Many beautiful museums dot the Tehran landscape, of which the National Museum of Iran is the most prominent. It comprises of two distinct structures: a massive double storeyed Museum of Ancient Iran and the triple floored Museum of Islamic Era.
This January (2018) I had the good fortune to visit Iran and go to Teheran to attend a seminar. It was during this trip that I had the good fortune to visit these Museums. Situated on Emam Khomeini Avenue, in the famous Si-i Tir area of the capital, these museums are bound to influence the visitor by their upkeep and organisation. I had heard from a large number of people that Islamic Republic of Iran was neglecting the ancient and highlighting only the Safavid period. What I found was just the opposite! There is not only a multi-storied museum dedicated to the pre-Islamic period, but that even in the Museum of Islamic period, there was no special emphasis on the Safavid past. However what disturbed me was that the Pahlavi period was totally unrepresented!
Museum of Ancient Iran
Museum of Ancient Iran is housed in structure inspired by Sassanian vaults, especially Tāq-i Kisra of Ctesiphon.
Its halls contain artifacts and fossils from the Lower, Middle, and Upper Paleolithic, as well as the Neolithic, Chalcolithic, early and late Bronze Age, and Iron Ages I-III, through the Median, Achaemenid, Seleucid, Parthian, and Sassanian eras.
The oldest artifacts kept at the museum are from Kashafrud, Darband, and Ganj Par, which date back to the Lower Paleolithic period. Mousterian stone tools made by Neanderthals are also on display at the first hall of the Museum of Ancient Iran. The most important Upper Paleolithic tools are from Yafteh, dating back about 30,000 to 35,000 years. There are also 9,000-year-old human and animal figurines from Sarab Hill in Kermanshah, among many other ancient artifacts.
Museum of the Islamic Era [Mūze-i Daurān-e Islāmī]
Adjacent to the Museum of Ancient Iran is the building housing the artefacts of the Islamic period. This Museum built in 1972 consists of three floors.
It contains various pieces of pottery, textiles, texts, artworks, astrolabes, and adobe calligraphy, from Iran’s post-classical era. It contains material remains from early Islamic period, specially from the 17th Century onwards.
Apart from Safavid period, the Qachar period is well represented. The Pahlavi artefacts are conspicuously elusive! So is the case of any artefacts related with Iran’s relations with the Mughal of India!
Here are some random representative artefacts displayed in these two museums:
Exhibits in the Museum of Ancient Iran:
Specimen Exhibits in the Museum of Islamic Past: