Archaeological findings in Iran have traced the record of human settlement in prehistoric time to the Neolithic age when human beings started to gather and to store food and later to the age of agriculture.
Iran’s history remains visible in the country’s many intriguing and important archaeological sites, its ancient and historical monuments, and its cities, which possess some of the world’s most magnificent examples of Islamic art and architecture.
Earthenware that has been found dating back 10,000 Years indicates that people living in the area at the time had already invented the craft of pottery. Objects found in Chogha Mish in Khuzestan Province indicate that about 8,000 years ago, people in Iran could already navigated and produced textiles. In Sialk, near Kashan, remnants of buildings have been discovered dating back to 5,000 years, which display remarkable architecture.
At that time, Iranians were already producing copper and using copper objects. During the 3rd millennium BC, Aryans migrated to Iran and soon developed writing and signs. Architecture made great progress, and Iranians became familiar with brass. In the 2nd millennium BC, iron was produced in this region, and circa 1250 BC, glass was used in the building of Chogha Zanbil, not far from Susa in Khuzestan region of southwestern Iran.
In the 1st millennium BC, Iranians made great progress in architecture and town planning, as well as building dams, roads and irrigation systems including Qanats (underground construction for channeling and reserving waters).
The Achaemenian era was the zenith of ancient Iranian civilization as illustrated by the splendor of Susa and Persepolis (Takht-e Jamshid). Stone work and stone carving became very popular and continued through the outstanding period of Iranian history and architecture, which began with the era of the Sassanids in the 3rd century AD.
During the 400 hundred years of Sassanid rule over Iran, colossal bridges were built, a few of which remain and are used today. Dam building was very common in this era, as well as the construction of splendid palaces and cities.
Most of the archaeological sites and objects that (a still be seen in Iran remained from this period. Taq-e-Bostan in Kermanshah, Bishapur Palace, and Firouz Abad Palace are a few examples of innovative monumental architecture from Sassanid Iran. After the emergence of Islam, the development of art and architecture continued among the Iranian people.
They expressed their dependence and love to their faith and culture through building magnificent mosques and sacred shrines, madrassas (traditional Islamic academies) and mausoleums of prominent personalities. The Mongol and Timurid invasions were catastrophes that disrupted the cultural and academic progress. However, the successors of these conquerors tried to amend the damages, and Iranian culture witnessed its revival again.
The Soltaniyeh Dome from the Ilkhanid and the Shrine of Imam Reza and Gawhar Shad Mosque in Mashhad are distinguished examples of Iranian Islamic architecture in those eras.
The Safavid era was a period for the revival of arts and crafts. Ornamental arts, architecture, carpet weaving and etc. made stunning progress. Many of Isfahan’s surviving architectural master-pieces were also built in this era; such globally renowned monuments as the Imam and Lotfullah Mosques, Khaju and Allahverdikhan Bridges, the Alighapu Palace etc, are the reminders of this golden age of arts and crafts.
It was during the Safavid era that the first political contacts with western countries were made, and the western influence gradually appeared in the face of Iranian art and architecture. The process of industrialization had resulted in a growing middle class, which sought a modern rather than traditional life.
The middle class urban areas required a whole required a whole new stock of buildings, from dwellings to social institutions. Industrialization brought about the manufacture and importation of all types of building materials and techniques, and it provided the economic mechanism to finance large amounts of construction. These were the practical conditions that prevailed and supplied the ingredients for a productive aesthetic condition.