Swiss ambassador visits National Museum of Iran, discusses ways to expand ties

January 27, 2021 - 22:15

TEHRAN – On Tuesday, Swiss Ambassador to Tehran Markus Leitner paid a visit to the National Museum of Iran, discussing ways to broaden cultural ties in a meeting with authorities of the museum.   

National Museum of Iran Director Jebrael Nokandeh briefly introduced the envoy to the history of the museum and its activities at the domestic and international levels.

“We are interested to expand our relations with the museums of Switzerland, and we have a long history of relations such as temporary exhibitions, of which the most notable was Seven Thousand Years of Iranian Art,” Nokandeh said.

He further express thanks to Switzerland for its cooperation in returning the glazed bricks of Qalaichi, an Iron-Age period archaeological site near Bukan, northwest Iran.

“Qalaichi glazed bricks date to 900 to 700 BC and belong to Manna culture and they are an important part of Iran's history.”

The National Museum is set to hold an exhibition entitled “Glazed Bricks of Qalaichi” in near future, he added.

Re-appreciating the efforts made by the Swiss ambassador in returning this important collection, he called for the continuation of these humanitarian cultural efforts.

Leitner, for his part, congratulated the reopening of the museums following the closure due to the coronavirus pandemic and announced the return of the Qalaichi bricks as a source of pride and satisfaction for his country.

“This event is very important and satisfactory for me and my country…. because we believe that the preservation of historical and cultural objects and monuments are extremely important and there is no place for smuggling of cultural heritage objects in Switzerland,” the envoy said.

The ambassador expressed his satisfaction with the holding of the exhibition of the Qalaichi bricks and said: “It is a good opportunity for people to visit this great cultural achievement and the Swiss Embassy in Tehran will support the holding of this important event.”

Leitner also welcomed the proposal to expand the cooperation between Iranian and Switzerland museums and strongly emphasized: “We value the role of museums in ensuring world peace and the Swiss embassy will make special efforts to provide the necessary conditions for developing relations and cooperation between museums of the two countries.”

He said that he is willing to continue his activities to return the looted Iranian historical and cultural works to the country: "We are fully prepared, and we do our best to identify and return similar cases to the Qalaichi collection."

Last December, a total of 49 works of ancient art that had been looted and smuggled out of Iran some four decades ago were returned home with the aid of Swiss officials. 

Situated about nine air km north-west of Bukan in West Azarbaijan province, Qalaichi (or Ghalay-chi) is an ancient settlement so far yielded a large number of glazed objects. Some of which are monochrome and the others show complex compositions. The glazed objects from the regular excavations were curated in the Urmia Museum and the National Museum of Iran.

The artifacts are connected to the Mannai civilization, which was once flourished in northwestern Iran in the 1st millennium BC. Mannai, also spelled Manna, was an ancient country surrounded by three major powers of the time namely Assyria, Urartu, and Media.

The Mannaeans are first recorded in the annals of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (reigned 858–824 BC) and are last mentioned in Urartu by Rusa II (reigned 685–645 BC) and in Assyria by Esarhaddon (reigned 680–669 BC). With the intrusion of the Scythians and the rise of the Medes in the 7th century, the Manneans lost their identity and were subsumed under the term Medes.


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