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This ceramic fragment was excavated in Ctesiphon, the Sasanian metropolis and administrative capital conquered by Arab Muslim armies in 637. The city continued to be inhabited throughout the era, when it was known in Arabic as al-Mada’in, or "the cities", because of the expansive area it encompassed. Arab and Persian historians and poets indulged in describing al-Mada’in/Ctesiphon’s grand monuments. Muslim rulers also celebrated the glory of these monuments, which through time had acquired symbolic significance due to their association with the city’s imperial past. This was the case of the Taq-i Kisra, an impressive colossal ivan (a vaulted hall with one side open) that was partially dismantled to reuse its bricks in caliphal buildings in the new capital of Baghdad.

Finds like this fragment attest to the continued occupation of Ctesiphon’s urban area in the first centuries of the Islamic period, during which a pilgrimage site developed at Salman Pak, an area named after the tomb of Salman al-Farsi, one of the early companions of the Prophet and the first Iranian to convert to Islam. The site is still visited by pilgrims today.

Excavations in the Ctesiphon area were undertaken by an expedition in 1928–29 sponsored by the German Oriental Society (Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft). The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Staatliche Museen, Berlin, undertook a joint expedition for one season in 1931–32. Several excavations were conducted, including at the Taq-i Kisra, in a small, fortified area south of the palace at Tell Dheheb, at multiple houses at the mounds of Ma’aridh, and at additional houses at a small mound called Umm ez-Za’tir. According to the agreements, the finds were first divided with the Iraqi authorities, between Berlin and New York.

Fragment, Earthenware; incised

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