ART IN IRAN
i. NEOLITHIC TO MEDIAN
Geography as a determinant for the development of art. Topographically Iran is a varied country and its art is regionally diversified. This variation in the artistic products from different areas of the country sets off the art of Iran as a whole from that of countries in which greater uniformity can be observed, such as Mesopotamia where major differences exist only between north and south. The artistic provinces of Iran do not remain constant, however. In the earliest periods, when art, insofar as it is preserved, consisted of clay figurines, painted pottery, and engraved stamp seals, the principal areas of its production can be enumerated as follows:
1. South and southwest Iran, the modern provinces of Fārs and Ḵūzestān with the Susiana, the area around Susa, artistically the most significant.
2. Central west Iran, the modern provinces of Luristan (Lorestān) and Kermānšāh, where the sites of Tepe Giyan (Gīān) and Godīn Tepe yielded the longest sequences. 3. Northwest Iran, the provinces of Azerbaijan and Kurdistan, where the sites of the Ḥasanlū project have provided most of the available information.
4. The area southeast of the Caspian Sea, and the adjacent regions of Gurgan (Gorgān, Jorǰān), and Khorasan where the most important sites are Tepe Hissar (Ḥeṣār) and Tureng Tepe, closely related to the Namazga (Namāzgāh) sequence and other sites in Turkmenistan of the USSR.
5. Central south Iran, mainly modern Fārs with the prehistoric site of Tell Bākūn close to where Persepolis was to rise several millennia later. In the same general area the all-important site of Tell Malyān was discovered, which later texts serve to identify with Anshan, which vied with Susa for being the most significant site of Elam.
6. Southeast Iran, the modern province of Kermān, Sīstān, and Balūčestān with the sites of Tell Elbīs, Tepe Yaḥyā, Bampūr, and Šahr-e Soḵta.
Dependence of the chronology of art on archeology. From the listing of archeological sites it is obvious that the study of the art of Iran depends for criteria of geographical origin and date on the results of excavation. This is also true for the historical periods. Only very few works of art, found with one or two exceptions at Susa or neighboring Čoḡā Zanbīl, can be dated on the basis of their inscriptions. Most of the dates which will be cited in this survey are therefore approximations based on the stratigraphyç of sites where objects, which are related to those selected here as significant for the study of art, were found. Unfortunately, several of these objects come from unknown or insufficiently recorded excavations.
Iconographical motifs as links between regions and periods. The links which connect works of art made in various periods and regions of Iran are all iconographic. Of these the representation of animals is the most distinctive. Studies of early food production (F. Hole and K. V. Flannery, Proceedings of the Prehistorical Society 33, 1976, pp. 147-206), have shown that man in Iran had a remarkable talent for the domestication of different species of horned animals. This implies a feeling for and understanding of the psyche of animals such as was expressed in animal representations throughout Iranian art, from the clay figurines of the seventh to the fourth millennium B.C. to the elegant rams and bucks of the Sasanian silver plates.
Another important element of the art of Iran is the presence of composite beings. One type, here called demon, is a combination of man and animal walking on two legs. An example is the demon with the head of a mountain goat or a moufflon (Figure 26d). That type of creature was especially long lived, lasting from early stamps of Luristan (P. Amiet, Revue du Louvre, 1973, pp. 215-24 passim) to the stele of Untash-Napirisha (Figure 26k) and to a Sasanian stamp seal (unpublished, Moussa collection, impression in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York).
The second type, called here monsters, consists of creatures composed of several animals walking on four legs. The most important of these for the history of art in general is the griffin with the foreparts and wings of a bird of prey and the rest of the body that of lion. The griffin was one of several monsters created in the earliest phase of cylinder seal engraving (see Fig. 26f).
Serpents with feline heads are another type of monsters which had a long life in the art of Iran; the earliest clearly recognizable creatures of this type are found on carved vessels of chlorite or steatite, especially a vase in the British Museum said to have come from Ḵafaǰa (Plate X, 7; E. Sollberger, Syria 52, 1975, pl. X). Moreover, serpents with or without feline heads were widespread in Iranian art, probably because their undulating bodies were equated with the winding courses of streams of life-giving water. Representations may show the entire body of the serpent in monumental size, as in an offering table from Susa (P. Amiet, Elam, Auvers-sur-Oise, 1966, p. 383, fig. 291 ), or in very small size, as in the diadem of the archer on the Ḥasanlū bowl (Figure 27).
Other iconographic use of animals seems to have been limited in time and space; for example, leonine, bovine, or other horned creatures acting like humans (Plate X, 5) are portrayed in small sculptures of the period called by Amiet paléo-élamite (Elam, pp. 93ff) or protourban (Arts Asiatiques 26, 1973, pp. 3-45, esp. 7f.) and appear to correspond to the Jamdat Nasr phase of Mesopotamian art. Cylinder seals of what is here traditionally called proto-Elamite style, showing animals acting like humans (Figure 26g) may be slightly later. Mesopotamian representations of animals acting like humans as on the sound box of a harp from Ur, may have to be traced to influence from such proto-Elamite representations (Amiet, Glyptique mésopotamienne archaïque, Paris, 1961, p. 158).
