The National Museum of Iran is the main archaeological museum of Iran (formerly Iran Bastan Museum) and the brainchild of André Godard, the French archaeologist and architect who was its first director. (He also established the first school of architecture in Tehran, based on the French system, and designed a number of ‘national' tomb monuments in Shiraz, Ferdowsi, etc.)
The vaulted brick entrance was designed to recall the famous Sassanid audience hall at Ctesiphon, Iraq. After its completion in 1936, the pre-Islamic collection of artefacts was displayed on the ground floor, with Islamic art exhibited on the first, but today the Islamic collection is housed in a building to the right Of the entrance (see opposite).
In the 1936 building, the first cabinets display ceramics dating from the 4th millennium BCE, but visitors are always attracted by the superb unglazed zoomorphic vessels from the 1000 BCE Marlik settlement on the Caspian.
Remember to look out for the polished reliefs, capitals and statues of the Achaemenid period (6th—4th century BCE); this gleaming, rich brown colour is how the real Persepolis stone quality should look (see page 195), not today's grey, pitted surface.
In the bay before it stands the lower half of the famous Darius the Great statue found at Susa (see pages 209—11) in 1972, recording his victorious campaigns in Egypt and declaring ‘This is the stone statue which Darius ordered to be made in Egypt so that in the future, he who looked on it would know that the Persian Man held Egypt'.
On the side walls there are two panels of glazed, moulded brick from Achaemenid times, reminding visitors that their palaces had richly decorated tiled and painted walls. Further on is a feat of Ist- and 2nd-century CE bronze casting, the moustached and bearded Parthian warrior (1.94m high), found at Shami (see pages 9 and 216).
A new cabinet shows the remains of a 3th—4th-century CE man found in a salt mine near Zanjan, north Iran, probably from the Parthian era.
In the current arrangement the Sassanid period is poorly represented: the gold and silver gilt platters decorated with scenes of hunting and courtly entertainment displayed in the 1970s have been removed and all that are shown are examples of carved and moulded plaster of Paris, stone capitals and some mosaics from Bishapur.
The museum shop here is virtually non-existent.
Islamic Art Museum
Islamic Art Museum museum houses a collection of Qurans as well as other manuscripts showing calligraphic styles and paintings in surrounding cases. House textiles, ceramics, etc are displayed in other sections of the museum.