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Archaeology and pre-Islamic art

B. A. Litvinskya
Academician Professor, Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow

To cite this Article Litvinsky, B. A.(1998) 'Archaeology and pre-Islamic art', Iranian Studies, 31: 3, 333 — 348
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/00210869808701914


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Iranian Studies, volume 31, numbers 3-4, Summer/Fall 1998

B. A. Litvinsky

Archaeology and Pre-Islamic Art

colleagues have performed a colossal task in preparing and publishing volumes
I-VIII. Archaeology, numismatics, pre-Islamic architecture, and art have all been
dealt with comprehensively. I have divided the articles into the following groups:
1) Archaeology, architecture, and art; 2) archaeological periods; 3) material cul-
ture, architecture and art, and groups of artifacts; 4) monuments; and 5) varia.
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These articles were written by prominent specialists, many of whom participated

personally in the excavations of the relevant monuments or examined them on

1. Archaeology, architecture, and art

The article ARCHEOLOGY consists of 7 sections, two of which are dedicated to

Central Asia. The archaeology of Afghanistan is found in AFGHANISTAN viii.
T. C. Young's impressive opening entry (ARCHEOLOGY i. Pre-Median: his-
tory and method of research) covers a long period for which he sketches the prin-
cipal studies and stresses the importance of the work of J. de Morgan. D.
Stronach's ii. Median and Achaemenid is a model entry; the author manages not
merely to present the history of scholarship of Median monuments, but to give
brief characterizations of the most important monuments and to stress the rela-
tionship of early multi-columned halls with the later "Palace P" at Pasargadae.
While examining the problems of chronology, D. Stronach proposes that
Persians "...may have entered their eventual homeland in a peaceful fashion;
perhaps over a surprisingly long time." (p. 293) He also gives a very successful
characterization of the material culture of Achaemenid Iran with a map showing
ceramic zones. However, the author has not included Dahan-e Golaman in his
survey. (There is now a separate article on this site. -Ed.)
K. Schippmann uses a different approach in iii. Parthian archaeology. This
is merely a list of monuments with very brief descriptions but a complete bibli-
ography. It is certainly useful, but does not provide a comprehensive study of the
archaeology of these periods.
The section on the Sasanian period by D. Huff (iv. Sasanian) combines both
approaches—a study of the problems and a thorough list of monuments. The
author correctly notes that "archaeological field work has played a comparatively
smaller part in forming the image of Sasanian history and culture than the large
number of preserved monuments, buildings and rock reliefs, collections of coins
and objects of art," (p. 302).

B. A. Litvinsky is Academician Professor, Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow,

and foreign member of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Roma).
334 Litvinsky
A comparison of the sections vi. Islamic Iran and vii. Islamic Central Asia
demonstrates clearly the different ways in which archaeological work is conducted
in these two regions. Before the thirties the Islamic archaeology of Iran was con-
sidered of minor importance, while the archaeology of Central Asia had its start
with the excavation of medieval Islamic cities (the 1885 excavations of Afrasiab
by N. I. Veselovsky). While it was impossible to organize excavations in the
main cities of Islamic Iran, excavations in Central Asia were conducted at
Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent, Mary, Termez, Urgench, Khulbuk, and so on.
Consequently the archaeology of Islamic Central Asia is first and foremost the
archaeology of urban centers.
The article AFGHANISTAN viii. Archeology (N. H. Dupree) opens with a
brief note on the history of archaeological studies in Afghanistan and then sur-
veys the archaeological monuments of the country, arranging them in chrono-
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logical order. It should be noted that the Afghan International Center for Kushan
Studies has now published a collection of articles in Western languages and
Persian (Tahqlqat-e-Kushanl, ed. Khalil Poladian [Kabul, 1984]) on the pre-
Islamic sites.
Dupree fails to include the Rodney Young excavation of 1953, when part of
the city wall of the lower city of Balkh was excavated.1 Moreover, when she
deals with stone and bronze age monuments, there is very little data and only
cursory reference to publications. Missing is any attempt at the definition of
specific features of the cultures and their links with neighboring areas and cul-
tures. Dupree's discussion of the Folul Hoard is imprecise. She fails to compre-
hend its close resemblance to the art of Elam, even though the first studies of P.
Amiet had been published by then. P. Amiet proposed the idea that groups of
artisans from Elam moved to Bactra.2
Historical periods are constructed as simple lists of monuments. Yet by the
time of writing this article the very full reference book on monuments of
Afghanistan compiled by Warwick Ball in collaboration with J. G. Gardin had
already been published. This work of two volumes has been widely used by N.
H. Dupree, but in her bibliography she cites it incorrectly (W. Ball is not the
editor, the book has two volumes, not three, and its title is Archaeological
Gazetteer not Gazatteer).
The article AZERBAIJAN ii. Archeology (W. Kleiss) is organized chrono-
logically, and the most important excavations and monuments are described for
each period. The author faced a difficult problem: by 1978 a total of 101 Urartian
forts, settlements, and other sites and inscriptions had been discovered and identi-
fied. The most significant among them was Bestam, excavated by W. Kleiss
himself. But the article is based only on the materials from Iranian Azerbaijan;
materials from Northern Azerbaijan (the former Azerbaijan SSR) are totally
excluded. This is rather strange because in the beginning of the article the author
states with good reason that before the partition in the nineteenth century,

1. R. Young, "The Southern Wall of Balkh-Bactra," American Journal of

Archaeology 59 (1955): 267-76
2. P. Amiet, "Bactrian protohistorique," Syria 54 (1977): 89-191; idem,
"Antiquites de Bactriane," La revue du Louvre et des musees de France 283 (1973):
Archaeology and Pre-Islamic Art 335
Iranian and Russian Azerbaijan constituted a single cultural entity. In Northern
Azerbaijan, Russian and Azerbaijani scholars examined archaeological monu-
ments in detail and conducted extensive excavations. The material obtained dates
from the early Paleolithic to Safavid and Qajar times. In the event of publication
of a supplement, it would be useful to include a separate article on the archaeol-
ogy of Northern Azerbaijan.
ARCHITECTURE consists of eight sections. There is some inconsistency
here. Section i is "Seleucid architecture" but section iv "Central Asian" begins
with the Neolithic period. The entries on Seleucid and Parthian architecture are
extremely brief. The second includes an extensive bibliography. Although there
is a reference in the text to Nisa, the architecture of Nisa was not included. In the
Seleucid entry, there is no mention of the Temple of Oxus although its founda-
tion dates to the end of the 4th-beginning of the 3rd-centuries B.C.E.
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The entry ARCHITECTURE iii. Sasanian (D. Huff) is superb. It contains

