With thousands of years of history which makes it one of the oldest known civilizations of the ancient world and with hundreds of archeological and historical sites, the country of Iran definitely should have a museum of archeology that is big enough to place all those fabulous objects that were found during years of excavation all around this ancient country! The National Museum of Iran (Iran Bastan Museum) is the most impotant and complete museum in Iran, which tells the sory of Iran's history and shows numerous objects from the very first civilizations in Iran to the Islamic dynasties who ruled Iran 200 years ago. This museum is located in Tehran, the modern capital of Iran also known as the city of museums and art galleries and is one of the main attractions that should be visited in Tehran.
On this blog you will read:
1- The architecture of the National Museum of Iran
2- The pre-historic section of the National Museum of Iran
3- The ancient section of the National Museum of Iran
4- The Islamic period section of the National Museum of Iran
5- Visiting the National Museum of Iran
The architecture of the National Museum of Iran
The Archeological museum was constructed in 1937 and showcases a vast collection of objects from the Lower Paleolithic period till the Sassanid period (7th century). The National Museum of Iran's building was designed inspired by the famous Sassanid palace of Ctesiphon Palace (Taq-e Kasra) which is located in present-day Baghdad, by the French archeologist and architect, Andre Godard who served as the director of the Iranian Archeological Service for many years. For entering the museum, you will pass through a very high value, which reminds you of the glory of Persian civilizations. The building of the Iran Bastan Museum consists of two floors; the first floor (Part 1) which exhibits objects from the prehistoric eras, and the ground floor which is the collection of objects from historic age.
The pre-historic section of the National Museum of Iran
On the first floor, there are hundreds of prehistoric objects which were discovered from different corners of the Iranian Plateau such as Tappeh Sarab of Kermanshah Province, Tappeh Alikosh, and Tappeh Choghamish of Khuzestan Province, Tal-e-Bakon of Fars Province, and many more archeological hills all around Iran. This part exhibits stone tools of the first men living in the Iranian Plateau, stone and metal pieces of jewelry, pottery pieces like bowls and pots with primitive illustrative paintings on them, symbolic figures, and totems and can be interesting for students of archeology or the researchers of prehistoric eras! The earthen statuette of a wild boar from Tappeh Sarab of Kermanshah, the small feminine statute of the fertility goddess from the Neolithic Era, and the shell fossil from the Paleolithic Era are some of the amazing pieces that you will visit on the first floor.
The wild boar statue at the National Museum of Iran - Tehran, Iran
The fertility goddess statue at the National Museum of Iran - Tehran, Iran
The ancient section of the National Museum of Iran
On the ground floor of the National Museum of Iran, objects from the early and late Bronze age, and Iron Age are shown in a nice setting! This section also shows objects from the Median, Achaemenid, Seleucid, Parthian (Arsacid), and Sassanid eras which are the main kingdoms and empires which ruled over ancient Persia for centuries and left amazing monuments and art pieces behind.
Among the objects which are exhibited on the ground floor, you will find some magnificent pieces that belong to the Elamite Civilization (3200 BC- 644 BCE). Elam was an ancient civilization that ruled a region in the southwest of Iran (today's Khuzestan and Ilam provinces) and left legacies that are very good sources for studying Iran's art during ancient times and help visitors get an insight into the civilized Elamites! The potteries from Susa (an ancient region in Khuzestan in Southern Iran) which is characterized by the motif of goat and its large round horn, are other pieces that will draw your attention in this section. Another wonderful section of the ground floor is the collection of Lorestan Bronze objects! Some fantastic pieces which were made out of bronze mostly date back to the 1st millennium BCE and show the great skill of ancient Iranians in designing and crafting delicate bronze objects.
