Neishabur (Nayshaboor) was first settled in the 3rd century AD by the great Sassanian Shah Shapur I as one of his great fortified trading cities. The place grew rich, in part by mining thick veins of turquoise that wind throughout the hills nearby. By the Seljuk period it was a thriving literary, artistic and academic centre, notable as the birthplace of the 11th-century poet, scholar and polymath Omar Khayyam, but all came crashing down with the Mongol invasions; when the Mongol general leading the siege in 1221 was killed by Neishabur’s defenders, his wife (a daughter of Genghis Khan) demanded the total destruction of the city and the murder of all its inhabitants in bloody revenge. Victims of her fury are still regularly uncovered by local farmers and construction workers, their skeletons left to rot in the ruins of their once glorious city.