an extremely condensed but comprehensive characterization of the Sasanid archi-
tecture of Iran. Huff provides a sketch of building technology and brief descrip-
tions of specific buildings. The text informs us about building materials, con-
struction, and structural types (vaulted and domed constructions, columns, etc.),
decorative details, functional types of building (with subdivisions into religious
architecture, palaces, fortifications, and houses), and is accompanied by a most
detailed bibliography. This should be considered a model for articles on architec-
The article ART IN IRAN consists of 11 sections from the Neolithic to the
"post-Qajar" period. The masterfully written i. Neolithic to Median, seventh mil-
lenium to seventh century B.C.E. (the late E. Porada), proposes many novel
ideas on geography as a determinant in the development of the art of ancient Iran.
Her analysis of iconographic motifs is particularly interesting. Unfortunately,
the architecture and art of Urartu are not treated very thoroughly. Material on the
main monuments is missing. In ii. Median art and architecture the late P.
Calmeyer surveys the available though sparse material and proposes new inter-
pretations in several cases. Calmeyer also authored iii. Achaemenian art and
architecture though in this latter case there is much more material. His arrange-
ment also differs from the usual attempts to provide a chronological definition of
the evolution of Achaemenian art and architecture using materials from the most
recent excavations. Some of his conclusions seem problematic. For example, in
his conclusion he writes: "With the exception of metalwork, it [Achaemenian
art] did not reach very far beyond modern Iran," (p. 579). But this is not the case.
Pazyryk, Chorasmia, the Temple of Oxus in Bactria, Achaemenian-like capitals
in India, the apadana-like hall in Armenia (Erebuni), and others all show the
spread of Achaemenian influence. The question of the influence of Persepolis
reliefs on the reliefs of the Parthenon is debatable, but the problems of the ori-
gins of Achaemenian art and its relation to Greek art remain to be more fully
S. B. Downey has written an interesting short outline of Parthian art. She
discusses Parthian art not only within the boundaries of modern Iran, but on all
the territory of the Parthian state. (For Kuh-e Khvaja, the results of the 1974-75
336 Litvinsky
expeditions of the Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente3 are impor-
tant. It is not clear why they are not mentioned in the article.)
In light of the most recent studies, the art of Nisa is conceived of in quite a
different way from its perception at the time volume 2 of EIr appeared. Since
then, there have been remarkable findings of paintings and other cultural arti-
facts, and new studies have been published.4
ART IN IRAN v. Sasanian (P. O. Harper) is devoted exclusively to art. It
contains very comprehensive definitions of all kinds of Sasanian art: rock reliefs,
toreutics, painting, mosaic, textiles, glass, seals, ceramics. It is a brief but
extremely well-written outline of Sasanian art, supplied with a thorough bibliog-
raphy. It is unfortunate that the author did not turn her attention to the influence
of Sasanian art upon the art of neighboring peoples, especially on the Buddhistic
art of Afghanistan.
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G. Azarpay, author of vi. pre-Islamic Eastern Iran and Central Asia, refrained
from describing or even listing the most important monuments, but instead used
her section to define the main lines of artistic development. Unfortunately many
constituent parts of the arts of Central Asia have not been mentioned (toreutics,
coroplastic, textiles, ceramics, etc.). The Hellenistic period is described only on
the basis of the materials of Ay Khanom, without reference to Takht-i Sangin
and the Temple of the Oxus. It should be noted that the reliefs found at Airtam
was limestone, not alabaster (p. 597). Azarpay correctly dates Khalchayan not
from the 2nd century B.C.E. as G. A. Pugachenkova does, but from the lst-2nd
centuries C.E. (p. 593).
AFGHANISTAN ix: Pre-Islamic Art by F. Tissot, the curator of the
Guimet museum—a repository of remarkable works of art from Afghanistan—
provides a general overview. There are some omissions in the article. The author
does not mention the Fulol Hoard, without which it is difficult to understand the
origins of art in Afghanistan. Bactrian seals have also been omitted, although the
first series of them had been published by the time the article was published.5
Contrary to the author's opinion, the inscription from Sorkh Kutal gives no
explanation of the functions of the Temple. Tissot describes Hephthalite atti-
tudes concerning Buddhism without taking into account the full complexity of

3. D. A. Faccenna "New Fragment of Wall-Painting from Ghaga Sahr Kuhi JJvaga-

Sistan, Iran," East-West, N. S. 31/l^t (Rome 1981).
4. These include T. S. Kawami, Monumental Art of the Parthian Period in Iran,
(Leiden, 1987); H. E. Mathiessen, Sculpture in the Parthian Empire (Aarhus, 1992);
P. Bernard, "Les rhytons de Nisa: I. Potesses grecques," Journal des savants (1985);
idem, "Les rhytous de Nisa: a quoi, a qui ont-ils servi?" Histoire et cultes de I 'Asie
Centrale preislamique. Sources ecrites et documents preislamiques (Paris, 1991); A.
Invernizzi, "Die hellenistischen Grundlagen der friihparthischen Kunst,"
Archaeologische Mitteilungen aus Iran und Turan, N.S. 27 (1996); V.N. Pilipko,
"Excavation of Staraia Nisa," Bulletin of the Asia Institute, N.S. 8 (1996).
5. See V. I. Sarianidi, Drevnie zemledel'tsy Afganistana [Ancient Farmers of
Afghanistan] (Moscow, 1977), 87-100.
Archaeology and Pre-Islamic Art 337
this question. Nor are there references in the text to the works of B. Rowland on
the art of Afghanistan and Central Asia and in particular his study on Bamiyan.
H. Grevemeer, author of DARVAZ, is only partly familiar with the Russian
literature on the subject. Had he been more conversant with it, he would have
found thorough materials on the history, ethnography, and physical anthropol-
ogy of the people of Darvaz, especially in the work of the oldest Tadjik histo-
rian, B. Iskandarov. The author is not correct when he says that Darvaz "lacks
mineral resources." Gold, copper, and other ores have been mined in the region.
The article DARDESTAN contains sections on geography and languages.
Oddly enough, there is no history of the Dardic peoples, and there is no archae-
ology at all. Further, there is no mention of the work of Russian researchers
who first established the connection between Dardic and Central Asian customs
and beliefs and who pointed out that this connection had very ancient roots
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related to a common homeland.7 Nor has G. Tucci's remarkable work8 been used
or the valuable work by H. P. Francfort.9 Unfortunately there is also no indica-
tion in the article of the results of expeditions to the upper part of the Indus val-
ley, during which more than ten thousand petroglyphs and one thousand inscrip-
tions—among them many Iranian inscriptions—were found. These contain the
most important data on the history of the Dards and Dardestan.10 Y. A. Rapoport
superbly summarizes the written sources and the results of archaeological expedi-
tions in CHORASMIA i. Archaeology and pre-Islamic History.

