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In the late 19th and early 20th century, the site was excavated unscientifically by Western archeologists and local dealers, mostly to search for precious objects; a large proportion of the finds found their way to the black market. At present several museums conserve some specimens from Ray belonging to this antiquarian surge.

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Nishapur (Nišāpur) was, with Balḵ, Marv and Herat, one of the four great cities of the province of Khorasan. It flourished in Sasanid and early Islamic times, but after the devastations of the Mongol invasions of the 13th century, subsided into a more modest role until it revived in the 20th century.