John Curtis

Keeper of the Middle East collections, with special interests in Iraq and Iran

Department: Middle East


+44 (0)20 7323 8313

John Curtis was appointed a Research Assistant in the Department of Western Asiatic Antiquities (now Middle East) in 1971, becoming Assistant Keeper in 1974 and Keeper in 1989.

He is mainly interested in the archaeology and history of Iraq and Iran circa 1000-330 BC. Between 1983 and 1989 he directed excavations on behalf of the British Museum at eight different sites in Iraq, including Nimrud and Balawat.

Since becoming Keeper he has overseen the installation of six new permanent galleries at the British Museum. He has also curated the traveling exhibition Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum that has been sent to nine venues worldwide, and the special exhibition Forgotten Empire: the World of Ancient Persia at the British Museum September 2005-June 2006, that attracted 155,000 visitors.

Current projects

The Nimrud bowls

External fellowships/ honorary positions/ membership of professional bodies

Member of Governing Council of British School of Archaeology in Iraq

Trustee of Ancient Persia Fund

Member of Editorial Board of Iranica Antiqua

Elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries 1984

Elected Fellow of the British Academy 2003

The 2005 Iran Heritage Foundation Award for outstanding contributions to the promotion and preservation of the heritage and culture of Iran

Awarded OBE 2006 “for services to museums”

Recent publications

J. Curtis, Forgotten Empire: the World of Ancient Persia, with N. Tallis, (British Museum Press 2005)

J. Curtis, Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum, with J.E. Reade, (British Museum Press 2005)

J. Curtis “The Oxus Treasure in the British Museum”, in Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia, 10 (2004), pp. 293- 338

J. Curtis, Ancient Caucasian and Related Material in the British Museum, with M. Kruszynski, British Museum Occasional Paper no.121 (British Museum 2002)

J. Curtis, Ancient Persia (British Museum Publications 2000)