Sasanian and Islamic Settlement and Ceramics in Southern Iran

Priestman, Seth M. N. & Derek Kennet. 2023. Sasanian and Islamic settlement and ceramics in Southern Iran (4th to 17th century AD): The Williamson Collection Project (British Institute of Persian Studies Archaeological Monograph Series 8). Oxford: Oxbow Books.

This monograph comprises the final publication of a study supported by the British Institute of Persian Studies and undertaken by Seth Priestman and Derek Kennet at the University of Durham. The work presents and analyses an assemblage of just under 17,000 sherds of pottery and associated paper archives resulting from one of the largest and most comprehensive surveys ever undertaken on the historic archaeology of southern Iran. The survey was undertaken by Andrew George Williamson (1945–1975), a doctoral student at Oxford University between 1968 and 1971, at a time of great progress and rapid advance in the archaeological exploration of Iran.

The monograph provides new archaeological evidence on the long-term development of settlement in Southern Iran, in particular the coastal region, from the Sasanian period to around the 17th century. The work provides new insights into regional settlement patterns and changing ceramic distribution, trade and use. A large amount of primary data is presented covering an extensive area from Minab to Bushehr along the coast and inland as far as Sirjan. This includes information on a number of previously undocumented archaeological sites, as well as a detailed description and analysis of the ceramic finds, which underpin the settlement evidence and provide a wider source of reference.

By collecting carefully controlled archaeological evidence related to the size, distribution and period of occupation of urban and rural settlements distributed across southern Iran, Williamson aimed to reconstruct the broader historical development of the region. Due to his early death the work was never completed. The key aims of the authors of this volume were to do justice to Williamson’s remarkable vision and efforts on the one hand, and at the same time to bring this important new evidence to ongoing discussions about the development of southern Iran through the Sasanian and Islamic periods.

From the Oxbow website

Fulayj: A Sasanian to Early Islamic Fort in the Sohar Hinterland

Priestman, Seth, Nasser Al-Jahwari, Eve MacDonald, Derek Kennet, Kawther Alzeidi, Mark Andrews, Vladimir Dabrowski, Vladimer Kenkadze, Rosalind MacDonald, Tatia Mamalashvili, Ibrahim Al-Maqbali, Davit Naskidashvili & Domiziana Rossi. 2023. Fulayj: A Sasanian to Early Islamic Fort in the Sohar Hinterland. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 52 (2023): 291–304.

Fulayj fort: an oblique aerial view looking across the structure to the north‑east (photograph by Davit Naskidashvili)

Fulayj fort is located on the fertile al-Bāṭinah plain of Oman, 12 km inland from Ṣaḥam and 32 km south-east of the key urban centre and major medieval port of Sohar (Ṣuḥār). The chance discovery of the site by Nasser Al-Jahwari in 2012 provided an important breakthrough in our potential understanding of the late pre-Islamic and initial Islamic period occupation in Oman. Finds collected during the first survey of the site were inspected by Derek Kennet and identified as likely to be of late Sasanian or very early Islamic date. Following further recording in 2014, a broad, multidisciplinary archaeological investigation was launched in 2015. Two seasons were completed by a joint British-Omani team in 2015 and 2016. Following a break in operations, a third season of fieldwork was completed in 2022.1 These investigations have confirmed the initial dating of the fort and substantially enhanced our understanding of all aspects of its planning, construction, history of occupation, internal organization, nature of use, etc. It is possible that Fulayj formed part of a wider defensive military cordon protecting the commercial and agricultural potential of the fertile coastal strip and urban centre of the Sohar hinterland. These wider aspects will be returned to again for further consideration below.


Das frühe Sasanidenreich und Rom

Mosig-Walburg, Karin. 2023. Das frühe Sasanidenreich und Rom: Eine Forschungskritik. Gutenberg: COMPUTUS Druck Satz & Verlag.

