Saturday, March 14, 2009

Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat--in Jerusalem!

Exactly during the week of Purim (whose story takes place in the Persian Empire) we in Israel were treated to some [this time] good news items about our current Iranian connection.
First, the opening of a 24/7 radio station in the Persian language. Amir Shai, the station's manager, said, "The Persian radio is composed of Israelis like us that speak the language and would like to preserve our heritage, and give PR to the outside world, beyond Israel."
Their Ynet article about it is here, and the Radis IN website is here.

AND the Israel Antiquities Authority announced the discovery in Jerusalem of a rare inscription on 12th or 13th century pottery: part of Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat!
The whole story from the IAA website is copied below.

Finally, thanks to all of you who wrote good comments on my posts of March 3rd and 4th about gas masks and the first Gulf War. You may have missed the comments which came in later. I urge you to read the contribution by Meead, an Iranian blogger, who tells of his memories as a young boy in the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war. Please click here for his story.
UPDATE! -- Meead has just posted his own translation of the love poem written on the old jug. It is much better than the one below. He also shows us pages of art and calligraphy in his own sumptuous copy of the Rubaiyat. Don't miss it at his Portland Daily Photo blog!
Photo by Clara Amit
A press release from the Press Office of the Israel Antiquities Authority:
A Persian Love Poem (9/3/2009)

A jug inscribed with a Persian love poem was discovered in excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Old City of Jerusalem

A fragment of a pottery vessel of Persian provenance that dates to the Middle Ages (12th-13th centuries CE) was discovered in an archaeological excavation directed by Dr. Rina Avner, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in the Old City of Jerusalem, prior to construction by a private contractor.
The fragment is treated with a turquoise glaze and is adorned with floral patterns and a black inscription. While studying the artifact prior to publication, Rivka Cohen-Amin of the Israel Antiquities Authority discerned that the inscription on the neck of the vessel is written in Persian. The inscription consists of a line that was taken from a quatrain. The inscription, which was translated by Dr. Julia Rabanovich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, reads: “Was once the embrace of a lover that entreat”.
The inscription will be published by Dr. Nitsan Amitai-Preiss of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, within the framework of the final excavation report.
According to Rivka Cohen-Amin the words are from the Rubaiyat, by the poet Omar Khayyam. Omar Khayyam was an astronomer, mathematician and one of the most famous Persian poets of the Middle Ages (11th-12th centuries CE).
The following is the complete translation of the poem:
Rubaiyat, by Omar Khayyam
این کوزه چو من عاشق زاری بوده است
This clay pot like a lover once in heat
در بند سر زلف نگاری بوده‌ست
A lock of hair his senses did defeat
ایندسته که بر گردن او می‌بینی
The handle that has made the bottleneck its own seat

دستی‌ست که برگردن یاری بوده‌ست
Was once the embrace of a lover that entreat

The phenomenon of a Persian pottery vessel inscribed with a poem is known elsewhere in the world; however, this is the first occurrence of such a vessel in Israel.
The question of how the vessel came to be in Jerusalem is a mystery – was it brought here by merchants or could it possibly have been a gift someone presented to his Jerusalemite lover?


Maria said...

Hi Dina, please come over to my place, there's an award waiting for you!

GreensboroDailyPhoto said...

Dina, your posts are always so educational. Thank you for your virtual visit to Greensboro and our Greek Orthodox church door post. We try to post a religious picture on Saturday and/or Sunday and are trying to showcase the many denominations in our city!

Pat - Arkansas said...

What an exciting discovery! An historical fiction writer could have a lovely time constructing a plot around such a find.

Meead S. said...

Thank you so much for this interesting post. It's quite exciting!

Yes! The inscription written on that vessel is a famouse Persian poem. I can read it clearly. The translation published in the papers seems to be alright. I can translate it in my own words (not very rhythmic):

This pot was probably a hot lover like me who was so excited by a lock of hair of his/her love.

The handle on the neck of the pot
looks like a hand of a lover around the neck of his/her love.

Isn't this poem fabulous? It shares a very romantic feeling. Lucky you guys there having this beautiful vessel with this more beautiful poem.

Tomb of Omar Khayyam is located somewhere close to my hometown, in a small city called 'Neyshabur'. This small city is wonderful. They have had lots of poets, artists and scientists during their long history. Look at this wikipedia page, you may see the tomb of Omar Khayyam there with its unique design. Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat is one of those few books that I've brought with myself to the U.S.

Kay said...

That is certainly an intriguing shard of pottery. I guess we'll never know how it got to Israel.

Dina ... UK said...

I love archaeology.....
The detail and colour's amaze me, they had very skilled people working with the bare essentials...amazing...

Petrea said...

I love your archaeological posts! This is especially thrilling. And Meead, your input is delightful.

Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat is one of the most famous poems in the world. I have never read it! Now I must do so, after I go see Meead's post.

Indrani said...

We had some poems of this great poet in our school days, I vaguely remember translating few stanzas. Great post!

Sara said...

Oh, My God!
This is Great Dina!
The translation of the poet is correct.
As Meead said, the tomb of Khayyam is in a small town near our city Mashhad, I promise to take photo from there as soon as possible ;)

Cloudia said...

One of my favorite childhood poets, Dina. A wonderous post!

Jeannette St.G. said...

How accidental - my Scribble and Doodle window of this last week was about my painting The Potter, and potsherds found that became evidence that led to Israel becoming a country in 1948.

spacedlaw said...

That's a lovely fragment. I wish we could see it in all its former glory.

Catherine said...

What is pleasant about this discovery is that nothing is absolutely certain, every one can extrapolate about why is this pottery arrived in Israel so long ago ?
Thanks to make us read Meead's memories of the conflict Iran/Iraq. It was very touching.

Anonymous said...

What a nice discovery this was. I wish I could write poetry. Sometimes I find something to read where the play on words are just mesmerizing. I will go read Meead S now.

JM said...

Dina, this is such a wonderful post with so much interesting information! Glad you've mentiond Meead's comment, I've just read it and I find it quite moving. Thank you!

Petrea said...

I think between Dina and Meead, peace will be achieved. Let's help them lead the way. Much love to both of you.

Petrea said...

Sara too!

GreensboroDailyPhoto said...


Regarding the orthodox church and the iconostasis.......

We don't have a picture of the iconostasis.... yet. We are working on it. When we were on the photo shoot for today's picture, church was actually in session and we didn't want to barge in. Since it isn't our church, we're trying to get permission! The iconostasis is our goal, however. Most people in our town have no idea what that is. They need to see one!

JC said...

Beautiful. Thanks for sharing it.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I find bits of pottery in my own yard when I'm digging in the garden but nothing this old, or large.

Robin said...

How exciting!

My grandmother gave me a wonderful edition of the Rubaiyat, complete with beautiful illustrations, for my Bat Mitzvah. It was a volume originally given to her decades earlier and is one of my most prized possessions.