Sherds of Rayy


The Persian city of Rayy, a center of discovery, trade, and craftsmanship between the 9th and 13th centuries, earned renown for its highly developed ceramics. Featuring fine calligraphy and decorative painting in a kaleidoscope of red, brown, blue, green, and white, many of the ceramics are on display in the Oriental Institute's exhibit Daily Life Ornamented.

Situated along Iran’s formidable Alburz mountain range, Rayy was a major stop on the Silk Roads, which, at its longitudinal extremes, connected the Near East and China by trade. The city's style of pottery developed out of its location, combining Islamic-world aesthetics with Chinese methods. For centuries after Rayy's decline, treasure hunters raided its remains, which were little more than scattered dirt mounds on the Iranian plain just south of present-day Tehran. In 1932 Oriental Institute archaeologist Eric Schmidt led the first excavation of Rayy’s matrix of buried markets, quarters, and streets.

The excavation turned up numerous sherds, many of which are on display for the first time. Among the noteworthy pieces are two turquoise-glazed ewer spouts, shaped like animal heads, from the 12th or 13th centuries.

The exhibition runs through October 14.

Ethan Frenchman, '08

Photos: Archaeologist Eric Schmidt digs at Rayy; a woman's image decorates a sherd.

Photos courtesy the Oriental Institute.

August 6, 2007