Susa pottery at the National Museum of Iran - Tehran, Iran
But the highlight of the ground floor is the collection from the Achaemenid Period (555 - 330 BC) mostly discovered in Persepolis and Susa. Among them is a basrelief which was excavated in Persepolis on which the Persian King is shown seated on his royal chair placed under the royal canopy while holding a scepter in one hand a lotus flower in the other hand! The King is followed by his crown prince and some of the courtiers! In front of the king, an officer shown bowed and his hand on his lips which can be the special form of salute at that time! Another amazing object from Achaemenid Period is the Sculpture of king Darius I, which was most probably made in Egypt and was set at the palace of the King in Susa!
Achaemenid bassrelief at the National Museum of Iran - Tehran, Iran
After the Achaemenid collection it comes to a small collection of the Seleucids and Parthians art (330 BC- 224 AD) which among it, the highlight is a bronze sculpture of a Parthian Prince! The Sassanid collection of the National Museum of Iran is not that big but there are some beautiful friezes of Roman-style mosaic decoration that belong to the Palace of the King Shapur I (240- 270 AD) in the ancient city of Bishapur. The salt man is another interesting object in the Sassanid Section of the Iran National Museum! This natural mummy was found in a salt mine nearby Zanjan! Being in salt for centuries the body was preserved to some extent!
The Sassanid Salt Man at the National Museum of Iran - Tehran, Iran
The Islamic period section of the National Museum of Iran
This section was constructed first in 1972 and after several times of reconstruction again it was reopened in 1996. Islamic period Museum exhibits some of the best collections of Persian visual arts that flourished between the 9th -18th century. There are two halls located on two floors. The exhibition starts with the early Post-Islamic Periods. Old pieces of potteries and metalwork mostly influenced by Sassanid art are exhibited here. As well some Qoran manuscripts mostly written in Kufic script on paper and parchment are shown there. The highlight of the first hall is the objects from Seljuk Empire (1037-1200 AD) including potteries, glassware woodcarving, and metalwork. The art of Iran passed one of its zeniths during the Seljuk Period when the content and form of Iranian arts and craft were updated according to Islamic thoughts.
Seljuk bronze censer at the National Museum of Iran - Tehran, Iran
In the other part of the museum, there are objects from Ilkhanid – Mongol Rulers- period (1219-1353) and Timurid (1389-1508) including fantastic stucco carved prayer niches- Mehrabs_ and gorgeous luster painted tiles. A fantastic engraved wooden Minbar (pulpit) that dates back to the Ilkhanid Period is another highlight of this section. Objects from Safavid, Zand, and Qajar dynasties and some wonderful Qoran manuscripts are exhibited on the first floor of the Islamic section of the Iran National Museum.Among the Safavid collection (1501-1736) are some amazing chinawares that belong to the mausoleum of Sheikh Safi the ancestor of the Safavid Kings in Ardebil, and some Persian Miniatures of handwritten books, handwoven carpets, and long garments made with eye-catching brocade textiles.
Safavid garment at the National Museum of Iran - Tehran, Iran
Visiting the National Museum of Iran
This museum is one of the top attractions that you shouldn’t miss visiting in Iran espicially on the first days of your trip, as it gives you a vision about the history of Iran and the progress of Iranian arts throughout history. Visiting the national Museum accompanied with a local guide who gives you good information about the history of Iran usually takes 2-3 hours or even more. Therefore, we suggest that you visit this museum in the morning when you have enough energy.
The Islamic period section of the National Museum of Iran
Where to eat around the National Museum of Iran
The Si-e Tir Street of Tehran, where the museum is located is a small bazaar of different street foods and cafes where you can grab a snack and take a rest after the visit.
Other attractions around the National Museum of Iran
This National Museum is located by the Meidan-e Mashq (National Garden) which was a historical square related to the Qajar Dynasty. Many historical attractions of Tehran like the Golestan Palace, the Coin Museum, the Post Museum, and governmental buildings like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are located.
Address: Si-e Tir Street (سی تیر), Tehran, Terhan Province.
Working hours: 9AM – 4PM