Remnants of a Centuries-old structure Discovered in Northwest Iran

The news report “Remnants of centuries-old structure found in northwest Iran” was originally posted in the Tehran Times on October 2, 2019. the version published below has been slightly edited from the original version posted in Tehran Times.

==========================================================================

Archaeologists have recently unearthed a vast centuries-old structure during excavation in Rab’-e Rashidi, a 14th-century educational complex in East Azarbaijan province, northwest Iran. Senior Iranian archaeologist Bahram Ajorlou said on Wednesday:

Remnants of a vast structure, measuring some 3,600 square meters, have been found in six archaeological trenches in Rab’-e Rashidi, where an excavation and restoration project is underway … The newly discovered structure is estimated to date from the 8th century AH (1299 CE – 1397 CE) to 10th century AH (1495 CE – 1591 CE) and it also bears fragments of tilework, which date back to the 8th century AH”.

The archaeologists have also discovered three stages of wall architecture, evidence of industrial activities. They have acquired some data from archaeobotanical researches, Ajorlou concluded.

A frontal view of the Rab’-e Rashidi site in Iran’s East Azarbaijan province (Source: Tehran Times)

The third round of excavation and restoration work is carried out by a panel of international cultural heritage experts, archaeologists, and restorers from Iran, the German Archaeological Institute, the Otto-Friedrich University in Bamberg, and the Louvre Museum in Paris.

The Cultural Heritage and Tourism Research Center in collaboration with Tabriz Islamic Art University completed the first phase of the international project to lay the groundwork for UNESCO recognition.

Archaeological speculations, geophysical surveys, 3D laser scans, and endoscopy of the ancient structure were carried out during the first phase.

Situated in the northwestern city of Tabriz, Rab’-e Rashidi includes several archaeological layers that date from Ilkhanid, Safavid and Qajar eras. It is said that students from Iran, China, Egypt, and Syria studied there under the supervision of physicians, intellectuals, scientists and Islamic scholars.

The ancient complex embraces a paper factory, a library, a hospital (Dar-al-Shafa), a Quranic center (Dar-al-Quran), residential facilities for teachers, students’ quarters and a caravanserai amongst other facilities.

Iran is considering the possible inscription of the site on the UNESCO World Heritage list by 2025.

Persian Language Summer and Winter Courses offered by the ASPIRANTUM Language School

Every year Armenian School of Languages and Cultures – ASPIRANTUM organizes summer and winter schools of Persian language in Yerevan, Armenia.

These Persian language courses are primarily targeting students and researchers engaged in Iranian Studies, Islamic Studies, Middle Eastern Studies and other relevant fields. The courses are structured in a way, that BA, MA, PhD students, professors and researchers representing a variety of fields in the humanities and social sciences could benefit from the classes as much as possible.

Students at the ASPIRANTUM academy – for testimonials of previous students of ASPIRANTUM click here …

ASPIRANTUM has started it’s language courses from 2014 offering Armenian language classes. In 2018 it organized the first Persian language summer school in Yerevan as well as a winter school of Persian language in December 2018. In summer 2019 around 15 international students participated in the second Persian language summer school in Yerevan. It is planned to have Persian language summer and winter schools also in Tbilisi or a combined summer school of Persian in Tbilisi and Yerevan.

All summer and winter schools of ASPIRANTUM also include a huge portion of cultural trips to the most intriguing and interesting historical sites of Armenia. The summer and winter schools of Persian start with a trip to a pagan temple of Garni, built in 1st century CE as a temple to the god Mithra. Other trips during the summer schools include Geghard Monastery, Sevan lake and the monasteries around Sevan lake, Amberd fortress and one of the most Iranian related places in Armenia the mausoleum of Arsacid kings in Aghdzk village.

The Temple of Garni in Armenia. An example of Classical Armenian architecture bearing a Hellenic inspiration, this Temple was first ordered to be built in dedication to Mithras by Tiridates I in approximately 66 CE. The god Mithras in time became merged with the Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun) of the Roman Empire (Picture Source: Skyscraper City).

During summers ASPIRANTUM offers 3 and 6 weeks Persian language courses and during winters only 3 weeks. Every day students receive 4 hours of Persian language instruction – divided into classes to strengthen vocabulary, speaking, listening, reading and grammar.

