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New Archaeological Findings in Neyshabur


30 December 2006




LONDON, (CAIS) -- Archaeologists surveying Shadiakh (šādīyāx) and ancient Neyshabur Castle discovered the first "Lion and Sun" national emblem at the ancient site, director of the castle’s research base said. 


As reported by Persian service of ILNA, presenting a report on field excavations at local ancient sites, Rajabali Labbaf-Khaniki recalled that the castle built by the most skilful craftsmen of the time had caught fire due to unknown reasons following the Mogul invasion. Even the doors were burnt in fire, the official added.

“Archeologists discovered 10,000 nails and hinges at the site; many of them were ornamental and made of silver.“

Labbaf-Khaniki noted that the operations also led to the discovery of large kilns. “Over 3,200 glass beads and pendants were retrieved from one of the kilns, suggesting it was used to make ornaments and bric-a-brac.“

The discovery of workshops for grape-juice extraction and glass making point out to wine-production in the ancient Sahdiakh. “This is the earliest historic evidence that Iranians made glass panes, which were used in mansions and castles to direct the sunlight into the monument.

Labbaf-Khaniki is of the opinion that the ancients who settled in Shadiakh had a rich culture and civilization. Inspired by ancient Iranian art, Shadiakh artists made skillfully-designed works, the expert concluded.


The city of Neyshabur (nәyšābūr) derived its name from its reputed founder, the Sassanian Emperor Shapur I (nōgšāpūr - New Shapur), who is said to have established it in the 3rd century CE. The city rose to prominence in early post-Sasanian times as capital of the Tahirids in the 9th century. The city was at the height of its prosperity and importance under the Samanid dynasty in the 10th century. Despite the sacking and several earthquakes the city continued to function until 1221 when it was sacked by the Mongols.




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Artaxerxes II before Zoroastrian deity Anahita riding the Lion, so far  the oldest Lion and Sun insignia ever discovered


4th C. Sasanian Bowl Anahita sitting on a Lion BM-WM.PNG (2159645 bytes)

4th century Sasanian silver bowl with high-relief decoration showing deity Anahita sitting on a lion and holding sun in her right hand.


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A 13th century tile with lion and Sun motif

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pre 1979 Lion and Sun Emblem 

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 The New Lion and Sun Emblem with straight sword is used by Nationalist Iranians since 1980s who are not endorsing Iran as an Islamic state

(Click to enlarge)


The Lion and Sun Motif


Edited by Shapour Suren-Pahlav


The best-known symbol of Iran has been the lion and sun motif, which has a long history in Iranian civilisation. The sun rising over the back of the lion or, astrologically, in back of the lion, has always been considered symbolic of power and kingship in Ianian culture. 


It is difficult to get precise historical data, but the oldest surviving Lion and Sun emblem in its' early form, date back to the reign of King Artaxerxes II (436-358 BCE). The Achaemenid seal depicting king Artaxerxes (a Mithraist), honouring Goddess Anahita who is riding on a lion and sun is rising from the lion's back. 


The lion motif dates from ancient times in Iran, and is found on innumerable objects of daily use such as seals, vessels, horse equipment, and weapons and in the decoration of palaces, tombs, and temples as far back as the 3rd millennium BCE. Lion has been one of the most persistent iconography in Iranian art and religion, albeit with changing connotations. 


Since the ancient times lion motif has a long tradition in political iconography and has always been used for the glorification of imperial power with well-known occurrences in artistic enterprises related to strong monarchic territorial structures in Iran; In literature, art, stories, and the social-life of the Iranians, lions have always been the symbol of power, courage and greatness. Iranian Kings and noblemen have demonstrated their greatness and glory through illustrations of lions on coins and swords.


In ancient Iranian religion of Mithraism, lion was connected to the sun and to fire and was perceived as a moral cleansing and purifying force, and it was the Sun God Mithra's "totem" animal, just as in the Greco-Roman culture Athena's animal was the owl and Artemis' animal was the deer.


Ferdowsi the greatest of the Persian epic poet whose Book of Kings (1010) recounts the history of ancient Iran mentions that the lion was the insignia used by Rostam, the legendary national hero of Iran.


From 10th century onwards, the emblem (with an added sword) remained the official symbol of Iran until 1979 revolution, when Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, who was opposing to the concept of the Iranian-nationalism and anything Iranian, ordered the ban and removal of the "Lion & Sun" from public life and government organisations. 


Although, since 1979 extensive governmental efforts and repressive actions were made to demonise the "Lion & Sun" emblem in order to minimize the feelings of nationalism amongst the Iranians, as well as have the successive generations accept the Islamic Republic's "Allah" emblem, but the Lion and Sun still considered by majority of Iranians (apart from the Islamic fundamentalists and the communists) as the sole symbol of the nation.




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