The relatively frequent representation of women is also distinctive of the art of Iran. This applies not only to the small clay figurines of the Neolithic age (see the examples from Iran, Propyläen Kunstgeschichte XIII, 1974, pl. 47) which are found from Asia to Europe and which survived as a popular type of ritual or magical object in various contexts of later periods, but to such representations as kneeling female votaries in alabaster of about 3000 B.C. (Plate X, 3) or to standing figures of glazed faience of the middle and late second millennium B.C. from Susa and Čoḡā Zanbīl (Amiet, Elam, p. 361, fig. 268, and Porada, Propyläen Kunstgeschichte XIV, 1975, pl. 288.)
Variety of styles. In contrast to the iconographic motifs, some of which are found in widely different areas and periods but which demonstrate a measure of coherence in religious or magical concepts, the style of a work of art, that is, the manner and expression by which an iconographical motif is represented, varies strikingly from region to region and from period to period. This creates great difficulties for the chronological and geographical classification of objects, especially of those which do not come from controlled excavations.
The art of the early village cultures, eighth to fourth millennium B.C. Of the extant objects produced by the art of the early village cultures: clay figurines, painted pottery and stamp seals, the clay figurines of females found in levels of the seventh and sixth millennia B.C. show the great variety in style mentioned above. The examples from Tepe Sarāb, however, manifest a feature which is characteristic of some of the artistic production in Iran in several periods and regions: the figures are not made in one piece but are fitted together from several parts.
Clay figures of animals in this early period are simpler than those of humans, but a small boar from Tepe Sarāb (Figure 26a, Porada, Art of Ancient Iran, New York, 1965, p. 20) is a very expressive creature with its large head, small eyes, and curved back and legs extended in a posture of speedy movement. Incisions on the body may indicate wounds. Later cuneiform texts of Mesopotamia indicate that sympathetic magic played a great role in magical procedures; thus, use of pictorial incisions to indicate the effects of a successful huntsman’s spear may have been intended to work magic for a future hunt. Such use of magic would explain the intensity of expression in many early sculptures.
With the beginning of pottery painting in Iran in the seventh millennium B.C. one can discern certain stylistic phases, although no one sequence established on the basis of a single site can be applied to the artistic development of the country as a whole because of the regional differentiation mentioned before. Nevertheless, the basic stylistic observations made by R. Ghirshman in reference to the early pottery of Tepe Sialk (Fouilles de Sialk I, Paris, 1938, pp. 74ff.) can still be maintained. In the seventh and sixth millennia B.C. linear patterns, partly derived from basket weaving—parallel lines, often zigzags or lozenges—served as the basic elements of design on bowls of various shapes and sizes (P. Mortensen, “A Survey of Prehistoric Settlements in Northern Luristan,” Acta Archaeologica 45, 1974, p.23, fig. 23 [here Figure 26b]). Some early patterns were also derived from the imitation of veined stone vessels (L. S. and R. J. Braidwood et al., Prehistoric Archaeology along the Zagros Flanks, Chicago, 1983, fig. 105).
Gradually, the potentialities of painting on pottery were more fully explored. Thick bands of paint were juxtaposed with lighter patterns of thinner lines. The full development of pottery was reached in the early fourth millennium B.C. but only the finest painted potteries will be characterized here: those of Susa (Plate X, 1; Mémoires de la Délégation française en Perse [MDFP] 13, 1912, pl. I, 4) and Tell Bākūn (Plate X, 2; A. Langsdorff and D. E. McCown, Tall-i Bakun A, Chicago, 1942, pls. 4:2, 62:8). The pottery found at Susa, a ware also excavated and recorded with modern precision at Jaʿfarābād, owes its pleasing quality in large part to the organization of the decoration in bands whose width was judiciously chosen in relation to the size and shape of the vessel. There was also a balance between thick and thin lines, a thin one often accompanying a thick one. Geometric patterns are usually composed of straight or only slightly curved lines, while impressively sweeping curves are often shown in the horns of animals, the same degree of curvature being retained within the animal form (see the great bucks in the goblet from Susa in Plate X, 1 ). Thus the animal and its frame are clearly separated. Such a juxtaposition of animate with inanimate forms adds interest to the designs from Susa.
The pottery of two sites in Fārs, Tell Bākūn and neighboring Tell Noḵodī (McCown and Langsdorff, ibid., and Clare Goff, “Excavations at Tall-i-Nokhodi,” Iran 1, 1963, pp. 43-70) is related to that of Susa and other sites of the Susiana by shape and design. Variations from the scheme employed in the Susiana, however, are distinctive. In the Susiana, geometric patterns on the outside of goblets and bowls are dominated by a vertical axis and horizontal friezes. Variations in these orthogonal arrangements are introduced by forms of animals or birds. In the pottery designs of Fārs, however, wide bands of pattern are frequently dominated by diagonal lines which create a sense of rapid progression around the vessel. Furthermore, the patterns are often heavier than those of the Susiana, especially those with the frog-like forms (Plate X, 2), or they are wider; in short, the sophisticated balance observed at Susa is lacking here. Lastly, the patterns of Fārs have elements approximating denticulation which may link these patterns with those potteries found further to the east, all the way to Turkmenistan and northwest India(V. M. Masson, Srednyaya Azia i drevniĭ Vostok, Moscow, 1964, p. 149, fig. 25, Gioksiour, and S. Piggot, Prehistoric India, Penguin Books, 1950 p.74, fig. 3). The pottery of Tell Bākūn, however, is far more varied and therefore more interesting than that of any of the more eastern sites.
