Learn/ Educators/ Curriculum Resources/ Art of the Islamic World/ Unit Six: From the City to the Steppe—Art Beyond the Royal Court/ Chapter One: Daily Life in Medieval Nishapur/ Introduction


Nishapur, a city in northeastern Iran, was a prosperous commercial city from the ninth to the thirteenth centuries due to its prime location on the Silk Road. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's excavations at this site in the 1930s and '40s uncovered objects that reflect Nishapur's exposure to the cultures and artistic traditions of many different regions as a result of its key location. Observations and interpretations of these objects by archaeologists, historians, scientists, and art historians provide insight into the daily lives of Nishapur's citizens.

Sabz Pushan, Nishapur

Fig. 36. View of The Metropolitan Museum of Art excavations at Sabz Pushan, Nishapur

Dado wall fragments in situ

Fig. 37. Dado wall fragments in situ, Tepe Madrasa, Nishapur


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Marika Sardar: Nishapur is a city in northeastern Iran and we know a lot about it from historical sources, but we really didn't know anything about what the city was like during the medieval period when it flourished until the Metropolitan Museum conducted excavations there in the 1930s. And so the material you see all around you represents the objects they found during their six seasons of excavations. These excavations were carried out under an agreement with the government of Iran that was eager to have foreign museums and universities come work in their country. And as part of this agreement, half of the objects stayed there and went to a museum in Tehran and half of the objects came back to New York.

There are a variety of objects on display here, from ceramics to metalwork to large architectural fragments. But what I've found really interesting are some of the personal objects that really connect you to the people of Nishapur, and especially things like amulets and talismans that show you their personal beliefs. These amulets, while maybe not exactly following within orthodox Islamic beliefs, are like the good-luck charms that people in almost any culture have.

Unearthed vessel

Fig. 38. Unearthed vessel at Tepe Madrasa, Nishapur

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