2. Archaeological periods

CHALCOLITIC ERA IN PERSIA (E. F. Heinrickson) very clearly interprets

the material originating from the territory of contemporary Iran. Unfortunately
the author has ignored the richest materials, which come from south Turkmenia
and Central Asia.
BRONZE AGE, on the other hand, is quite comprehensive. R. H. Dyson
and M. M. Voigt derive their material from greater Iran, including Afghanistan
and South Turkmenia. For readers of the encyclopedia a chronological table of
the periods (levels) of the different monuments of the bronze age would be very
useful. The authors consider Andronovo culture and pottery to have reached
Central Asia from Southern Siberia. This is not the case. Andronovo tribes

6. See B. A. Litvinsky, Outline of History of Buddhism in Central Asia (Moscow,

1968), 25-26; B. A. Litvinsky, "The Hepthalite Empire," in History of the
Civilizations of Central Asia, vol. III., ed. B.. A. Litvinsky (Paris, 1996), 147.
7. See B. A. Litvinsky, "Tajikistan i India (primery drevnikh svyazei i kontaktov)"
(Tajikistan and India. Examples of ancient links and contacts), India v drevnosti,
(Moscow, 1964), 146-51.
8. "On Swat. The Dards and connected problems," East and West, N.S. 27: 1-4
(1977): 3-103.
9. "Note sur la mort de Cyrus et les Dardes," Orientalia Iosephi Tucci memoriae
dicata, Serie Orientale Roma, 56, 1, (1985): 395-400.
10. See K. Jettmar et al., eds., Antiquities of Northern Pakistan Reports and
Studies, vols. 1-2 (Mainz, 1989, 1993); vol. 3, G. Fussman and K. Jettmar, eds.
(Mainz, 1994) (with detailed bibliography).
338 Litvinsky
populated the whole of Kazakhstan as well and reached Central Asia from there.
Also, the authors refer to T. Burrow "The Proto-Indoaryans" (Journal of the
Royal Asiatic Society, 1973), but are unfamiliar with the archaeological com-
mentary on this article contained in my own work11 and the numerous works of
E. Kuz'mina.

3. Material culture architecture and art; groups of artefacts

O. Grabar, author of the brilliant article AYVAN, sets forth his ideas on the
origin of the ayvdn, the problem of the four ayvans, and the practical, sym-
bolic, and esthetic properties of the ayvan, all of which are very important for
the history of architecture of Iran and Central Asia.
AYVAN (or TAQ)-E KESRA (E. Kelly) is also very interesting. He right-
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fully describes it as the most famous of all Sasanian monuments (p. 155), and
provides a thorough discussion of the dating of the building.
APADANA (D. Stronach) provides not only a brief description of apaddnas
in Susa and Persepolis but also makes convincing arguments about the genesis
of the apadana type and the dating of the apadanas of Susa and Persepolis. He
also provides a judicious review of the functions of the apadana and the entire
complex of Persepolis, which has been the subject of long-lasting debate.
DOMES (B. O'Kane) has used Central Asian material hardly at all. For the
typology of early domes and squinches, it provides a sound overview. The earli-
est genuine domes had diameters exceeding the diagonal of the square bases
which is why they did not need squinches. The intermediate types consist of
arches between domes without squinches and domes supported by squinches. The
construction, typology, and evolution of domes and squinches have been studied
in the works on Central Asia more thoroughly than for Iran proper.
Unfortunately the author has made little use of this literature.
One of the lengthier articles, CLOTHING, consists of 28 sections, all by
different authors. As a whole, this is a comprehensive and serious entry. In its
introduction, it is correctly emphasized that the study of costume is still in its
initial, descriptive phase. The authors of the introduction dwell on such prob-
lems as sources and classification as well as on potential methods of studying
clothing; they describe three main approaches and also some theoretical prob-
After the introduction there is a section on pre-Islamic and Islamic clothing,
followed by clothing of pre-Islamic Eastern Iran, the Sogdians, and the Iranian
tribes on the Pontic steppes and in the Causasus. The entry concludes with two
valuable linguistic sections: xxvii. Historical lexicon of Persian clothing
(Golam-Hosain Yosofi) and xxviii. Concordance of clothing terms among ethnic
groups in modern Persia (-Eds. of EIr). The article is illustrated with 30 draw-
ings and 116 plates and is equipped with an extensive bibliography. I must men-
tion, however, two important gaps. The history of costume here has its start in
the Median and Achaemenid periods. Obviously, this should have been preceded
by a section on pre-Median clothing, which is widely reflected in the iconogra-