Stamp seals paralleled in their decoration the development observed in painted pottery. From about 4500 to 3500 B.C. and even later, the majority are shaped like buttons or low hemispheroids, that is, with a plain raised back and a circular or oval base which served as a sealing surface. The earliest such seals have linear geometric designs carved on the base. These are often surprisingly similar to those seen at the same early period, the sixth millennium B.C., in the sites of northern Mesopotamia or north Syria, hundreds of miles to the west, suggesting some form of exchange and connection across the northern trade routes from Iran to Syria.
In the late fifth and early fourth millennia B.C. many seal designs were based on the cross which divides the sealing surface into four quadrants, each filled by chevrons or by parallel lines in rows slanting in alternating directions, as in examples excavated at Seh Ḡābī (Archaeology 27/4, 1974, p. 276) and the numerous seals from Susa of this type (Amiet, Glyptique susienne II, pls. 38, 39, 42, 43). Most of the seals from sites in Fārs have an elaborately shaped sealing surface decorated with attractively grouped, deeply cut incisions, often forming designs based on a cross or triangle (Langsdorff and McCown, Tall-i Bakun, pl. 81: figs. 16-33, pl. 82: figs. 1-14 and Iran 1, 1963, fig. 7:4 p. 49 from Tell-e Noḵodī).
Gradually animal figures, mostly horned, appeared in the seal designs of western Iran but those of eastern sites like Tepe Ḥeṣār continued geometric patterns. Iconographically most interesting are those seals which have a semi-human figure with the head of a goat or moufflon, holding, or restraining, or perhaps being menaced by one or two serpents (R. D. Barnett, Syria 43, 1966, pp. 259-76, and P. Amiet, Revue du Louvre, 1973, pp. 218-22). The subject was especially favored in Luristan, from which the examples illustrated by Amiet are said to come, but recent excavations at Susa have yielded such a goat demon on a sealing found in level 25, equated by Amiet with level Ba of Le Breton (CDAFI 1, 1971, fig.35:2 and p. 219; and here, Figure 26d).
The art of the emerging urban development, late fourth to early third millennium B.C. The period of early urban development covers the Mesopotamian phases of protohistoric art (Late Uruk and Jamdat Nasr phases) and the First Early Dynastic period. In terms of the recent excavations on the Acropolis of Susa this period comprises levels 18-14B (A. Le Brun, “Suse, Chantier "Acropole I",” Paléorient 4, 1978, pp. 177-92.) In both Iran and Mesopotamia the history of art of this period is based on impressions of cylinder seals which came into use at that time to be rolled over clay lumps marking jars or round balls enclosing counting devices or, somewhat later, tablets inscribed with numerals and, at a still later stage, tablets bearing texts. Very few original cylinders belonging to the earlier part of this period have been found. In what seems to have been the first style of cylinder seals the figures were hollowed out with a bow drill. The deep, round cavities produced by that instrument created a massive relief in the clay impressions of the cylinders. An original of this type, made of gypsum, was found at Uruk in the clay fill of the Anu Ziggurat between levels C and D-E (8. Uruk Vorbericht APAW 13, 1936, pl. 49, W. 16658). The massive relief style of the figures is now recognized as being not of the Jamdat Nasr period, as was first thought, but probably of a date before Uruk Eanna IV b (Amiet, Glyptique susienne 1, pp. 69-70). At Susa figurines in the style of such massive relief comprise an extraordinarily rich repertory of animals, monsters, and occasionally humans (see especially Amiet, Glyptique susienne II, nos. 463-70, 579-84, 594-98, etc; here an example in Figure 26e; Amiet, ibid., no. 582).
Well-proportioned, carefully executed small figures constituting a new style appear to have developed from the first style, although this sequence can not be precisely documented. The subjects represented at Susa, craftsmen at work—for example weavers or potters—agricultural workers (here Plate X, 4 as an example; Amiet, op. cit., nos. 636ff. and 663), or hunters (Amiet, ibid., nos. 600ff. passim; and A. Lebrun and F. Vallat in CDAFI 8, 1978, pp. 51-53, figs. 6, 7 and pls. Iff.) differ from those represented at Uruk, where ritual themes predominate. The sealings found at Čoḡā Mīš reflect a choice of themes related to those of Susa (H. Kantor, Memorial Volume of the Vth International Congress on Iranian Art and Archaeology, Tehran, 1968, p. 32, pl. X a-b). These divergences may indicate differences in the meaning and use of cylinders in Iran and Mesopotamia at that time.
A third style found among the impressions from Susa is called proto-Elamite after the script which came into use about 3000 B.C., roughly contemporary with the Jamdat Nasr phase of Mesopotamia and continuing into what was the First Early Dynastic period there (P. Amiet, Arts Asiatiques 26, 1973, p. 10). The relation of this style to that of the foregoing one with small carefully carved figures can not yet be clearly recognized. Figures of animals in various combinations or in connection with plants are often hollowed out of the stone in subtle relief but are then forcefully outlined by deep engraving which deprives the designs of the naturalism manifested in the earlier ones. The most interesting group among the proto-Elamite cylinders shows animals acting like humans (Amiet, Glyptique mésopotamienne archaïque, nos. 559-91; here an example in Figure 26g, Amiet, Glyptique susienne, no. 1012) as distinctive of the subject matter of this group of cylinders. Often the same figure is repeated as if a twin image were desired. Another compositional peculiarity of these proto-Elamite cylinders is an indication of a balance of power: in one sealing (Amiet, Glyptique mésopotamienne archaïque, no. 585) a lion is shown dominating two small bulls and a bull dominating two small lions. All this seems to foreshadow religious concepts of a much later age.
