Francois Desset is a French archaeologist specialising in Near Eastern Archaeology.
Salam everybody ! My name is François Desset. I am a French archaeologist specialising in Near Eastern Archaeology and a research fellow in CNRS team Archéorient .
I got my Ph. D from the Sorbonne in 2011 and have been living in Iran since 2014 where I am teaching Bronze Age archaeology in Tehran University. I have been committed for several years to the archaeological project of the Halil Rud valley (Jiroft) , and currently works on Bronze Age Iran and the undeciphered Iranian writing systems, such as Proto-Elamite , Linear-Elamite or the newly found Geometric writing system.
I worked also in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Russia. I speak fluent Persian and English and I am right now learning to play a traditional Iranian musical instrument, the setar . I am also the head of a non-profit association, EX ORIENTE LUX , funding of archaeological research in the Near East in general, and in Iran in peculiar, by helping specific projects to be realized.
What first sparked your passion for archaeology?
I remember I first got interested in Near Eastern archaeology when I was 17 years old. I read, in a sleepless night, a book trying to prove the veracity of the biblical narrative through material remains. I was then so impressed with the stories about the Sumerians, Elamites, Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians, it was so mysterious, exotic and compelling that I decided to start my initiatory journey to the Ancient Near East and the origins of Civilisation. Of course, if I was reading once again this book today, I would be a bit more sceptical about its content. But the passion remained!
What does archaeology mean to you?
I consider more myself as an orientalist than an archaeologist and am interested in all the aspects of the Near and Middle East. Bronze Age period (ca. 3500 to 1800 BC) in this area is peculiarly interesting, since at that time appeared our current way of life with the most ancient cities, writing systems or States. Of course other innovations cradles are known throughout the World, independent from the Near East, such as China or Central America, but none of them are as ancient as Near East. From a European perspective, all these economic and conceptual innovations appeared in the Near East few millennia before their diffusion in Europe, illustrating how Western civilisation is indebted to the East. The Ancient Near East can be considered as a laboratory, where one may observe and understand our origins.
What is the most interesting experience you have had leading an Andante tour?
During a tour in Uzbekistan, one of our guests, from the US, was playing the mouth organ. We used to make jam session each evening, mixing his mouth organ and my setar. That was quite unexpected and beautiful.
What is your favourite archaeological site?
Many Iranian archaeological sites are really impressive. I am thinking of the Ziggurat of Chogha Zanbil, the Achaemenid necropolis in Naqsh-e Rostam or the Sassanid fire temple of Takht-e Soleiman. Paykend, in Uzbekistan, is really interesting too and its director super friendly.
How many tours have you led for Andante?
I have been guiding tours in Iran and Uzbekistan with Andante since 2017 and I quite enjoy challenging and teasing my Europeans fellows from the other side of the Channel. I consider guiding as a way of teaching, in a casual way, through discussions, visiting impressive wonderful archaeological sites and trying to immerse oneself in the Near Eastern civilisations to understand them from within.
Have you written any books or featured in any TV programs?
I wrote a book on the decipherment of the ancient Iranian writing systems. I am preparing right now another one about the brilliant Bronze Age civilisation of Jiroft.