skip to Main Content

An Archaeological Tour of Iran

The University Museum at San Francisco State University (SFSU) is proud to present a new exhibition “Caravan across Persia: An Archaeological Tour of Iran.” This new series of museum exhibitions create unexpected connections between ancient civilizations and the modern era. Ancient and medieval ceramics from Persia are juxtaposed with historical photographs of Iran in the 1930s, made by renowned German photographer Axel von Graefe.
The exhibition features a collection of prehistoric Iranian ceramics from the California Academy of Sciences (Anthropology Department), and medieval Persian ceramics from the Matthew Higgins private collection. Prehistoric ceramics, dating from the 31st to 2nd centuries B.C.E., include gracefully shaped cups, bowls and culinary ware; many are decorated with images of birds and animals. Medieval Persian ceramics from the 12th-13th centuries C.E. include the Persian Luster Ware and turquoise-glazed ceramics from the famous ceramic production center at Kashan.

Bogheh Harunieh Tomb in Toos, Mashhad (by Axel von Graefe, 1937)

Bogheh Harunieh Tomb in Toos, Mashhad (by Axel von Graefe, 1937)

German photographer Axel von Graefe traveled to Iran during the early 1930s. Under Reza Shah, the country had just embarked on a modernization campaign and officially changed its European name, Persia, to Iran. Although there were many restrictions on foreigners taking photographs, von Graefe was able to document the ancient cities of Susa and Persepolis, picturesque villages, and ancient caravan routes crossing mountains and deserts.
Caravans (trade expeditions) hold a special place in the history of Persia. For thousands of years, Iran was at the crossroads of several international trade routes – the Silk Road, the Spice Route, and the Persian Royal Road. Caravans navigating these difficult routes brought to Europe not only silk, jewels, medicines, and spices, but also art, science, and knowledge from the Middle East and China.

Bridge on Zayandeh Rud River in Isfahan (by Axel von Graefe, 1937)

Bridge on Zayandeh Rud River in Isfahan (by Axel von Graefe, 1937)

The exhibition is open to the public 11:00 to 4:00, Monday through Friday, April 1st – May 8th. Admission is free.

Location: University Museum, Humanities Building 510, corner of Font & Tapia, San Francisco State University

Back To Top