11. "Problems of the Ethnic History of Central Asia in the 2nd Millennium B.C.E.
Central Asian aspects of the Aryan problem," Ethnic Problems of Central Asia in the
Early Period (second millennium B.C.E.) (Moscow, 1981), 154-69.
Archaeology and Pre-Islamic Art 339
phy of early Iron Age Iran. Secondly, it is strange that although there is a sec-
tion on Sogdia there is nothing on Chorasmia or Bactria, even though we have
significant iconographic sources for them, such as murals (Diberjin, Dalverzin,
Khalchayan, Toprak-Kala, Ba'alyk-Tepe, Ajina-Tepe, etc.), sculpture (Surkh
Kotal, Khalchayan, and Toprak Kala), coroplastic (from many places), and textile
remnants (including full costumes from Termez). I would have hoped that all of
this would have been included in the section on pre-Islamic Eastern Iran, but in
this undeservedly short entry these materials have not even been mentioned. Nor
has material from central and southeastern Afghanistan been used. A few lines on
p. 753 are devoted to the dress of the Iranian population of Eastern Turkestan,
but the great bulk of iconographic material from this region has been over-
looked. The author has referred to some terms from Khotanese and Sogdian, but
there are no references to the relevant works of H. M. Belenitskii, W. B.
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Henning, and V. B. Livshits. I believe that this particular section of the entry on
clothing requires much more work and should have a much more complete bibli-
J. W. Allan in ARMOR quite naturally bases the first part of his contribu-
tion (concerning prehistoric Iran) on archaeological data. However a great deal of
the data has not been mentioned. For example, there is a warrior in armor with
conical helmet depicted on a silver vessel from Marlik.12 At Hasanlu IV (about
900 B.C.E.) bronze and iron scales from scale armor were found and also a piece
of a metallic shoulder armor plate. A bronze rectangular scale was also found at
Ziwije.13 A bronze statuette from Hurvin has plate armor on its chest and abdo-
men.14 At Ziwije golden plates from a suit of plate armor were found and warri-
ors were depicted clothed in jackets with rows of little squares.15
There are helmets in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, supposedly from
Elam (fourteenth century B.C.E.), fashioned in a very artistic manner. A large
number of bronze and iron helmets dating from the ninth to seventh centuries
B.C.E. of different types come from Western Iran and pictures of them are found
in the art of that provenance. This material has been studied by several scholars.
The Avestan materials should also have been cited as written sources. The list of
classic written sources providing information on Persian armor is far from com-
plete. Babylonian documents of the Achaemenid epoch mentioning the armor of
Achaemenid warriors have not been used. The iconography has not been used at

12. See E. A. Negahban, A Preliminary Report on Marlik Excavation: Gohar Rud

Expedition Rudbar: 1961-1962 (Tehran, 1964), 53, fig. 104.
13. R. H. Dyson, "The Death of a city," Expedition 2, no. 3, (1960), 10.
14. R. Ghirshman, Perse. Proto-lraniens. Medes. Achemenides (Paris, 1963), 19.
15. A. Perrot, Assur. II. Auflage. (Munchen, 1972), Taf. 177; R. Ghirshman,
Tombe princiere de Zivie et la debut de I'art scythe (Paris, 1979), 39, pi. 119, III, 13.
16. See H. Schoppa, Die Darstellung der Perser in der griechischen Kunst bis zum
Beginn das Hellenismus (1933), passim; A. Bovon, "Presentation des guerriers
perses et la notion de barbare dans la I-ere moitie du Vl-eme siecle," BGH LXXXVH
(1963), passim; I. Holscher, "Griechische Historienbilder des 5. und 4. Jahrhunderts
v. Chr." Beitrdge zur Archiiologie 6, passim; M. V. Gorelik, "Zashchitnoe
vooruzhenie persov i medyan achemenidskogo vremeni" (Armour of Persians and
Medians in Achaemenid times), Vestnik drevnei istorii no. 3 (1982).
340 Litvinsky
Regarding material discoveries, the author limits himself to mentioning
Persepolis but omits Pasargadae,17 Deve Hiiyiik,18 Gordion,19 and Egypt.20 The
remarkable findings at Amaphis and Idalion (Cyprus) may also be connected to
the Achaemenids.21
There is no information on Scythian armor in the article, although this sub-
ject has been studied in detail (the bibliographical references are too numerous to
mention here).
Some information is available from numismatic iconography.22 For
Parthian times cuirasses, statues, and scale armor discovered at Nisa are impor-
tant sources.23 There is very rich material on the armor of the Kushans and
Sogdians; unfortunately none of it is reflected in the entry, although all these
publications had appeared before this volume of the encyclopaedia.
BELTS i. In ancient Iran (P. Calmeyer) and ii. In the Parthian and Sasanian
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Periods (E. H. Peck) both contain rich material and deal with Central Asia,
Siberian Scythians, and Hatra as well as Iran itself. Regarding the second sec-
tion, it is important to note that composite belts were very widespread in the
sixth-ninth centuries C.E. from Japan and T'ang China in the east to Hungary in
the west.
In Central Asia and Sinkiang, the metallic details of belts have been found
in many places as well as being depicted in the murals of seventh-eighth centu-
ries C.E. at Ajina Tepe, Afrasiab, Balalyk Tepe, Shahristan, Varakhsha, Kalai-
Kafirnihan, and elsewhere. The situation in China, where emperor Kao Tsu
(618-626) had introduced a rule that the type of belt worn must depend on rank
and nobility, would have influenced the practice of wearing belts in Central

17. D. Stronach, Pasargadae: A Report on the Excavations Conducted by the

British Institute of Persian Studies from 1961 to 1963 (Oxford, 1978), 181; 222; fig.
28; 223; Muscarella, op. cit., 1988, 212, fig. 322.
18. P. R. S. Moorey, Cemeteries of the First Millenium B.C.E. at Deve Htiytik,
near Carchemish, salvaged by T. E. Lawrence and C. L. Wooley in 1913 (Oxford,
1980), 52-53.
19. R. S. Young, "The Campaign of 1955 at Gordion. Preliminary Reports,"
American Journal of Archaeology, 60/3 (1956): 257, pi. 86/22.
20. W. M. Petrie, The Palace of Apries (Memphes, II) (London, 1909), 11, 13, pi.
XVI; idem Tools and Weapons (London, 1917), 38-39, pi. XLII/109-114, 115-118.
21. Gjerstad, E. et al., Findings and Results of excavations in Cyprus (1927-1931),
The Swedish Cyprus expedition, vol II (Stockholm, 1935).
22. P. Gardner, The Coins of the Kings of Bactria and India (London, 1866), pi.
IX/4; R. B. Whitehead, Catalogue of Coins in the Punjab Museum, Lahore vol. 1:
Indo-Greek coins (Oxford, 1914), pi. IV, 229).
23. G. Pugachenkova, "O panzyrnom vooruzhenii parfyanskogo i baktriiskogo
voinstva" (About the armor of the Parthian and Bactrian Host), Vestnik drevnei
istorii, no. 2 (1966).
24. B. Laufer, Jade: A study in Chinese archaeology and religion (Chicago, 1912),
286-93; Vostochnyi Turkestan v drevnosti i rannem srednevekov'e: Khoziaistvoi
material'naia kul'tura. Pod redaktsii B. A. Litvinskogo. (East Turkestan in antiquity
and early medieval times. Economy and material culture. Ed. by B. A. Litvinsky),
(Moskva, 1995), 232.
Archaeology and Pre-Islamic Art 341
BRONZES OF LURISTAN (O. Muscarella) is a masterpiece of insightful
and critical scholarship. The author clearly distinguishes between excavated and
unexcavated objects. As a result he believes that "it is impossible to write a
meaningful archeological history of Luristan bronzes at present; perhaps such a
history will never be written" (p. 479). Nevertheless, his contribution maps out
ways in which the study of "bronzes from scientific excavations in Luristan" and
"Luristan bronzes in general" should be conducted.
On the entry CRYSTAL ROCK, I have several remarks. The term for
"crystal" should have been given in Khotanese-Mcfara. Perhaps it should also
have been noted that rock crystal objects including T'ang drinking cups had been
sent as royal gifts many times from Samarkand and Kapisa (Begram).25 Rock
crystal beads and seals have been found at Central Asian sites of the third to the
seventh_centuries C.E.26
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In AHAN, V. Pigott successfully elucidates how iron mining developed, but