Most of the examples of proto-Elamite sealings were found at Susa, but sealings of proto-Elamite style on tablets with proto-Elamite numerals were also found at widely distant sites: at Tepe Yaḥyā in Kermān, at Šahr-e Soḵta in Sīstān, at Tepe Sialk near Kāšān, at Godīn Tepe near Kangāvar, and at Tepe Malyān in Fārs.
The small sculptures produced early in this period are as distinctive in their subjects as the cylinders. They are figures of kneeling votaries of alabaster, carved with a feeling for the sculpture as an object conceived in the round, a trait characteristic of the art of Iran about 3000 B.C. (see Plate X, 3; P. Amiet, Elam, p. 129, fig. 92). This quality is also shared by a leonine creature made of ivory-white luminous magnesite, standing upright in human posture with clasped paws (Plate X, 5; Porada, JAOS 70, 1950, pp. 223-26). The nature of the great beast of prey, which seems immutable and timeless, was used here to express some supernatural power. A bovine creature of silver (D. Hansen, Metropolitan Museum Journal 3, 1970, pp. 5-14) also seen in human pose, seems more like a servant figure. It is not impossible that the animal figures in human poses portrayed in cylinders were copied from models such as the two sculptures just discussed, which may have been made at an earlier date than the cylinders.
The relation of the leonine and the bovine figures, two consummate works of art (which one assumes to have been made at Susa) to works produced at sites, further east is difficult to determine. Animal figures from Tepe Yaḥyā (Propyläen Kunstgeschichte XIII, pl. 68) may be contemporary. Monstrous male figures found in a group of six (of which the one in the Louvre is reproduced here as Plate X, 6) in a place a few kilometers southeast of Shiraz may be later, and may belong to a style which preserved characteristics of protohistoric style long after it had disappeared in Mesopotamia. The monster-men (W. Nagel, Berliner Jahrbuch f. Vor- und Frühgeschichte 8, 1968, pp. 99-136) have scaly bodies with the exception of one, called a bull-man. They have a scar running from the forehead to the corner of the mouth and hold under one arm a round object which has been interpreted as a drum (U. Seidl, Berliner Jahrbuch f. Vor- und Frühgeschichte 6, 1966, p. 202). It is possible, however, that these figures foreshadow protective figurines of a later age, such as those buried in Assyrian times (e.g. M. E. L. Mallowan, Nimrud and its Remains I, London, 1966, pp. 226ff.). The object which the figures hold under one arm may be a serpent, and their repulsive appearance could be thought to ward off equally ugly demons.
Aspects of the art of the third millennium B.C. in Iran. From the second quarter of the third millennium B.C. onward, the art of the Susiana was under the influence of Mesopotamia. In the east of Iran, however, an artistic province, which had relations with Afghanistan on the one hand and the areas of the Gulf on the other, was partially revealed by the tantalizingly limited finds from Tepe Yaḥyā and Šahdād. Tepe Yaḥyā was the source for some of the chlorite carvings, which have attracted the interest of archeologists for many years because of their distinctive iconography: serpents, animals, monsters, occasionally humans, and architectural and decorative patterns (see P. A. Kohl, Expedition 18/1, 1975, pp. 18-31) as well as their wide distribution in Iran, Mesopotamia, Syria, and the Gulf areas. The most extensively figured bowl is one in the British Museum (Plate X, 7; E. Sollberger, Syria 52, 1975, pl. X) said to be from Kafaǰa in the Dīāla area of Iraq, where it was probably brought from somewhere in southeastern Iran. A fine piece with architectural decoration was found at Tepe Yaḥyā in a level later than IV B-1 which yielded the workshop of chlorite objects (C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky, “Excavations at Tepe Yahya,” Bulletin of the American School of Prehistoric Research 27, 1970 pls. 19-26). In date, these chlorite objects probably span the second and third quarters of the third millennium B.C. A number of carvings which have very close stylistic relations with objects in the Uruk and Jambat Nasr styles, such as the bowl in the British Museum, may be earlier. Investigations by S. Salvatore and M. Vidale of “a good half of the site of Šahdād” (Rivista di archeologia 6, 1982, pp. 5-10) resulted in an extension of the lower time limit of the Šahdād complex into the fourth millennium B.C.
In addition to chlorite vases with architectural and ornamental decoration the excavations of graves in Šahdād (ʿA. Hakemi, Catologue de l’exposition: Lut Shahdad, Xabis, Tehran, 1973) yielded statues of clay which have retained some of their paint and which are characterized by wide, angular shoulders and long, thin arms (Plate X, 8). The finest object from the graves is a standard, presumably of copper, surmounted by a well-sculptured bird. On the “flag” of the standard is a representation, produced in repoussé and chasing, of an enthroned, long-haired figure surrounded by squatting women. Characteristic of the style are difference in the size of the figures according to their importance, the postures of the women with their legs folded beside or under their bodies, faces with low foreheads, noses jutting out horizontally, very small waist and exaggeratedly long arms. It is interesting that in Yašt 17.22 Zarathuštra is described as well formed “with long arms.” Perhaps a characteristic feature of an ancient southeast Iranian dynasty later came to be considered a trait of beauty in that region.
