Exhibition: "Iran. Ancient cultures between water and desert"
Idyllic gardens, legendary princesses and mythical beasts: ancient artefacts that show 8000 years of early Persian history are now making their debut for the first time outside Iran. The German exhibition reveals the origins of present-day Iran.
These precious finds, now on show for the very first time outside Iran, were once bound for illegal auction in the West. At the very last moment, police succeeded in intercepting the cultural relics and arresting the smuggling ring
Since thieves looted the ancient tombs there, Jiroft, a fertile plain located 230 kilometres south of the city of Kerman, looks more like a piece of Swiss cheese
Ancient nobles are believed to have drunk wine from golden goblets at the tombs of their dead. The goblets used during these ceremonies are testimony to a superb level of craftsmanship. The cups are adorned with reliefs of fantastical creatures - half-human, half-beast. The heads were added later
"These cultures drew their visual inspiration from their surroundings. Back then, wild goats roamed the Zagros Mountains where people founded the earliest settlements. They are a frequent decorative motif for jars and pots," says Susanne Annen, co-curator of the exhibition
The relics found in Jiroft aren't the only archaeological treasures to be making their debut outside Iran. Also on display are the luxurious objects, mainly gold jewellery and bracelets, found in the tomb of two Elamite princesses
The Elamite tomb dating from the sixth century B.C. contained two female skeletons in two bronze sarcophagi. "It was great to find that these rings were inscribed. They allowed us to decipher the names of their ancestors, which is how we have a direct reference to the royal Elamite family," says museum curator Helwing. The Elamites mostly settled in the lowlands located in the southwestern region of present-day Iran
Simple, but functional - this building consisting of one room only was constructed in the sixth millennium B.C. The exhibition "Iran. Ancient cultures between water and desert" in Bonn's Bundeskunsthalle museum shows how people lived in the region from the sixth millennium B.C. until Darius I became king of Persia and founded the Achaemenid dynasty in 522 B.C.
In approximately 3000 B.C., Iran splintered into mini fiefdoms. Military leaders were buried together with their daggers, as a find from the Caspian Sea shows
The richly decorated artefacts provide a great deal of information about the daily life of the inhabitants of southeastern Iran during the Bronze Age, as well as their beliefs and myths
Scenes of combat and mythical heroes wrestling with predatory animals are recurring motifs on the vessels. "These are divine beings doing superhuman things. It's all about subjugating nature's wild forces," explains curator Barbara Helwing, "Nowadays, Iranians use the image of this muscle man to promote their fitness studios"
Around 3800 B.C., the first city-state with a centralised administration was established in Iran. Animated films in the exhibition show that the people were quite capable of complex city planning. Cylinder seals imprinted with architectural drafts prove that even multi-storey buildings were constructed. After a devastating fire destroyed the city of Chogha Mish, the already densely populated city of Susa became a significant trade centre
Archaeological excavations brought valuable finds to light in Susa. From the third to the first century B.C. Susa was the capital of the Empire of Elam and continued to be a meaningful urban centre after the fall of the Empire
Splendid landscape architecture: Shazdeh or Prince's Garden is a historical Persian garden located near Mahan in Kerman province, Iran. The garden is 5.5 hectares with a rectangular shape and a wall around it
The Persian Garden has been named a UNESCO's World Heritage Site. A typical inner court garden was reconstructed for the exhibition in Bonn's Bundeskunsthalle. The central water feature with fountains offers a refreshing focus. It is flanked by exotic flower beds. People can relax in a loggia with couches. High walls offer protection from the sun - and curious onlookers
The ancient Persian royal seat Pasargadae is located 1.900 m above sea level in the Zagros Mountains. Founded by Cyrus the Great some 130 km from Shiraz, it was the first capital of the Persian Empire under the Achemen
Scholars have associated the Tower of Babel with the Etemenanki, a ziggurat dedicated to the Mesopotamian god Marduk by Nabopolassar, king of Babylonia. It was demolished by Alexander the Great. The story linked to it was meant to explain the origin of different languages. It was recorded in Genesis, the first book of the Jewish Tanakh and the Old Testament