in my opinion there are still several serious omissions in the entry. There should
have been a more thorough discussion of the abundance and variety of iron
manufactures including armor in Urartu.27 The opinion that for the Parthian and
Sasanian periods "Archeologically, therefore we have only scant indication of the
availability and uses of iron during this time" (p. 627) is mistaken. Actually
even for the Achaemenid period, iron was widespread in Central Asia. Iron armor
is especially plentiful in the burial mounds of Iranian nomads (Saka tribes).28 As
concerns a later period, Bactria from the fourth century B.C.E. to the second to
third century C.E. was a true "Realm of Iron." Excavations of the Temple of
Oxus and graveyards of the nomads in Beshkent Valley (south Tajikistan) have
yielded thousands of iron implements of various types: iron arrowheads alone
numbered more than three thousand. There were also hundreds of spearheads,
butts, daggers, nails, clamps, and so on. When V. Pigott wrote his entry, infor-
mation on these findings had already been published by A. N. Bernshtam, B. A.
Litvinsky, A. M. Mandelshtam and others.
DERAFS (banner, standard, flag, emblem) (A. Shapur Shahbazi) is attrac-
tive owing to its comprehensive use of Iranian and Greek sources as well as of a
plenitude of iconographic material. The bibliography is quite complete omitting
only a few works.29

25. See E. H. Schafer, The Golden Peaches of Samarkand. A study of T'ang Exotics
(Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1963), 227.
26. B. A. Litvinsky, Ukrasheniya iz mogil'nikov zapadnoi Fergany (Jewelry from
burial courtyards in the west Ferghana Valley) (Moscow, 1973), 102-3; L. M.
Levina, Etnokul'turnaya istoriya Vostocnogo Priaral'ya (The Ethnocultural History
of the eastern part of the territories adjacent to the Aral Sea) (Moscow, 1996), 2 3 8 -
27. See R. B. Wartke, Toprakkale: Untersuchungen zu den Metallobjekten im
Vorderasiatischen Museum zu Berlin, Schriften zur Geschichte und Kultur des Alten
Orients, 22 (Berlin, 1990).
28. See B. A. Litvinsky, Drevnie kochevniki "Kryshi Mira" (Ancient nomads of
the "Roof of the World"), 1972; B. A. Litvinskii, Eisenzeitliche Kurgane zwischen
Pamir und Aral See (Miinchen, 1984).
29. For example: C. Bonner, "The Standard of Artaxexes II," The Classical Review,
61 (1947): 9-10.
342 Litvinsky
CERAMICS is one of the longest archaeological articles in the encyclope-
dia. It covers the period from the emergence of ceramics in the Neolithic period
(7,000 B.C.E.) to the 19th century C.E. The material is arranged chronologically
and geographically. Twenty tables of drawings of the shapes and ornamentation
of ceramics are included in the text. There are also 35 photos of ceramics of the
Islamic period. Every section concludes with a detailed bibliography. The com-
parison of this article with the corresponding article in Survey of Persian Art
demonstrates clearly the degree to which our knowledge in this field has grown
in the half of a century since the first edition of the Survey of Persian Art.
Progress in the field of pre-Islamic ceramics is especially noteworthy.
Nevertheless I must make several comments.
1. When preparing the entry, the geographical limits were not clearly
defined. Most of the authors present and explain ceramic material that comes
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from the territory of modern Iran. There are only sporadic references to the cul-
tures of southern Turkmenia, though it was a part of Khurasan. There are only
single references to ceramics from Afghanistan and Afrasiab (Samarkand). But
these are not based on any familiarity with the material itself but on secondary
and random articles. One is left to wonder whether Afghanistan and Central Asia
were excluded deliberately. If so, the reason should have been explained.
Naturally without them the picture is not as complete as it might otherwise have
been. In my opinion ceramics from Afghanistan, Margiana, Bactria, Sogd,
Chach, and Chorasmia should have been included, perhaps under separate head-
ings. This is even more important because ceramic development and the charac-
terization of distinct periods for several areas of Central Asia have been worked
out in great detail. The entry thus lacks a description of the characteristic ceram-
ics of specific periods, for example the Kushanian period.
2. The authors of most of the sections describe ceramics only in terms of
form and ornament. These are very important, of course, but the history of
ceramics is not so limited. Also there are no definitions of techniques and tech-
nology. The composition of ceramic paste, the ways of making vessels and cor-
responding tools and devices, the method of coating the walls of vessels with
slip, applying ornament before firing, the types of glaze and their ingredients,
pottery kilns (types, construction, auxiliary stock), single or double firing, the
painting of the finished products and so on—all these are missing from the
M. Alram has written a very fine entry, ARSACIDS iii. Arsacid Coinage,
with two tables of coins. At the end of the article he speaks of indigenous dynas-
ties that exercised the right to mint coins and largely displaced Arsacid currency
from their domain. He might also have mentioned Margiana here. In the ancient
city of Merv many such coins were found. In nearby regions two hoards with
500 and 600 examples were discovered. On the obverse of the coins is the head
of the ruler and on the reverse a seated archer with the sign n under his bow.
Russian numismatists generally agree that coins of this type come from a local
Margianian mint. V. N. Pilipko presented a detailed typological classification
and attempted to date individual issues.30 The group as a whole belongs to the

30. "Parfyanskye bronzovye monety so znakom IT pod lukom," Vestnik drevnei

istorii, no. 4 (1980).
Archaeology and Pre-Islamic Art 343
period from the second half of the last century B.C.E. to the middle of the 3rd
century C.E. M. Alram's bibliography lacks several major works.31

4. Monuments

The entry ANAW includes i. Prehistoric period by T. C. Young and ii.