Instead of influence from Mesopotamia, the works of the artistic province of Šahdād evoke relations with the art of India of a much later period; postures and facial characteristics make one think of Jain paintings of the late sixteenth century A.D. (W. N. Brown, Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art 5, June-December, 1937, pp. 2-12).
The characteristics of human figures in the larger works of art of southeast Iran are also found in cylinder seals. The largest and finest cylinder from Šahdād (Figure 26h) was engraved with considerable use of a mechanical drill in a manner reminiscent of the Jamdat Nasr style. For this reason, the cylinder was (Propyläen Kunstgeschichte XIV, p.380, s.v. 283b) previously dated in an earlier period than the one to which it actually belongs, on the basis of its subject matter. Two female figures, presumably goddesses, are represented, one who has ears of grain sprouting from her body and is seated on the ground, the other, who stands upright, has horns of a goat rising from her head. Horned animals with different types of horns and hornless ones are placed in the remaining space, perhaps they represent different species and the difference between calves and mature animals. A plant in the field suggests the vegetal domain of the seated deity.
Influence of the art of Akkade on the later third millennium art of Iran. Two major works of Iran of the last quarter of the third millennium B.C., a silver vase and a copper head, show the influence of the art of the Dynasty of Akkade which at times dominated large areas of Iran.
The silver vase (Plate X, 9) is said to have been discovered near Persepolis (W. Hinz, Altiranische Funde und Forschungen, Berlin, 1969, pp. 11ff.). It shows two female figures, one seated, the other standing as on the cylinder from Šahdād. Moreover the end of the robe of the seated figure projects in a point beside her body, exactly as the robe of the seated grain goddess in the cylinder from Šahdād. Since that site has yielded another cylinder with the same feature, these resemblances should serve to establish unequivocally the authenticity of the vase, which has often been questioned. In view of the close similarity in the postures of the two figures, seated close to the earth, it seems likely that the figure on the silver vase also represents a deity concerned with the plants that grow from the earth. The standing figure would then be the corresponding goddess whose concern may have been animal life, to judge by the horns which she wears on the cylinder. Occasionally the second figure seems to be male, but both in the cylinder from Šahdād and on the silver vase there seem to be two goddesses shown.
A new element in the design of the standing goddess on vase, however, is the noble profile of that figure, which does not conform to any known works of southeast Iranian art. Instead, it resembles the profile of the great copper or bronze head of the Akkadian ruler from Nineveh (E. Strommenger, 5000 Years of the Art of Mesopotamia, Berlin, 1964, pls. XXII, XXIII). The vase thus manifests the existence of an accomplished style of metalworking in which an artist combined an Akkadian facial type with garments and postures of southeast Iran. To the same period and stylistic configuration of a strong Akkadian influence on the court arts of Iran, probably belongs the great copper head of an Elamite in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I. M. Diakonoff dated that head in the time of the Akkadian ruler from Nineveh (Musée de l’Ermitage, Travaux du départment oriental IV, Leningrad, 1947, pp. 117-18). After four decades in which the head was regarded as belonging to the second millennium B.C., opinion has now swung back to Diakonoff’s Akkade-period date. It is a work of extraordinary power and dignity, sharing with other Elamite works an expression of calmness. Perhaps some of this effect is produced by the contrast between the asymmetrical turban and the symmetry of the bearded face. The moustache, which lies heavily on the closed mouth also adds to the silence, which seems to emanate from this head. Its frequently noted general resemblance to the head of the Akkadian ruler can be supported by the presence of the lines on the forehead, as pointed out by H. Pittman in a lecture (April 29, 1984).
The difference between the goddesses of the silver vase and the probably contemporary statue of the goddess Narundi from Susa (A. Spycket, Syria 45, 1968, pp. 67-73) which also reflects Akkadian influence, concerns posture and costume. Obviously, the statue from Susa is closer to Akkadian prototypes than the figures of the silver vase. Thus the standing figure of the silver vase and the head of an Elamite have a distinctive character of their own, to which the Akkadian elements merely contribute what seems to be an almost individual quality.
It is interesting that artists in Iran were able to produce masterworks at the same time as artists in Mesopotamia although these works are imbued with a completely different character. Especially the standing female figure has the willowy grace of a living person for which there is no parallel among the stiffer and more abstract Akkadian figures known.
Minor arts of the late third and early second millennium B.C. in eastern Iran. Small objects of copper and chlorite constitute distinctive products of eastern Iran. Most characteristic of the copper objects are the circular openwork, copper seals with a loop handle, which were used to stamp pottery as could be shown by examples from Šahdād. Such compartmented seals were found at Tepe Ḥeṣār in Gurgan (E. F. Schmidt, Excavations at Tepe Hissar Damghan, Philadelphia, 1937, fig. 118, H. 2697) at Šahdād in Kermān (ʿA. Ḥākemī, Catalogue . . . Lut, nos. 305ff., p. 38 pl. XXI-B.; Salvatori, Rivista di archeologia 6, figs. 6, 5 and 6), Bampūr in Balūčestān (B. de Cardi, Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, New York, 1970, fig. 47:15), Damin in Balūčestān and Šahr-e Soḵta in Sīstān (M. Tosi, East and West 24/1-2, March-June, 1974, figs. 20-22), and at the sites in Turkmenistan, where this type of seal appears to have originated (see H. Pittman in Art of the Bronze Age; Southeastern Iran, Western Central Asia, and the Indus Valley, 1984, pp. 52ff.).
