Dating of Three Sasanian Bowls from the National Museum of Iran

An X-Ray Fluorescence and Spectroscopic Analysis


  • Daryoosh Akbarzadeh Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism
  • Shiba Khadir Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism



Sasanian silver bowls, National Museum of Iran, XRF, spectroscopy


Three Sasanian Silver Bowls at the National Museum of Iran, known collectively as the “dancer-musician scenes,” have been considered as one of the museum’s most iconic works for the past 70 years. Only bowl No. 1 has been examined by numerous Western and Iranian scholars. Based on the catalog of the exhibition “7000 Years of Iranian Art Exhibition” in Vienna (2001-2002), these dishes have been tentatively dated to 8-9th centuries CE. All subsequent exhibitions have followed the same pattern. In addition, the dark heart-shaped decorations on two dishes have been called minā (enameling) in most of the previous publications. The importance of these three bowls (and also the famous Sasanian silver cup) has been the main reason for their selection for technical analysis, X-Ray fluorescence (XRF), and spectroscopy. However, a well-known Sasanian cup (called also “a silver musician-dancer” piece) was only subjected to a semi-quantitative investigation using XRF analysis. The XRF has been extremely helpful in determining a more exact dating for the three bowls indicated above, but it has also raised serious concerns about the dark heartshaped embellishments. Moreover, the dating of the artifacts has been called into doubt by an XRF study of Arabo-Sasanian coins (early Islamic periods) and a comparison of the metal compounds of these objects with those of the three dishes. Additionally, the authors of the present article have proposed niello for the dark ornamentation on the bowls based on these two technical evaluations. Indeed, spectroscopy was not able to answer the main question about the heart-shaped decorations on bowls No. 1 & No. 2, but it has opened a new venue to challenge the term minā, which was widely used in printed works. However, these two chemical analyses expose the possibility that the items may have been created in a workshop of the same artist (or a group of artists).

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How to Cite

Akbarzadeh, Daryoosh, and Shiba Khadir. 2023. “Dating of Three Sasanian Bowls from the National Museum of Iran: An X-Ray Fluorescence and Spectroscopic Analysis”. Studies in Ancient Art and Civilisation 27 (December):201-20.