Historical Period by G. A. Pugachenkova. The excavation team led by R.
Pumpelly in 1904 conducted the first scientific excavations of the prehistoric
period in Central Asia, though from a modern perspective they had serious
defects. It probably should have been noted that the excavations proper were car-
ried out not by R. Pumpelly, a geologist, but by the archaeologist H. Schmidt.
However, the first amateur excavation had been conducted long before that by
General A. Komaroff.
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The long article BISOTUN consists of three sections: i. Introduction, ii.

archaeology, and iii. Darius's inscriptions. The latter is of particular significance
for the author, R. Schmitt, examines versions of Darius's inscription, remnants
of the copies and correlates the three versions (Babylonian, Elamite, and Old
Persian). The results of the analyses of the different stages in the genesis of the
Bisotun monument are set out in a table.
In COGA MIS, E. Kantor paints a clear picture of the cultural sequence of
this important monument. The value of the article is enhanced by the fact that
the material from Chogha Mish has been examined against the background of the
history of the Susiana plain as a whole. COGA SAFID (F. Holl) is organized in
a similar fashion. The results of the excavations of Chogha Safid are presented in
relation to the excavations of other monuments of the Dehloran Plain
(Khuzistan). The chronological table correlating five monuments of the Dehloran
Plain is particularly useful.
DAHAN-E GOLAMAN was a large urban settlement in Sistan, and, in all
probability, the Achaemenid provincial capital. It was excavated in 1962-66 by
Italian scholars. G. Gnoli has been examining this monument since its discov-
ery, and his contribution provides a complete description and excellent analysis.
This is one of the best articles dedicated to an individual monument.
P. Bernard, author of AY KANOM, heads the excavations of this remarkable
Greek colonial city in the eastern part of the Hellenistic world. The author has
succeeded in presenting the data and at the same time demonstrating the fusion of
Hellenistic and Oriental traditions.
G. A. Pugachenkova and E. V. Rtveladze's article AFRASIAB (the modern
name of the site of ancient and medieval Samarkand) is quite comprehensive. Of
course, since it was written, many discoveries have been made at Afrasiab by
archaeologists from Uzbekistan (H. G. Ahun-Babaev, O. N. Inevetkina and oth-
ers) and France (P. Bernard, F. Grenet). This reviewer has only two comments. I
do not agree with the statement that "In the 4th-5th century A.D., a time of
crisis in the slaveholding society and the beginning of the shaping of feudalism,
the inhabited area of Afrasiab shrank" (p. 577). The existence of slaveholding

31. For example, G. Ya. Abramishvili, Katalog parfyanskikh monet

Gosudarstvennogo muzeya Gruzii (Tbilisi, 1974) and D. Sallwood, "The Drachms of
the Parthian 'Dark Age'"JRAS no. 1 (1976).
344 Litvinsky
society in Central Asia was an official Marxist doctrine and all Soviet historians
(by the way including myself) tried to demonstrate it, although there were no real
facts and events were "adjusted" to suit this theory. My second comment is that
in reality a decline in urban life in Sogd only took place in the second half of the
fourth century. The invasion of new tribal nomadic confederations had a consid-
erable effect in this development.32
P. Bernard's DELBARJINis a model of conciseness, providing a clear pic-
ture of the city's structure, its sections, art, inscriptions, and the problems of its
chronology in a relatively short article. The article is also accompanied by a bib-
M. L. Carter's BEGRAM details the history of the study of Begram-Kapisa
and of the site of the Begram treasure. The author discusses the differing opin-
ions concerning chronology itself but does not present any data concerning the
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site, its size, and organization.

P. Leriche, the coordinator (since 1986) of Mission Franco-Syrienne ob
Doura-Europas, has published a series of major works dedicated to DURA
EUROPOS. This article contains a skillful historical and archaeological descrip-
tion of the city. I would only like to add that in the course of describing the city
Leriche failed to mention the very interesting necropolis.33 The bibliography
should have included G. Hopkins, The discovery of Dura-Europos, 1979 (with
detailed bibliography); W. Hoepfner and E. L. Schwander Haus und Stadt in
klassischen Griechenland (Munich, 1986), 205^4-1 (with accurate architectural
Although C. E. Bosworth provides the information found in written sources
on DEHESTAN, the archaeological material should also have been included. The
whole region of Dehestan has been examined in great detail, and numerous
remains from the Bronze and early Iron Age have been discovered. For the
Islamic period the results of extensive excavations at Meshedi Misrian, which
was the main urban center in the medieval period, are of considerable signifi-
cance. The splendid Islamic architectual monuments of Dehestan have also been
examined in books and articles in Russian.
The same comment is relevant to the article by C. E. Bosworth
DANDANQAN. The author says that this town was situated ten farsakhs from
Merv. In fact the ancient city was in the area of Dash Rabad some 60 km from
Merv. Excavations in the early 1940s uncovered remnants of urban life and the
most important mosque of the city built in the ninth to early tenth century.
Radical rebuilding of the mosque dates to the end of the eleventh century, accord-
ing to an Arabic inscription. The mosque has stucco decoration. In 1953 when
the city was studied in detail, it was discovered that it had first emerged in
Sasanian times. The location of the city later shifted. The city had a fortified
shahristan as well as a vast (1.6 x 1 km) rabaz during the Islamic period. Life
finally ended there in the fifteenth century.

