Michael Shenkar (PhD, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) is a Senior Lecturer in Pre-Islamic Iranian Studies at the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His specialization is the study of civilizations and cultures of the pre-Islamic Iranian world through their material remains and visual representations. His research interests include the archaeology, art, and religions of the pre-Islamic Iran and Central Asia, Zoroastrianism (with a particular focus on religious iconography), the culture of the Iranian nomads, the Sogdian civilization and the "Silk Road".
His publications include a monograph on the ancient Iranian religious iconography (Intangible Spirits and Graven Images: The Iconography of Deities in the Pre-Islamic Iranian World, Brill, Brill 2014) and articles on various aspects of archeology, art, religion and history of pre-Islamic Iran and Central Asia. Since 2014, he has been directing (together with Sharof Kurbanov of the Tajik Academy of Sciences) the excavations of the Sogdian site Sanjar-Shah in northern Tajikistan. The excavations have exposed the remains of a Sogdian town that existed between 5th and 8th centuries CE, prior to the Arab conquest. The most remarkable finds at Sanjar-Shah include numerous fragments of cotton and silk fabrics, leather, woven baskets, a well-preserved child’s cotton shirt, and fragments of three Arabic letters written on paper from the first half of the 8th century, which makes them the earliest preserved Arabic texts written on paper in the world.