples were unearthed by the French Archaeologist, Ghirshman in Iran, in the historical city of Neyshabour in the Province of Khorasan, as well as in the Palace terraces of the Sassanid king Shapour I, located near the city of Kazeroun in the Province of Fars.
In addition, colored stone-pavement had been found dating back to 80 BCE. The stones used were just painted, but not decorated. It was around in the fourth century BCE when the Greeks promoted stone pavement into an art decorating them with human and animal figures or geometrical shapes.

Later around 200 BCE, Greeks  started to use very small square pieces for the first time to show fine details and a spectrum of colors, making it possible to imitate paintings. Most of the mosaics remaining from that period, such as those found in Pompeii were the work of the Greek artisans. It was under the Roman Empire when the art of mosaic was transferred to far lands, with its artistic quality proportionately decreasing.

Now on the basis of these new findings, the question is whether there will be any revisions of the existing sources on the origin of mosaic industry in the world or….?

Source: Tavoos from ISNA