Dr. Khachik Gevorgyan, Director of ASPIRANTUM – Armenian School of Languages and Cultures (Tel: +37491557978; e-mail: khachik@aspirantum.com.

ASPIRANTUM currently does not offer beginner and advanced level courses of Persian, so anyone with upper elementary to intermediate level of Persian language are welcome to apply.

Besides Persian, ASPIRANTUM also offers Armenian and Russian language courses in Yerevan and Tbilisi.

A Thousand Years of the Persian Book

The article below A Thousand Years of the Persian Book” was originally posted on the US Library of Congress website.

=====================================================

Beginning in ancient times Persia has been a center of scientific achievement and was often the conduit of knowledge from China and India in the East to Greece and Rome in the West. Persian-speaking scholars have been active in furthering knowledge in fields of science and technology, such as astronomy, chemistry, anatomy, biology, botany, cosmology, mathematics, engineering, and architecture.

Ancient Sassanid Persia was home to some of the earliest universities and libraries of the ancient world. After the Islamization of Persia (651), middle Persian Pahlavi texts as well as Indian, Chinese, Greek, Aramaic, and Latin scientific texts were translated into Arabic. Although Arabic remains the primary language used for scientific writing in the Islamic world, many scholars have also produced a range of scientific manuscripts and works in the Persian language. The Mughal court in India (1526–1858) became a major center for the production of scientific works in Persian.

Marvels of Creation and Oddities of Existence

Over the centuries many scholars and scientists of Persian origin have written in Arabic, the preferred language for religious and scientific subjects. The iconic Marvels of Creation and Oddities of Existence, originally written in the thirteenth century, is a popular work of cosmography that has been translated into various Islamic languages. The Library holds manuscripts in the original Arabic, as well as Turkish and Persian translations. This sixteenth-century Persian text contains several unique illustrations, including these depictions of mythical creatures.

Zakariya ibn Muhammad Qazvīnī. عجايب المخلوقات و غرائب الموجودات (Marvels of Creation and Oddities of Existence). Persia, 1565. Manuscript. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (016.00.01).

This sixteenth-century Persian text contains several unique illustrations, including a gold leaf map that clearly demonstrates how the world was viewed in the medieval Islamic period.

Zakariya ibn Muhammad Qazvīnī. عجايب المخلوقات و غرائب الموجودات (Marvels of Creation and Oddities of Existence). Persia, 1565. Manuscript. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (016.00.01).

The Book of Indian Castes and Kinsfolk

In India from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, during the reign of the Mughal court and the subsequent British Raj period, many manuscripts were written in Persian. The manuscript on display, illustrated in vibrant colors and detailing the distinguishing characteristics and customs of India’s various castes, religious communities, and the trades and technologies of each group, is by James Skinner (1778–1841). The son of a Scottish lieutenant colonel and an Indian Rajput princess, Skinner was fluent in Persian and wrote extensively in the language. His manuscript portrays professions ranging from surgery to papermaking with miniature paintings produced primarily by Mir Khalan Khan.

James Skinner. کتاب تشريح الاقوام (Book of Indian Castes and Kinsfolk). India, 1825. Manuscript. Page 2. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (020.00.00, 20.00.01).

The Study of Medicinal Plants

The study of medicinal plants and their effects on humans has been an age-old tradition in Persian-speaking lands. This publication, written by two commanding officers in the Muhammadzai Pashtun tribal confederacy during the Barakzai period (1826–1973), is a lithographic printing of a pharmacology. By the 1860s, lithographic book printing extended from India to the frontier territories of Afghanistan and was preferred to typographic printing because it better retained the traditional calligraphy. This book, the earliest work in the field of medicine printed in Afghanistan, contains a list of various substances, herbs, flowers, minerals, and potions used for healing purposes in traditional medicine.

Ṣāliḥ ibn Ṣāliḥ Muḥammad and Gul Muḥammad Khān Muḥammadzāī. کتاب عمل الصالحين (Book of Effects [Medicinal Plants]). Kabul, 1898. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (017.00.00).