32. C. V. Shishkina, "Ancient Samarkand: capital of Soghd," Bulletin of the Asia

Institute 8 (1996): 90-91.
33. See N. P. Toll, "The Necropolis," The Excavations at Dura-Europos.
Preliminary Report on the Ninth Season of Work 1935-36. ed. M. I. Rostovtzeff et
al., pt. 2 (New Haven, 1946).
Archaeology and Pre-Islamic Art 345
The article DUSHANBE is written by M. Atkin on the basis of Russian and
Tadjik sources, even including articles from Russian and Tadjik newspapers. The
article contains a great deal of information. However, histories of the Hisar
Valley, published in Dushanbe, in particular the work of V. A. Ranov and O. S.
Solov'ev, Dushanbe-gorod drevnii [The Ancient city of Dushanbe], (Dushanbe,
1993), were not utilized very well.
DEH-E NOW (H. von Gall) deals with four rock-cut tombs in Deh-e Now
near Bisotun. Some of them have rock reliefs on their fronts. The author is espe-
cially attentive to a controversial question of dating. Von Gall's evidence and
conclusions seem convincing, dating the tombs to the fourth to third centuries
B.C.E. Another article by this author, DA O DOKTAR, argues for the date of
"probably the early Hellenistic period" for this particular rock-cut tomb.
In DARAB ii. History and archeology, D. Huff mentions all the archaeo-
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logical monuments in Darab and its district and underscores the importance of
Darab in early Sasanian history. This is clearly shown by three rock reliefs
(DARAB iii. Rock reliefs by G. Herrmann) and by a building from the time of
Shapur II.
Z. Tarzi is the author of BAMLAN. In 1977 he published two volumes of
his work on the architecture and art of Bamiyan. In this article he gives informa-
tion about the history of Bamiyan and a short description of its architecture and
art. He follows the idea of an "Irano-Buddhist" art of Bamiyan, which has been
especially elaborated by Rowland. The bibliography here is too short, and it con-
tains a misprint: the text of Huichao and translation into German by F. Fuchs
was published in 1938 not in 1928. About the same time that the encylopedia
article was being published, D. Klimburg-Salter's The Kingdom of Bamiyan:
Buddhist Art and Culture of the Hindu Rush (Naples, Rome, 1989), came out.
This latter work, certainly, is a serious step forward in the study of Bamiyan.
Mehrdad Shokoohy's article on the caravansary DAYR-E GACIN does not
report the size of the building (the outer dimensions are 108 x 108 m.; the
courtyard 68 x 68 m.) nor that it is surrounded by a rectangle of walls.34
Shokoohy does provide valuable information about the chronology of the cara-

5. Varia

Here I include articles on archaeological institutions and biographies of the most

prominent archaeologists. DELEGATIONS ARCHEOLOGIQUES
FRANCAISES deals with the "delegation" in Iran and the delegation in
Afghanistan. The entry was written by the curator of the Museum Guimet, Dr.
Francine Tissot. Only one remark should be made. The account of R.
Ghirshman's excavations in Begram should have mentioned his important con-
tribution to establishing the stratigraphy and chronology of this site. Now we
have the following study of the last period of work of the delegation in
Afghanistan; G. Fussinan, "Southern Bactria and Northern India before Islam: a

34. See W. Kleiss, "Qadjarische Lehmziegel Gebiide beim karawanserail Daihr,"

Archaeologische Mitteilungen aus Iran und Turan, N.S. 13 (1980): 201-6.
346 Litvinsky
review of archaeological reports," Journal of the American Oriental Society,
(1996): 243-54 (an excellent and critical review of fieldwork and publications).
The archaeological data of DEH (D. Balland and M. Bazin) are very fragmen-
tary. The use of studies by Russian scholars—archaeologists, orientalists, and
ethnologists—would have allowed the authors to create a more comprehensive
and profound picture of the deh (village) from the early Iron Age to modern
In DEHQAN, A. Taffazoli asserts that since the eleventh century "the
dehqdns gradually lost their importance, and the word came to mean simply a
farmer" (p. 225). In this regard it is worth mentioning the inscriptions of early
coins of the Ilek Khans or Karakhanids. Coins minted at the end of the tenth and
beginning of the eleventh century show that local rulers used the title dehqan.35
There is also epigraphic evidence from Central Asia that in the thirteenth to the
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fifteenth centuries the term dehqan meant a large landowner and, sometimes, the
head of the local administration.36 This situation existed not only in Central Asia
but also in Sistan. There is relevant material in Bada0^ al-waqa3ic, by Zayn
al-Din Wasifi. While narrating the events of the end of the fifteenth century, he
tells us about a dehqan named Farrukhi who was the owner of a village with
over 2000 families and possessor of much wealth.37 Hence different parts of Iran
and Central Asia witnessed different evolutions of the class of dehqans.
The historical part of M. E. Bonine's article BAZAR is surprisingly poor as
concerns written sources, and there are no archaeological data at all. The excava-
tions in Pendjikent give an idea of the nature of bazaars in Sogdian towns on the
eve of the arrival of Islam and of the position of bazaars in city planning. It is a
pity that the author did not use available studies like V. I. Raspopova, "Odin iz
bazarov Pendzhikenta VII-VIII vv." (One of the bazaars of Pendjikent in the sev-
enth-eighth centuries), Strany i narody Vostoka 10 (1971).
The section of BUDDHISM i. In pre-Islamic times (R. E. Emmerick) con-
cerning archaeological monuments of Buddhism in West Turkestan is based
solely on the works of Russian scholars that have been translated into western
languages. The data therefore are very incomplete and inexact. There is no infor-
mation on written Buddhist documents from Termez, Merv, and so on. Though
Buddhism was not widespread in Sogd, Buddhistic objects and motifs are found
in the art of Panjikent. The statement of Emmerick that Sogdiana was totally
non-Buddhistic therefore should have been made not quite so categorically. There
is no "Bagram c Ali" in the Merv oasis but there is the modern urban site
"Bayram cAli". The data about the Buddhistic monuments in Afghanistan are
also imprecise. The colossal Buddhas in Bamiyan date not from the Kushan
period but from post-Kushanian times, most likely from the sixth to the seventh