Bis in die jüngste Zeit werden von der Forschung zahlreiche Fragen zu den Beziehungen zwischen dem frühen Sasanidenreich und seinem römischen Nachbarn kontrovers diskutiert. Auch zur innenpolitischen Entwicklung des Sasanidenreiches unter den Nachfolgern Šāpūrs I. bis in das frühe 4. Jahrhundert finden sich unterschiedliche Rekonstruktionen und Bewertungen. Im Rahmen der hier vorgelegten Untersuchungen wird das facettenreiche und teilweise aufgrund zahlreicher Divergenzen schillernde Bild der wechselseitigen Politik der beiden Großmächte und ihrer nicht-militärischen Interaktion (bis zum Jahr 363 n. Chr.), wie auch der innenpolitischen Entwicklung des Sasanidenreiches unter den Nachfolgern Šāpūrs I. vorgestellt und analysiert. Was präsentiert wird, ist im Wesentlichen Forschungs- und Quellenkritik. Anhand von Beispielen aus der Forschungsliteratur wird ausführlich dargelegt, in welcher Weise zugunsten einer These argumentiert wird und ob bzw. inwieweit die jeweiligen Vorstellungen auf verlässlicher Überlieferung beruhen.

From the publisher’s website
Online resources

Derbent: What Persia Left Behind

Derbent: What Persia Left Behind, is a documentary directed by Pejman Akbarzadeh. For more information, including a timeline and screening schedules, visit


Registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 6th-century Derbent (Darband) fortification complex is considered the largest defensive structure of Sasanian Persia (Iran) in the Caucasus.
Derbent: What Persia Left Behind”, also explores the unique architecture of the massive fortress, and how it has been preserved for some fifteen centuries by Persian, Arab, Turkish and Russian rulers. Built strategically in the narrowest area between the Caucasus Mountains and the Caspian Sea, the fortification includes the northernmost Middle Persian (Pahlavi) inscriptions in the world, which are in danger of destruction. The 42-km defence wall of the complex that extended toward the Black Sea had already been destroyed in the Soviet era.

From the film’s website

The Sasanians in conflict

The latest issue of Antiquité Tardive (30/2022) is out, which is a special issue dedicated to Sasanian history: “Les Sassanides en conflit: géopolitique de l’empire perse tardo-antique.”


Les Sassanides en conflit : géopolitique de l’empire perse tardo-antique

Philip Huyze, Introduction générale : l’empire sassanide dans le monde interconnecté de l’Antiquité tardive/ General introduction: the Sasanian empire in the interconnected world of Late Antiquity

Samra Azarnouche, Présentation du dossier Les Sassanides en conflit : géopolitique de l’empire perse tardo-antique

Hervé Inglebert, La place de l’empire sassanide dans les débats sur l’Antiquité tardive/ What place for the Sasanian Empire in the debates about Late Antiquity?


The Horse, the Ass, and the Mule

Poinsot, Delphine Margaux Spruyt (eds). 2022. Equidés, le cheval, l’âne et la mule dans les empire de l’Orient ancien. Paris: Routes de l’Orient Actes.

This is an open-access book. To download an original file (170 Mb), click here and for a compressed version here.

Several of the contributions interest scholars and students of Iranian studies:

  • Delphine Poinsot: Le cheval de la victoire: Postures équestres et royauté dans les reliefs de Šāpūr Ier
  • Hervé Monchot & Julio Bendezu-Sarmiento: Des ânes, du cuivre et des moines Une étude préliminairesur l’importance des équidés dans l’économie d’un complexeminier aux époques kouchanosassanide (Mes Aynak, Afghanistan)
  • Jérémy Clément: L’élevage des chevaux de guerre dans le royaume séleucide Héritages achéménides et innovations hellénistiques.
  • Thomas Salmon: Combattre à cheval pendant les guerres byzantino-perses Les évolutions des cavaleries byzantine et sassanide pendant les guerres des VIe et VIIe siècles
  • Marina Viallon: Un rare mors de cheval sassanide et son caveçon conservés au Metropolitan museum of Art, New York
  • Samra Azarnouche: Miracles, oracles et augures Essai sur la symbolique du cheval dans l’Iran ancien et médiéval

Iranian Studies from Ravenna, vol. 4

Ognibene, Paolo, Antonio Panaino & Andrea Piras. 2023. Studi Iranici Ravennati IV. Milano; Udine: Mimesis.

