St John Simpson

Assistant Keeper, 

Ancient Iran and Arabia

Department: Middle East


Dr Simpson is the senior curator responsible for the pre-Islamic collections from Iran and Arabia in the British Museum. Star items in these collections include the Oxus Treasure, the Cyrus cylinder, Sasanian silver dishes, and antiquities from ancient South Arabia.

He has a D. Phil. on the archaeology of the Sasanian period in Mesopotamia and his main research field is Sasanian material culture. He has excavated extensively in the Middle East and Central Asia, including sites of all periods from prehistoric to recent times.

Current projects

Merv: publication of excavations 1992-2000

Cataloguing Ancient South Arabia

Previous projects

Exhibition: Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World(BM, 2011)

Rahim Irvani Gallery for Ancient Iran (BM, 2007) (BM, 2002)

Exhibition: Queen of Sheba: Treasures from ancient Yemen (BM, 2002)

External fellowships/ honorary positions/ membership of professional bodies

British Foundation for the Study of Arabia: Trustee, joint editor of the monograph series

Recent publications

St J. Simpson, Looted, Recovered, Returned: Antiquities from Afghanistan (Archaeopress Archaeology, Oxford 2014)

St J. Simpson, ‘Rams, stags and crosses from Sasanian Iraq: elements of a shared visual vocabulary from Late Antiquity’,Animals, Gods and Men from East to West. Papers on archaeology and history in honour of Roberta Venco Ricciardi(Peruzzetto, A., Dorna Metzger, F. & Dirven, L., eds), 103–17. Oxford: Archaeopress; BAR International Series 2516, 2013

St J. Simpson, ‘The Cyrus Cylinder: display and replica’, The Cyrus Cylinder (Finkel, I.L., ed.), 69–84. London: I.B. Tauris, 2013

St J. Simpson, ‘Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World. Some recent Contributions by the British Museum to the Appreciation of and Research into Afghan Cultural Heritage’, Orient II (2012): 91–95

St J. Simpson, Afghanistan: A Cultural History (London 2012)

St J. Simpson, The World of Achaemenid Persia: History, Art and Society in Iran and the Ancient Near East (joint editor with J. Curtis) (London 2010)

St J. Simpson, ‘History of rice in Western and Central Asia’. In S. D. Sharma (ed.) Rice: origin, antiquity and history, 308-340, 535-541 (bibliography) (co-author with M. Nesbitt & I. Svanberg). (Enfield, NH 2010)

St J. Simpson, ‘Achaemenid Silver, T.L. Jacks and the Mazanderan Connection’, The World of Achaemenid Persia: History, Art and Society in Iran and the Ancient Near East (J. Curtis & St J. Simpson, eds), 429-442 [co-author with M. R. Cowell & S. La Niece]. (London 2010)

St J. Simpson, ‘Assyrian colours: pigments on a neo-Assyrian relief of a parade horse’, The British Museum Technical Research Bulletin 3 (2009), 57-62 (co-author with G. Verri, P. Collins, J. Ambers, T. Sweek)

St J. Simpson, ‘An unfinished Achaemenid sculpture from Persepolis’, The British Museum Technical Research Bulletin 3 (2009), 83-88 (co-author with T. Sweek).

St J. Simpson, ‘First results on thermally induced porosity in chlorite cooking vessels from Merv (Turkmenistan) and implications for the formation and preservation of archaeological lipid residues’, Journal of Archaeological Science 36 (2009), 2507-2516 (co-author with D. Namdar & R. Stacey)

St J. Simpson, ‘The archaeology of the clay pipe in the Near East’, Al-Rafidan 30 (2009), 67-75

St J. Simpson, ‘The manufacture and decoration of Parthian glazed ‘slipper coffins’ from Warka’, The British Museum Technical Research Bulletin 2 (2008), 29-37 (co-author with A. Middleton & A.P. Simpson)

St J. Simpson, ‘Ancient Merv: archaeological insights into the economy of the city during the Sasanian period (3rd – 7th centuries AD)’, The Turkmen Land as a Centre of Ancient Cultures and Civilizations: Materials of the International scientific conference, 1-3 October 2008, 247-57 (Ashgabat 2008)

St J. Simpson, ‘Late Ottoman pipes from Jerusalem’, Excavations by K.M. Kenyon in Jerusalem 1961-1967, Volume V (Prag, K., ed.), 433-46 (Oxford 2008)

St J. Simpson, ‘Suburb or slum? Excavations at Merv (Turkmenistan) and observations on stratigraphy, refuse and material culture in a Sasanian city’, Recent advances in Sasanian Archaeology and History (eds. D. Kennet & P. Luft), 65-78. Oxford 2008