To the sites here enumerated should be added single occurrences at sites outside this general area, like one from Susa (P. Amiet, Revue d’assyriologie 68, 1974, fig. 14, pp. 97, 108, 110).
The pottery on which the seals were impressed was dated in the second half of the third millennium B.C. From the rather simple design of these functional seals appear to have developed what may be called display types of much larger size, sometimes made of silver like the example here reproduced (Plate XI, 11; M. H. Pottier, Iranica Antiqua 15, 1980, pp. 167-74). It shows a female figure seated on a lion monster. From her upper arms and shoulders emerge the foreparts of two leaping gazelles. Her hands are clasped and her elbows project outward in the same posture as the goddess on the silver vase and the lion monster of the protohistoric period. The lion monster, the goddess of the vase and the goddess on the monster in the silver seal probably all portray the same great deity who may have been worshiped in the area indicated by the spread of the compartmented seals.
Small figurines of chlorite or serpentine garbed in voluminous robes (Plate XI, 12; R. Ghirshman, Artibus Asiae 30, 1968, pp. 237-48) can also be associated stylistically with the goddess on the silver vase, though they may be somewhat later to judge by their relation to the representation on a cylinder dated by its inscription to an Ebarat, probably of the nineteenth century B.C. (W.-G. Lambert, Iraq 41, 1979, pl. V:42).
In addition to the figurines, small containers of chlorite or serpentine decorated with center dot circles but also occasionally with designs of animals and monsters constitute another common artifact in the area of east Iran and Bactria (P. Amiet, Iranica Antiqua 15, 1980, pp. 155-66).
Elamite art of the second and first millennia B.C. For many years Elamite art was considered synonymous with the works of art excavated at Susa. The present survey of the art of Iran has shown that the regions east of Susa have produced works of great interest and beauty, while Susa has come to be recognized as the western outpost of the large area which was probably united by the language which we call Elamite. (For the history and archeology of Elam see E. Carter and M. W. Stolper, Elam, Chicago, 1984).
In the second and first millennia B.C. the major works of Elamite art are still those discovered in many seasons of excavation at Susa. Haft Tepe, however, has yielded important information about the architecture and minor arts of the mid-second millennium B.C. (E. O. Negahban, “Haft Tepe Roundels, an Example of Middle Elamite Art,” American Journal of Archaeology 88, 1984, pp. 3-10) and painstaking work on the glyptic art of Malyān-Anshan by H. Pittman will modify our knowledge about Elamite seals in the second millennium B.C.
a) Old Elamite art, ca. 2100-1600 B.C. This period comprises the time of the Third Dynasty of Ur, the Isin-Larsa Dynasties and the First Dynasty of Babylon in Mesopotamia and covers the time of the kings of Simash and of the Sukkalmah at Susa in Ḵūzestān. At Malyān-Anshan, in Fārs, the co-capital of Susa, the period was named Kaftarī by the excavators.
Most of the works of art characteristic of the period found at Susa are small bronze figures and seals, the earlier ones of which can be distinguished from contemporary Mesopotamian cylinders of Ur III to Isin-Larsa by special forms of horned crowns and other details. At Malyān stamp seals were more common than elsewhere. Cylinders of the eighteenth and seventeenth centuries at Susa are characterized by deep cutting and ritual scenes often with landscape elements. The minor works in metal show a distinctively Elamite character in their manneristic execution, for great care is placed on hair and dress, and loops and curls are elaborately stressed (see the fish-goddess in the British Museum and the god in a chariot from Susa, Propyläen Kunstgeschichte XIV, pls. 286 and XXXIV). Two votive hammers from Susa (ibid., pl. 301a, b) one of which is dated by its inscription in the time of king Shulgi of Ur (2093-2046 B.C.) resemble in their shape modern metal hammers for jewelry and were probably intended to represent that type of tool, enlivened by the heads of animals, probably serpents or tortoises, although they have also been called birds’ heads (Amiet, Elam, p. 243). Weapons and vessels are also adorned with animal heads or foreparts. Especially characteristic appear to have been axes with lion heads where the lion seems to vomit the blade, (Propyläen Kunstgeschichte XIV, pl. 301c) a type which continued into the Middle Elamite period.
A stand and vessel of bitumen uses effectively the motif of the bodies of mountain goats as supports for the bowl (Propyläen Kunstgeschichte XIV, pl. 302b). Other such vessels made of bitumen, a material favored at Susa, where it was easily available, are carved in relief on the outside (ibid., pl. 302a), on still others animal or human figures are carved in the round (Amiet, Elam, pp. 278-79). Fine cloisonne goldwork, unique at that time in western Asia, is represented at Susa in the form of a falcon with spread wings (Porada, Ancient Iran, p. 53, pl. 9). The remains of well-built houses from the Old Elamite period at Susa are preserved (H. Gasche, MDAFP 47, 1973, figs. 3-6; M. J. Steve, ibid., 46, 1971, pp. 37 and 60, figs. 3-4). They contained an impressive formal hall as the principal room of the complex.
