October 21–22, 2022
10 a.m.–5 p.m. EST

Hybrid event
In-person attendees register on eventbrite here.
Virtual attendees register on Zoom here.

Between the third and seventh centuries CE, the Sasanian Empire became one of the most dominant powers in the ancient world, extending geographically from Western to Central Asia. From monumental buildings and impressive rock reliefs to elaborately designed metal vessels and finely carved seals, these structures and objects provide a glimpse into the empire’s artistic diversity and its rich material culture. Recent scholarship has further expanded our knowledge of the Sasanian empire and has confirmed its enduring legacy beyond its geographic borders, long after the Arab conquest in the seventh century.

The Sasanians in Context: Art, History, and Archaeology gathers some of the most renowned national and international scholars to share their recent work on the Sasanians and their lasting artistic and historical contributions.

This symposium is generously supported by the Tina and Hamid Moghadam Fund and is organized in collaboration with the University of California, Irvine.

Speaker Names and Affiliations

  • Matthew P. Canepa, Professor and Elahé Omidyar Mir-Djalali Presidential Chair in Art History and Archaeology of Ancient Iran at the University of California, Irvine
  • Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis, Curator of Middle Eastern Coins at the British Museum
  • Anca Dan, Assistant Research Professor of Ancient History and Archaeology in the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) at the École Normale Supérieure (Paris)
  • Touraj Daryaee, Maseeh Chair in Persian Studies and Director of the Dr. Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture at the University of California, Irvine
  • Shervin Farridnejad, Professor of Iranian Studies at the University of Hamburg
  • Mariachiara Gasparini, Assistant Professor of Chinese Art and Architectural History at the University of Oregon
  • Frantz Grenet, Professor at the Collège de France (Paris), Chair of History and Cultures of Pre-Islamic Central Asia
  • Prudence Oliver Harper, Curator Emerita in the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Ani Honarchian, Assistant Professor of Early Christianity at Saint Louis University
  • Derek Kennet, Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology at Durham University
  • Seth Priestman, Honorary research fellow, Department of Archaeology, Durham University
  • Rebecca Darley, Associate professor of global history, University of Leeds
  • Judith Lerner, Research Associate at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University
  • Negin Miri, Assistant Professor of Archaeology at Shahid Beheshti University
  • Kianoosh Motaghedi, Independent Researcher in Islamic Art, Iran
  • Mehrnoush Soroush, Assistant Professor in Landscape Archaeology in the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago
  • Giusto Traina, Professor of Roman History at Sorbonne Université (Paris)


All times are presented in EDT


Freer Gallery of Art, Meyer Auditorium, Washington, DC

10:15 a.m. Welcome

  • Massumeh Farhad
10:20 a.m. Introduction: Sasanian Studies in Context

  • Antonietta Catanzariti and Touraj Daryaee
10:30 a.m.–12:15 p.m.

PANEL 1: Art and Archaeology

A Remote Sensing Perspective on the Sasanian Hydraulic Systems: Reexamining the Irrigation Discourse

  • Mehrnoush Soroush, University of Chicago, Oriental Institute

Central Asiatic Silverware in Sasanian Times: A Reinterpretation of the Freer Bowl

  • Anca Dan, National Centre for Scientific Research
  • Frantz Grenet, Collège de France

A New Contribution to Sasanian Sigillography: The Bullae Collection at the Reza Abbasi Museum, Tehran

  • Negin Miri, Shahid Beheshti University
12:15–1:30 p.m. Break
1:30–3:00 p.m.

PANEL 2: Religion and the Senses

“Theologia Symbolica”: Dream, Allegory, and Imagining the Afterlife in Sasanian Art and Ideology

  • Shervin Farridnejad, University of Hamburg

A Fragrance for Every Woman, Man, and Child: The Smell of the Sasanian Empire

  • Touraj Daryaee, University of California, Irvine

There is Blood on the “Zarbāft” Silk

  • Ani Honarchian, Saint Louis University
3:00–3:15 p.m. Break
3:15–4:00 p.m.


The Sasanian Enigma: Answers and Questions from the Last Half-Century

  • Prudence Harper, Curator Emerita, Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Paper will be read by Antonietta Catanzariti
4:00–5:00 p.m. Tea and Cookies


Freer Gallery of Art, Meyer Auditorium, Washington, DC

10:15–12:10 p.m.

PANEL 3: Looking Out

More than Connected Histories: Sassanid Persia, Rome, and the Caucasus, 364–87 CE

  • Giusto Traina, Sorbonne Université

Sasanian Maritime Trade?

  • Derek Kennet, Durham University (presenter)
  • Seth Priestman, Durham University
  • Rebecca Darley, University of Leeds

Situating Sasanian Art within Art and Archaeological History and within Global Context

  • Matthew P. Canepa, University of California, Irvine

Reviving the Concept of Sasanian Kingdom in the Qajar Rock Reliefs

  • Kianoosh Motaghedi, Iran
1:30–3:00 p.m.

PANEL 4: Sasanian Legacy

The Power of the Royal Image: Sasanian Iconography and Its Legacy

  • Vesta Curtis, British Museum

Transitions in the Visual Culture of Iranshahr: Post-Sasanian Metalwork

  • Judith A. Lerner, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (NYU)

Through the Turanian Lands: Post-Sasanian–Tang Aesthetics of Early Tibetan Material Culture

  • Mariachiara Gasparini, University of Oregon
3:00–3:10 p.m.


  • Touraj Daryaee, Massumeh Farhad, and Antonietta Catanzariti