Explanation of Human Anatomy

This comprehensive manual in three volumes deals with the human body, ailments, and the medicinal properties of plants. The book was the first detailed handbook of modern medicine in Iran and was probably used for teaching purposes at the Polytechnical College (Dar al-Funun) in Tehran. The first volume contains numerous detailed images illustrating human anatomy, such as this one showing the lower half of the female body. The illustrations are most likely copied from a European book.

‘Abd al-Sabur Mirzā Muhammad.‏ تشريح البشر و توضيح الصور (Pictorial Explanation of Human Anatomy). Tabriz, Iran, 1855–1856. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (018.00.00).

Geographic Survey of Persian Lands

This lithographic book, of which apparently only volumes one, two, and four were published, aims at a comprehensive treatment of the geography of Iran in an alphabetical arrangement. The volume displayed here follows the model of the famous Mu‘jam al-buldān (Dictionary of Countries) compiled by thirteenth-century Arab author Yāqūt. It includes entries from Persian letters “alif” through “te,” including a lengthy entry on Tehran and its history from the early Safavid period through the 1870s. The image on display, most probably copied from a contemporary photograph, shows the Ayvān (or Tāq)-i Kasrā (Palace of Khusraw), which was the legendary palace for the Sassanid kings (224–651) located in the vicinity of modern Baghdad.

Muhammad Hasan-Khān. مرآة البلدان ناصرى (Mirror of the Lands, A Geographic Survey of Persian Lands). Volume 1. Tehran: Nasiri Publishing House, 1877. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (019.00.00).

Two New courses for Fall 2018

Kaveh Farrokh is offering two new courses for the of Fall 2018 at the Paris-based Methodologica Universitas at the Départment de Méthodologie des Sciences Historiques.  See also the Institution’s Encyclopedic project:

Analytica Iranica: The Multidisciplinary Journal of Iranian Studies … Kaveh Farrokh is one of the Academic Advisors of this Encyclopedia project …

The first of these is the first course offered on the military history of ancient Iran or Persia:

Course HIS/CP/202: The Military History of Ancient Iran: 559 BCE-651 CE [Fall 2018, Methodologica Universitas, Départment de Méthodologie des Sciences Historiques]Click here for Registration Information

The course description for the above is as follows (HIS/SP/202):

This course examines Iran’s pre-Islamic military history with respect to political relations, wars, battles with Greece, Rome, Central Asia. These topics are examined in the Achaemenid (559-333 BCE), Parthian (250 BCE-224 CE) and Sassanian (224-651 CE) epochs. Methodology of the course utilizes scientific methodology in archival analysis (primary and secondary sources), numismatics (study of coins), archaeological analysis (analysis of equipment and technology), and statistical methodology (e.g. compiling data for analysis, factor analysis, etc.). The strengths and weaknesses (military, political and social) of each dynasty is examined up to the downfall of ancient Iran to the Arab conquests of Iran (637-651 CE). Detailed analysis is made of developments from the early Achaemenid era to the end of the Sassanian era with respect to equipment, technology, military architecture, military doctrine, and martial culture. Influences upon and from Greece, Rome, Central Asia and Eastern Europe are also examined. The course concludes with a survey of post-Islamic sources reporting of the extensive military literature pertaining to Sassanian weapons and tactics (battlefield tactics, siege craft, etc.) and its influence upon Islamic warfare.

Kaveh Farrokh meeting the late Professor Ehsan Yarshater (1920-2018) during the Honoring ceremony for the late Professor Emeritus Richard Nelson Frye (1920-2014) in the Greater San Francisco area in 2008.

The second is a comprehensive course on the History of ancient Iran or Persia, which will incorporate modern research and academic methodologies incorporating anthropology, archaeology, the study of sources, numismatics, etc:

Course HIS/CP/203: The History of Ancient Iran: 559 BCE-651 CE [Fall 2018, Methodologica Universitas, Départment de Méthodologie des Sciences Historiques]Click here for Registration Information

Three Books published in 2017-2018 on the military history of Ancient Iran or Persia (from left to right): The Armies of Ancient Persia: the Sassanians (2017; see book review by the Military History Journal in 2018); A Synopsis of Sassanian Military Organization and Combat Units (Kaveh Farrokh, Katarzyna Maksymiuk & Gholamreza Karamian, 2018); and The Siege of Amida (Kaveh Farrokh, Katarzyna Maksymiuk & Javier Sánchez-Gracia, 2018).