b) Middle Elamite art, ca. 1600-1150 B.C. Few works of art found at Susa can be assigned to the period of about 1600 to 1200 B.C. The likelihood that during these centuries, especially in the 14th and 13th century B.C., the site now called Haft Tepe replaced Susa as the most important center of Elam was suggested by E. Carter (Elam in the Second Millennium B.C., Dissertation, Chicago Univ., 1971). The possibility that the gap in the artistic development of Susa might be filled by works found at Haft Tepe by the excavator, E. O. Negahban, must therefore be considered. Examples are two probably funerary heads (Figure 26j) which have a more precise, archaic appearance than several of the more freely modeled heads from Susa (Propyläen Kunstgeschichte XIV, pl. 294a, b). A series of cylinder seal impressions from Haft Tepe in the refined and mannered Elamite style derived from the Old Babylonian, shows greater variety than the sealings of the early second millennium B.C. from Susa. Thus, Haft Tepe had good seal cutters in the early second millennium B.C. As far as the incompletely published material permits judgment, good artists also were at work in the middle of the millennium (see Negahban, ibid., pp. 3-10). Earliest in the series are seals of Nuzi style. There was also architecture, cultic and funerary, discovered at Haft Tepe (see Negahban, ibid., III. 2).
The fully developed Elamite style of religious architecture, however, was revealed at Čoḡā Zanbīl (Plate XI, 14). There Ghirshman (Tchoga Zanbil I and II, [MDAFI 39 and 40], Paris, 1966 and 1968) uncovered a ziggurat built by king Untash-Napirisha (ca. 1265-1240 B.C.) An outer covering consisting of a layer of baked brick of two meters in thickness assured the preservation of the ingeniously structured solid brick building. Its center was built as a separate block, chained by beams to the surrounding masonry. The technical proficiency of the builders is also obvious from the abundant use of vaulting. A sanctuary built into the first floor of the ziggurat was interpreted by Ghirshman (Tchoga Zanbil I , p. 34) as the lower temple in contrast to one on top, the existence of which he deduced from colored enameled bricks thought to have come from this upper temple. Such enameled bricks as well as insets and rods of colored glass constituted the decoration in Elamite sanctuaries. A distinctive building at Čoḡā Zanbīl is one called a hypogeum by Ghirshman (Tchoga Zanbil I, pp. 59-74) which contained five subterranean vaults, in some of which had been deposited the cremated remains of what were doubtless exalted persons, though not necessarily kings. The hypogeum contained a large hall in which fifteen square stone tables were aligned, possibly for funerary banquets of offerings. The munificence with which this building and a number of temples had been erected and the vastness of the entire complex manifest the wealth of the Elamite king, which probably corresponded to his political power.
The two best-known works of Elamite are the stele of Untash-Napirisha (Figure 26k, copied from D. Ladiray, Iranica Antiqua 16, 1981, pl. VIII) and the headless bronze statue of his queen Napirasu (Plate XI, 15). She stands with the quiet gesture of crossed hands which also characterizes figurines of female votaries of faience (Propyläen Kunstgeschichte XIV, pl. 288). The impression of calmness and solidity conveyed by the figure is created by her bell-shaped outline and the stressed horizontals in the composition and also by the restrained naturalism of the upper body and the abstract, stereometric form of the lower one. Not only the figure but also the elaborate patterns of her robe were cast. Most striking is the soft undulation of the fringes at the bottom, which suggest flowing water.
Some idea of the appearance of the head of Napirasu may be several funerary heads from Susa which generally show a round face with large eyes and heavy eyebrows, full curved lips and a small chin (ibid., pl. 194a). It is possible, however, that such funerary heads, of which Ghirshman found a fine example laying on the head of the deceased (Amiet, Elam, p. 454, with reference to Ghirshman’s publications), had a more individual character than was the case with a statue like that of Napirasu.
In the stele of Untash-Napirisha (Figure 26k) the ruler appears in the middle field between two female figures, of which only queen Napirasu is identified by an inscription. The exceptional role played by that queen in Elamite art may be explained by the descent of the rulership in Elam through the female line.
In the lower register of the stele are two goddesses, only one of which is fully preserved. She has fish scales on her body and a fishtail from which rise streams of water like undulating serpents. In another register, below the fish goddesses, are moufflon-horned demons grasping a tree. Again, only one demon is preserved, he has the head and upper body of a man and lower body and tail of an animal. These figures illustrate the Elamite practice of personifying elements of nature in creatures which are given relevant animal features but act like humans. Behind such a personification was probably the thought that such beings could be manipulated like humans by gifts and entreaties and, magically, by pictorial means. The main representation of the stele is in the uppermost field where a god is enthroned holding his emblem, a serpent with a feline head. (For a penetrating discussion of this representation, see P. de Miroschedji, Iranica Antiqua 16, 1981, pp. 1-25). The appearance of serpents in divine scepters and diadems (Propyläen Kunstgeschichte XIV, pl. 291) indicates the importance of serpents in the religious thought of ancient Elam. This is also shown in the great bronze altar table from Susa in which gigantic serpent goddesses holding vases are depicted (ibid., pl. 292a). Deities in association with water and serpents are also represented on a rock relief at Kūrangūn (Amiet, Elam, pp. 386-87, figs. 294-95), where a god is enthroned on a serpent and courses of water flow about him and the goddess behind him. The date of the relief of the second millennium B.C. is not universally accepted and Miroschedji dates the main scene in the 17th century B.C. (Iranica Antiqua 16, 1981, p. 8) and my later date for the rows of worshipers is also subject to discussion (J. Börker-Klähn, Altvorderasiatische Bildstelen und vergleichbare Felsreliefs, Mainz, 1982, p. 176, cites all previous datings, and remains with middle-Elamite for the principal scene).
