I like Hamadan. Once the main settlement of the Medians, it is now a large town that also happens to be the world’s French fries capital. I’ve been there five times now and I really came to love the museum. Consisting of two large rooms and a corridor, it is admittedly small, but Mrs Khoshmu’s team manage to have always something new to present.
The excavation near the museum is a classical example of contradictory evidence. Our written sources refer to a city with seven walls of increasing height, but archaeologists have, so far, found nothing. Maximalists will say that we will have to dig deeper or on other places, minimalists will argue that we need to read our sources differently – for example by taking the description of the seven walls as a story about a ziggurat or a fairy-tale motif. I do not know which is the more prudent way to proceed.
What I do know, on the other hand, is that so far, most excavated objects belong to the Parthian and Sasanian age. This led the late Mr Azarnoosh, one of the archaeologists, to conclude that he was excavating a town that was founded by the Parthians, but since this does not fit well with the sources, investigation has been renewed last summer. The aim is to test Azarnoosh’s interpretation: was this really a Parthian foundation? If this turns out to be the case, we will have to look elsewhere for the Achaemenid palace that is known from written sources and stray finds. The Median residence will be even harder to find, because the Medians appear essentially to have remained nomadic pastoralists.
Hamadan is also the town where the philosopher-physician Avicenna (or Ibn Sina, or Bu Ali) lies buried in a splendid mausoleum. (I have often wondered why the Dutch never built something similar for doctor Boerhave.) During my visit, I benefitted from Avicenna’s insights, because I was suffering from a nasty cough, and one of my companions bought the herbs which the Iranian physician had prescribed in this case. The mix, in which I recognized chamomile, worked well: drinking Avicenna’s elixir, I was cured in two days. So, I can claim without exaggeration to have been cured by the great physician.