The course description for the above is as follows (HIS/CP/203):

Course begins with the pre Indo-European era of ancient Iran and the rise of proto-Iranian peoples and arrivals onto the Iranian plateau. Recent archaeological works and research of pre Indo-European Iran, such as the Burnt City and Elam are surveyed. This is followed by detailed historical surveys of the three epochs of ancient Iran: Achaemenids (559-333 BCE), Parthians (250 BCE-224 CE) and Sassanians (224-651 CE). Course material is integrated with methodology utilizing scientific methodology in archival analysis (primary and secondary sources), numismatics (study of coins), archaeological analysis (analysis of equipment and technology), and statistical methodology (e.g. compiling data for analysis, factor analysis, etc.). The political relations and cultural exchanges of the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanian dynasties with the Greco-Roman, Central Asian, Indian subcontinent, Caucasian, European and Chinese realms are examined. Each epoch is also examined with respect to developments in legal systems, societal development and the role of women, the arts, architecture, learning, medicine, technology, theology and religious philosophy, communications, shipping, commerce and the Silk Route.

[Above] Kaveh Farrokh’s second textShadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War-Персы: Армия великих царей-سایه‌های صحرا-” cited by the BBC-Persian service as theBest History Book of 2007(November 5, 2008), as well as the by Kayhan News Service of London (November 12, 2008). The text was nominated by the Independent Book Publishers’ Association (Benjamin Franklin Award) among the top finalists for the Best textbooks of 2008. The book has been recognized by world-class scholars such as the late Professor Emeritus Richard Nelson Frye (1920-2014), Harvard University, Dr. Geoffrey Greatrex, Department of Classics and Religious Studies, University of Ottawa, Dr. Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, School of HistoryUniversity of Edinburgh and Dr. Patrick Hunt. The book was reviewed in the world-class academic (peer-reviewed by top Iranian Studies scholars) Iranshenasi journal in 2010: Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War, by Dr. Kaveh Farrokh. Iranshenasi, Volume XXII, No.1, Spring 2010, pp.1-5 (see document in pdf). [Below] Translations of Shadows in the Desert [A] Persian translation by Taghe Bostan Publishers (2009) [B] Persian translation by Qoqnoos Publishers (2009) [C] the original textbook (2008) and [D] Russian translation by EXMO Publishers.

Book Binding in Persia

The article below “Bookbinding” written by Duncan Haldane was originally published in the Encyclopedia Iranica on December 15, 1989 and last Updated on December 15, 1989. This article is also available in print (Vol. IV, Fasc. 4, pp. 363-365). Kindly note that the images and accompanying descriptions below do not appear in the original Encyclopedia Iranica posting.

=========================================================

Bookbinding (tajlīd, ṣaḥḥāfī) in Iran at first followed the pattern of previous Near Eastern book covers, but subsequently Persian craftsmen developed new types reflecting the luxury and refinement of courtly life. The edges of traditional bookbindings from the Islamic world are even with the text block, and the spine is always flat, without raised bands. A flap (lesān) attached to the rear cover folds over the text block to protect its edge and is tucked under the front cover. In Iran the leather most commonly used was goatskin, which had traditionally been tanned by means of immersion in a solution of ground-up plant materials. One of several technical innovations credited to Persian craftsmen, however, is mineral tanning, which involved soaking the skins in a solution of potash alum at a temperature between 20Xᵛ and 30Xᵛ C. Leather pro­duced by this method is very soft and white. Designs were applied by means of blind tooling, in which simple tools were used to mark on slightly dampened leather.