35. E. A. Davidovich, "O monetahkh dikhkanov Ilaka kontsa X-nachala XI v." (On
the coins of the dehqans of Ilaq at the end of the lOth-beginning of the 11th C),
Drevnost'i i srednevekov'e narodov Srednei Azii. Istoriya i kultura, ed. B. Gafurov
and B. A. Litvinsky (Moscow, 1978), 80-100.
36. A. M. Mukhtarov, "Nadgrobnye kairaki XIH-XVI vv s upominaniem termina
'dihkan' (gravestones with the term 'dehqan')," Epigrafika Vostoka, 18 (1967): 8 0 -
37. Zayn al-Din Wasifi, BadaDic al-waqa'i, vol. 2 (Moscow, 1961), 1215-18.
Archaeology and Pre-Islamic Art 347
centuries C.E. The author proposes a very unusual and strange notion concerning
Surkh Kotal: "It may have been the site of a dynastic cult or of an unusual
Buddhist sect" (p. 493). What sort of a sect is that? One unknown to the author
and undoubtedly unknown to anybody on earth. In this regard I would like to
remind the reader that the main investigator of Surkh Kotal, the late D.
Schlumberger, believed with good reason that there were no Indian features in
Surkh Kotal art, that Indian influence had not yet touched this monument.38 It
was local Bactrian art. But two kilometers from the acropolis of Surkh Kotal,
there is another monument. Its decoration is a twin of Surkh Kotal, but at the
same time there are also Buddhistic pictures there. This is evidence of a
Buddhistic (Gandharan)-Bactrian synthesis, but it is not Surkh Kotal.
Emmerick's bibliography also includes none of the late H. J. Klimkeit's valu-
able works.
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The article "Anahita in the arts," a subsection of ANAHID, contains valu-

able material. Unfortunately the author avoided the question of the attribution of
a female deity (Goddess-Mother) which often has symbols of fertility in the
coroplastics of Margiana, Khorezm, and Bactria. These are especially abundantly
represented in Kushanian complexes. Many Russian scholars believe that they
are the Central Asiatic variant of Anahit. There is no analysis of the problem of
correlating Nana (or Nanai) and Anahita in Sogdian painting. Valuable contribu-
tions on this issue were made by G. Azarpay and B. Marshak.39
The author of DIV, Mahmoud Omidsalar, has collected considerable data
from written sources of the Islamic period and from folk tales. However, he is
absolutely unaware of the richest Central Asiatic materials.40 The evidence in
Sogdian written sources and onomastic, Sogdian painting, and Iranian miniature
painting is not used at all in the article. Several of the most important works in
Western languages have also been missed.41
To conclude my review of the articles on the archaeology and pre-Islamic art
of Iran, I would like once again to note the superb job that was conducted by
Prof. E. Yarshater and his collaborators in organizing such a tremendous work.
Because authors, considered the scholarly elite of the world, have contributed, the
majority of articles have been written at the highest possible level of scholar-

38. D. Schlumberger, "The Excavations at Surkh Kotal and the problem of

Hellenism in Bactria and India," British Academy Proceedings, 47 (1961): 90-1.
39. See A. Belenitsky and B. I. Marshak, "Cherty mirovozzreniya sogdiitsev VII-
VIII vv. v iskusstve Pendzhikenta" [Characteristics of the worldview of the Sogdians
of the 7th-8th c. in the art of Panjikent], Istoriya i Kultura narodov Srednei Azii
(drevnost' i srednevekovye), ed. B. G. Gafurov and B. A. Litvinsky (Moscow, 1976),
77-7; G. Azarpay, Sogdian Painting. The Pictorial Epic in Oriental Art (Berkeley,
Los Angeles, and London, 1981), 132-40.
40. B. A. Litvinsky, "Semantika drevnikh verovanii i obriadov Pamirtsev, [1]"
[The Semantic of the ancient beliefs and customs of the inhabitants of the Pamir, I],
B. A. Litvinsky, ed., Srednyaya Aziya i ee sosedy v drevnosti i srednevekov'e:
Istoriia i kul'tura (Moscow, 1981), with an extensive bibliography.
41. For example: A. Christensen, Essai sur la demonologie iranienne
(Copenhagen, 1941) and Th. Nb'ldeke, "Der weisse Dev von Mazandaran," Archiv fiir
Religionswissenschaft, 18 (1915).
348 Litvinsky
The main part of my specific notes, doubts, and suggestions concerning
many of the individual articles have been set out above. Here I would like to
raise some more general questions.
1. There is no consistency in the geographical boundaries of the encyclopae-
dia articles. Is the subject of EIr only Iran in its contemporary geographical
boundaries or is it the whole area inhabited by Iranian tribes and peoples? In
principle, the compilers seem to share the second approach, and many articles
concerning Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Transcaucasia have been included.
However, some of the general articles have sections devoted to Central Asia
while others do not. Only two or three articles have any information on Scythian
archaeology and art. In several articles the authors either make no reference to
areas outside modern Iran, or present only random data that show they do not
know the main publications and scholarship. Where issues have been much more
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thoroughly researched for Central Asia, Transcaucasia, and the Scythians, for
example, than for Iran proper itself, this has meant an opportunity to expand the
horizon of knowledge on that particular subject has been lost.
2. The inclusion in the EIr of articles on minor archaeological monuments
or groups of artifacts seems to be another problematic issue. Thus, for example,
J. G. Shaffer's article DEH MORASl GONDAY, though well-written and
researched, still is one whose inclusion in the encyclopaedia is by no means
obligatory. It would have been sufficient simply to mention the name of this
monument in AFGHANISTAN viii. Archeology. This monument and others
like it have not played a significant part in history or the history of culture.
Similar articles are AYBAK, DANESTAMA, and DAM. Articles like these
would be appropriate only in a specialized work like an archaeological gazetteer,
which contains a full list of monuments or groups of artifacts in Iran or
Afghanistan. In contrast, articles dealing with the archaeology of Central Asia,
Transcaucasia, and the Scythians stand out like a sore thumb for the lack of ref-
erences to even the most important cultures and monuments.
3. The articles on monuments vary in their organization and content. Some
articles have no specific or concrete descriptions and a text containing only theo-
retical data, while in other cases the text contains only specific facts and informa-
tion. Some articles are accompanied by excellent illustrations; others are devoid
of illustrations.
4. Many articles are too short. But I understand that there is a limit to the
size of the encyclopaedia.
Finally, I think that in spite of individual shortcomings the published vol-
umes of Encyclopaedia Iranica are a great contribution to the study of Iran and
the Iranian peoples. These volumes enrich world civilization.