The forth volume of the Studi Iranici Ravennati, a collection of research papers on Iranian studies edited by the scholars of Iranian Studies at the University of Bologna in Ravenna.


Sylloge Nummorum Sasanidarum, Paris-Berlin-Wien

Schindel, Nikolaus. 2022. Khusro I. (Sylloge Nummorum Sasanidarum, Paris-Berlin-Wien 4). 2 vols. Wien: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften.

The fourth volume of the series Sylloge Nummorum Sasanidarum, Paris-Berlin-Wien, covers the period of Khusro I (531–579). His long reign is generally considered the high point of Sasanian history. So far, numismatic research has only covered his coinage in overviews, but no detailed treatment has been compiled. Similarly, the number of coins properly published did not do justice to the importance of Khusro I’s coinage. For the first time, a detailed numismatic analysis based on a representative collection of material can be presented. While the numismatic documentation is still far from complete, some developments now become visible for the first time. One focus is on the mint abbreviations, because analysis of these gives access to important new information for Sasanian administrative and regional history. The observation of numismatic parameters is of particular importance in this respect, and while style no longer offers relevant clues, some other topics, such as the patterns of minting, do; as a result, the important and productive mint signature WH can be firmly located in the region Khuzistan. The value of Sasanian coinage for the reconstruction of political history is also evaluated. One chapter is dedicated to material analysis. The catalogue covers about 880 coins from the collections in Paris, Berlin, and Vienna, as well as about 1200 additional coins. This is the most substantial documentation of the coinage of Khusro I compiled so far. The typology, legends and additional marks are documented and discussed in detail, with the text and catalogue divided into two separate volumes.


The Sasanian Elephant Corps Revisited

Dmitriev, Vladimir. 2022. The Sasanian Elephant Corps Revisited: Ammianus Marcellinus on the Tactics of Persian Elephantry. Journal of Persianate Studies 15 (1), 1-13.

According to Ammianus Marcellinus, elephants substituted, to some extent, siege towers; he describes wooden towers on the backs of the animals, armed with Persian warriors who attacked the defenders of a fortress. Certainly, elephants may have served as an element of ancient psychological warfare. But, at the same time, it appears that the Sasanians employed elephants in their battle fighting, bearing warriors who attacked their enemies with various missiles. In open-field battles, elephants, as a rule, were introduced into the battle in an offensive situation. Ammianus Marcellinus does not offer any evidence as to elephants functioning as beasts of burden or draught animals; on the contrary, he always stresses the fact that they were military animals who posed a real danger to the Romans in battle.


Studies on the History of Rationality in Ancient Iran. Vol. 2

König, Götz. 2022. Studien zur Rationalitätsgeschichte im älteren Iran. Band II (Iranica 28). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

While the first volume of A History of Rationality in Ancient Iran aims both to determine the significance of ancient Iran within the framework of the theory of the Axial Age (German Achsenzeit) and to point to some of the basic figures of a history of rationality that can be recognised in the Iranian materials and still extends to the present day, the second volume shown here serves above all to extend this analysis of figures into thematic fields that are essential for the understanding of Iran.

In three sections – “Substance and Spirit”, “Explorations of the World. The Becoming of History”, “The Path to Truth” – a total of 16 texts are brought together which, on the one hand, outline basic constellations and concepts of thought, as they characterise the (older and younger) Avesta in particular, and, on the other hand, trace the movements which emanate from precisely these formations of thought.

The second volume is preceded, as it were, by a counterpoint to the discussion of the axial perspective in the first volume, by a critique of the historical-philosophical definition and classification of Iran and Zoroastrianism, as developed by Hegel in his various series of lectures and as it has since then sustainably guided the view of Iran in ancient studies.