Very few Persian bookbindings survive from the 8th/14th century or earlier. Among them is the binding of the Manāfeʿ al-ḥayawān (M. 500) in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, which was produced at Marāḡa at the end of the 7th/13th century (Ettinghausen); a fragmentary book cover said to have been found in the congregational mosque at Nāʾīn may also be of the 7th/13th century (Gratzl, 1938, p. 1976, pl. 951A). At this early stage in Persian bookbinding, the arts of the book were at their peak in Egypt and the Arabic-speaking world, and their influence was much in evidence in Persia. It was not long, however, before Persian binders began to develop their own individual styles. At the beginning of the 15th century, when artistic leadership of the Islamic world moved eastward to Persia, new methods were introduced. At Herat in about 1420 Prince Bāysonḡor Mīrzā, minister at the court of his father, Šāhroḵ Mīrzā (807-50/1405-47), and a great bibliophile, founded an academy and library that were to have a significant impact on subsequent Persian bookbinding. At the academy, which lasted for just over one hundred years, craftsmen were trained in all the arts of the book. During this period there was considerable interchange among the major Persian cultural centers. For instance, at Herat a calligrapher called Jaʿfar Tabrīzī prepared reports for Bāysonḡor, in one of which (now in the Topkapı Sarayı in Istanbul), there are four references to the art of bookbinding (Aslanapa, 1979, p. 59). Some extraordinary technical advances were made during the Timurid period. More sophisticated stamping and elaborate forms of tooling with gold began to supersede blind tooling.

The Khamsa or Quintet of Nizami (Ilyas Abu Muhammad Nizam al-Din of Ganja, lived c. 1141–1217) currently housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Source:Fateme Toorani in Pinterest). This was most likely bound in Shiraz, Iran sometime in 1509-1510.

There is a Persian binding dated 838/1434-35, now in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin (CBL 5282), which has been estimated to have required 550,000 blind stamps and 43,000 gold stamps and to have taken about two years to complete (estimates first published by Martin, p. 29, and subsequently repeated many times, e.g., Gratzl, 1938, p. 1978; see pls. 954, 955A). Undoubtedly the number of stamps has been greatly overestimated, but there is no denying the extraordinary degree of workmanship, and technical skill involved in the manufacture of this binding. Another major development was a cut­work technique (monabbatkārī, as it was called by Dūst-­Moḥammad, who wrote in 951/1544), in which intricate filigree patterns were cut out of leather. There is no technical evidence for how craftsmen were able to cut and paste such finely wrought patterns. The major characteristics of later Persian bookbinding became established during the Timurid period. The front and back covers were normally decorated with matching designs, but the interior faces were usually more elaborately decorated than the exterior faces. In the Timurid period the normal pattern for both faces was a central scalloped medallion in the center, echoed by four medallion segments in the corners. The medallions were frequently cut out of the leather and filled in either with paper or with leather filigree patterns. Although stamps of ovoid shape (toronja “citrus-shaped”) had been known before, they became especially popular among Timurid craftsmen, who developed them considerably. In addition to this basic style of binding, which endured throughout the Safavid period and even lingered on into the Qajar period, bookbinders at Herat introduced figural decoration as well. These designs usually consist of landscapes containing real and mythical animals, often of Far Eastern inspiration, reflecting the strong artistic connections that existed between China and theTimurid capital.

Book binding from 16th century CE Iran (Source: Jacques Safavi in Pinterest and Fateme Toorani in Pinterest).

With the establishment of the Safavid dynasty in the 10th/16th century, there was a cultural and political shift from Herat in the east of Tabrīz in the northwest and Shiraz in the south. One of the major changes in bookbinding technique involved the widespread application of a method of embossing that had been introduced at the end of the Timurid period. Whole designs were engraved on single metal plates, which were then pressed onto the leather; symmetrical designs, which were most often floral, were engraved on dies half the size of the binding surface. They were then impressed twice to form the complete design, often leaving a noticeable join across the middle of the cover. This kind of embossing was often combined with gilding; the dampened leather was covered with gold leaf before the hot metal plate was hammered or screwed down, thus simultaneously impressing and gilding the design. These embossed designs, which could be repeated on a large number of book covers, mark something of a decline in the craft of bookbinding. Hand craftsmanship became a rarity. In addition, instead of cutting filigree designs out of leather, craftsmen began to use paper, which was both cheaper and easier to handle, pasting it onto painted paper or sometimes silk or other material.

Persian book binding from Isfahan from the 17th century (Source: Jacques Safavi in Pinterest and Fateme Toorani in Pinterest).

