Community Contributions

The success of Ancient Iran Day was due in no small part to the Iranian diaspora community in Seattle, who were involved in every stage of the project. One of the areas where they shone the most was in solving the problem in making Ancient Iran tangible. With the exception of an (incredible) collection of ancient pottery donated by the Stave family, we had few objects that we could put into the hands of visitors to demonstrate the material world of Ancient Iran. Thanks to local artists who put in hours of time, effort, and talent, however, we were able to bring several historical objects to life and feature them at our table displays.


A qanat, or underground canal, created by Saman Shojaei.

Qanats, or underground canals, were an innovative engineering system that brought water from underground springs to irrigate the surface or, like aqueducts in the Roman world, for urban use. A central channel carried the water from its source, punctuated by smaller access shafts for laborers to descend for maintenance work. In addition to their use in drinking and irrigation, qanats could also be used as water mills and cooling systems, providing a key way for the early peoples of Ancient Iran to adapt to their arid environment. 

Hundreds of elaborate stone qanats have been identified throughout the ancient Iranian world, and have been marked by UNESCO as a distinct contribution to world heritage, which is part of the reason that we chose it as a symbol of technological prowess in Ancient Iran.  

For Ancient Iran Day, local artist Saman Shojaei crafted a replica of a qanat outlet from Niavaran, Iran, shown on the left.  


Modern interpretation of the Pazyryk Carpet (a 5th century BC textile), loaned by Shirin Barekatein

Fragments of Persian carpets have been found dating from as early as the 5th millennium B.C., and carpet-weaving remains a key industry in Iran today. Carpets were a major part of Ancient Iranian culture, integrated as objects - to heat and cool rooms, as places to sit or lie, as grave goods - as art, with a broad canvas for both natural and abstract art - and as symbols. Weaving techniques specific to region and tribes have made carpets one of Iran's most diverse and longest-lasting legacies. 

For Ancient Iran Day, we were able to feature a carpet based on the Pazyryk Rug, a textile recovered from a Scythian burial in southern Russia and believed to embody Achaemenid motifs, pictured right.


A model of a Sasanian helmet, created by Sohail Shams

Warfare was an important part of Iranian society, but since it was not possible to include actual Iranian weapons or metalwork for obvious reasons, we settled on making a substitute.

This replica helmet was constructed by Sohail Shams from Sasanian models. Helmets are found in Iran as far back as the 14th century B.C. and showcase the technological proficiency that Iranians had in shaping metals - especially bronze, silver, gold, and iron - into sophisticated weapons and armor. This Sasanian helmet also features the signature crescent moon found emblazoned on many surviving examples.

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A fire altar, created by Khodadad Kaviani (right), Morad Kaviani (unpictured), and Shirin Barekatein (left)

Fire altars were an indispensable part of Zoroastrian ritual. Frequently depicted in the arts of Ancient Iran, fire altars served as a symbolic gateway for worshipers to honor Ahura Mazda, the high god of Zoroastrianism.  

Having a functioning (non-fire!) altar was one of the highlights of Ancient Iran Day. Thanks to the creativity of the Kaviani family, we were able to host a version that included a tissue paper "flame" driven by a small hidden fan. 

Community Contributions