May 30, 2023

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2,700-year-old recovered bricks go on show at home

TEHRAN – An exhibition of the recovered Mannaean bricks has opened to the public in the city of Bukan, western Iran, where they were originally unearthed by archaeologists in the 1970s.

The opening ceremony was attended by Swiss deputy ambassador to Iran Kim Sitzler, Mohammadreza Kargar, the director of museums and historical properties at the tourism ministry, and Jebrael Nokandeh, the director of the National Museum of Iran, ILNA reported.

The collection consists of 51 glazed bricks, which bear images of various sphinxes, animals, and other motifs.

Excavated from Tepe Qalaichi, a Mannaean settlement in Bukan, the bricks were looted and smuggled out of Iran some four decades ago.

The decorated bricks were returned home from Switzerland last year. According to The Art Newspaper, the artworks were recovered from a warehouse in Switzerland.

In the 1970s, a farmer plowing at Qalaichi came across a decorated brick, probably from the columned hall of its citadel. This discovery led to extremely damaging illegal excavations, partly using a bulldozer.

2,700-year-old recovered bricks go on show at home

Eventually, in 1985, there was an official rescue excavation, but this was quickly abandoned because of an intensification of the Iran-Iraq war. There were then 14 more years of illegal digging until 1999 when there was another official excavation. But by this time only small fragments of broken bricks were found.

The Qalaichi archaeological site was once part of the Mannaean capital. Mannai civilization flourished in northwestern Iran in the 1st millennium BC. Mannai, also spelled Manna, was an ancient country surrounded by three major powers of the time namely Assyria, Urartu, and Media.

As mentioned by the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Mannaeans are first recorded in the annals of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (reigned 858–824 BC) and are last mentioned in Urartu by Rusa II (reigned 685–645 BC) and in Assyria by Esarhaddon (reigned 680–669 BC). With the intrusion of the Scythians and the rise of the Medes in the 7th century, the Manneans lost their identity and were subsumed under the term Medes.


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