In the 11th/17th century the art of binding in Persia declined still further, both technically and in design. Sometimes designs were painted directly onto the leather, rather than stamped, and fine filigree additions became rarer. Despite the general decline in Safavid book art, however, one major technique already known under the late Timurids (Aslanapa, pp. 63-64) was perfected by the craftsmen of the period. The earliest bindings of this sort were of leather, heavily chalked and primed for illumination; designs were then painted on and finished with several coats of protective varnish. As the paint flaked off the leather rather easily, papier-mâché boards became the material most commonly used. The surface was fixed with gypsum or chalk and polished, then given a layer of colorless varnish before the design was painted in water-based paints. When dry the painting was covered with several coats of transpar­ent varnish to fix and protect the design. Opinions have differed as to whether these final coats were in fact varnish or lacquer of the kind known to have been used by the Chinese. The technique attained great popularity in the 10th/16th and 11/17th centuries in centers like Tabrīz and Isfahan (the Safavid capital after 1006/1598) and continued to play a significant part in the cultural life of the Qajar period. It was emulated by Ottoman and Indian craftsmen as well. It is not known whether this so-called “lacquer work” had been introduced by Chinese craftsmen or by Persian visitors to China who had returned with knowledge of it; it is clear from such bindings, however, that illuminators and miniature painters played as important a part as the binders. By the 11th/17th century, binding designs had become rather stiff and wooden compositions. During the Qajar period, particularly the reign of Fatḥ-ʿAlī Shah (1212-50/1797-1834), European influences and somewhat harsher colors came to predominate. Although some very fine bindings continued to be produced, they do not compare in quality with those of the 9th/15th and 10th/16th centuries.

Persian lacquered book binding from 1878 (Source: Jacques Safavi in Pinterest and Fateme Toorani in Pinterest).

As a general rule Persian bookbinders worked anony­mously. In the Timurid period, however, the names of several binders are documented in Dūst-Moḥammad’sḤālāt-e honarvarān, a Persian account of calligraphers and book craftsmen of the 9th/15th and 10th/16th centuries (“Dūst Muhammad’s Account,” p. 185). This work includes a reference to Ostād Qewām-al-Dīn Tabrīzī, to whom the invention of cut-pattern, or filigree, work is ascribed. In a discussion of Shah Ṭahmāsb’s royal library, Dūst-Moḥammad refers to two 10th/16th-century binders, Kamāl-al-Dīn ʿAbd-al-Wahhāb (Ḵᵛāja Kākā) and Moḥsen. References to other names can be found in the work by C. Huart.

Bibliography

O. Aslanapa, “The Art of Bookbinding,” in B. Gray, ed., The Arts of the Book in Central Asia, Paris and London, 1979, pp. 58-91.

G. Bosch and J. Carswell, Islamic Bindings and Book­making, Chicago, 1981.

“Dūst Muhammad’s Account of Past and Present Painters,” in L. Binyon, J. V. S. Wilkinson, and B. Gray, Persian Miniature Painting, Oxford, 1933, repr. New York, 1971, pp. 183-91.

R. Ettinghausen, “The Covers of the Morgan Manafi Manuscript and Other Early Persian Book Bind­ings,” in Studies in Art and Literature for Belle da Costa Greene, ed. D. Miner, Princeton, 1954, pp. 459-­73.

F. R. Martin, A History of Oriental Carpets Before 1800 I, Vienna, 1906.

E. Gratzl, “Book Covers,” in Survey of Persian Art, pp. 1975-94.

Idem, Islamische Bucheinbände des 14 bis 19 Jahrhunderts, Leipzig, 1924.

D. Haldane, Islamic Bookbinding, London, 1983.

T. Harrison, “A Persian Binding of the Fifteenth Century,” The Burlington Magazine 34, 1924, pp. 31-32.

C. Huart, Les calligraphes et les miniaturistes de l’Orient musulman, Paris, 1908.

A. Sakisian, “La reliure persane au XVe siècle sous les Timourides,” Revue de l’art ancien et moderne 66, 1934, pp. 145-68.

F. Sarre, Islamische Bucheinbände, Berlin, 1923.

W. Watson, ed., Lacquerwork in Asia and Beyond, Colloquies on Art and Archaeology in Asia 11, London, 1982.