A glimpse into the rituals of the Elamite period is provided by the model of a ceremony (Plate XI, 16; Amiet, Elam, pp. 392-93) from the time of king Shilhak Inshushinak (ca. 1160 B.C.). Two nude human figures, probably priests, perform a rite among temple towers, trees, sacrificial vessels, and other objects. A march of warriors in a bronze relief from Susa (Propyläen Kunstgeschichte XIV, pl. 298) is a motif favored in the thirteenth and twelfth centuries B.C. also in the art of the Kassites in Mesopotamia as well as in Iran. The highly stylized figures seem to correspond to the general character of art in the reigns of Kutir-Nahhunte (1155 B.C.) and Shilhak-Inshushinak (1150-1120 B.C.). Examples are the stylized figures in the molded bricks of a temple begun by Kutir-Nahhunte but completed by his successor (Plate XI; 17; Amiet, Elam, p. 397). Another set of molded bricks representing a male and a female figure, according to the inscription, King Kutir Nahhunte and presumably his consort, was reconstructed by P. Amiet (Arts Asiatiques 32, 1976, pp. 13-28),
The motifs on Elamite cylinder seals of the thirteenth to twelfth centuries B.C. have very little connection with those represented in larger works of art. Two groups can be distinguished on the basis of material, technique, and subject matter: elegantly carved cylinders made of glass or stone and the heavily carved cylinders of faience. In the glass cylinders, which show the influence of Kassite glyptic art, deities are often represented within an architectural frame accompanied by trees, birds, or other symbols. Archers also are often depicted (E. Porada, Tchoga Zanbil IV [MDAFI 42], 1970). In the faience cylinders the gods are portrayed relatively less often and the principal subject is a ritual banquet, though rows of animals and other motifs also appear.
c) Neo-Elamite art, ca. 1000-600 B.C. The dates here indicated for neo-Elamite art are not based on securely dated material; rather, they are intended as an approximate span of time into which a number of neo-Elamite works of different date may be fitted. The relief of a lady spinning from Susa (Plate XII, 18; Amiet, Elam, p. 450) somewhat resembles the so-called situlas or drop beakers which P. Calmeyer associated with works of Babylonian style of the tenth and ninth centuries B.C. (He noted the relationship to the small relief from Susa in Reliefbronzen in babylonischem Stil, Munich, 1973, p. 203). The further relation of the works of this style with the relief boundary stone carved for the Babylonian king Nabu-mukin-apli (977-942 B.C.; L. W. King, Babylonian Boundary Stones, 1912, pl. LXXIV) perhaps indicates that these stylistic relations reflect historical ones, though these are only dimly perceived in texts relating to this period: Nabu-mukin-apli’s predecessor was called a descendant of Elam in the Babylonian Dynastic Chronicle (noted by J. A. Brinkman, A Political History of Post-Kassite Babylonia [Analecta Orientalia 43, 1968], p. 165). Hence in the time of Nabu-mukin-apli Elamite influence in art may have been a heritage from the preceding reign.
A second important relief from Susa represents king Atta-hamiti-Inshushinak (653-648 B.C.). It is executed in a delicate, linear manner as if the decoration of the garment were chased in metal (Plate XII, 19; for reconstruction of the entire relief see P. Calmeyer, AMI, N. F. 9, 1976, p. 57, Abb. 2). The head piece with what looks like a horn in front may be an exaggerated version of the caps worn by the soldiers in the Middle Elamite bronze relief (Propyläen Kunstgeschichte XIV, pl. 293) and may be the image referred to by the term “horned soldiers” cited by W. Hinz from an account of a campaign by Shilhak-Inshushinak in Babylonia (The Lost World of Elam, New York, 1973, p. 132).
The stiff and linear style of the relief of Atta-hamiti-Inshushinak can be compared to that of a number of neo-Elamite reliefs concentrated near Īza (L. Vanden Berghe, Iranica Antiqua 3, 1963, pp. 22-39). A few of these can be ascribed to one Hanne whose major relief bears a long inscription, identifying this prince and his officials. Others belong to a somewhat different style in which P. Calmeyer has noted the long rows of figures in several registers as a possible prefiguration of a feature of the reliefs of Persepolis (AMI, N.F. 6, 1973, p. 150). The interpretation of these reliefs has been undertaken by E. de Waele, who has also provided an accurate listing of the various inscriptions (Le Muséon 89/3-4, 1976, pp. 441-50).
In contrast to the monotony of several of these reliefs, neo-Elamite cylinder seals are generally lively, delicately and naturalistically modeled (P. Amiet, Arts Asiatiques 26, 1973, pp. 3-32 esp. pp. 22ff. Most frequently they represent hunting scenes in which an archer aims at his prey or gallops after it on his horse. The latter type was still in use by the officials of the Achaemenid kings. In general, the fine modeling of these cylinders appears to have influenced the seal cutters of the Persian court.
The art of Iran beyond Elam in the Iron Age. Information concerning the artistic provinces of Iran beyond Elam in the Iron Age, about 1350 to 550 B.C., preceding the Persian empire, is far more limited than for the prehistoric periods. Only western Iran and the areas from Qazvīn to the southern coast of the Caspian Sea have been extensively explored. In that area, Ḥasanlū in west Azerbaijan has had the longest program of excavation and has produced the most extensive sequence of levels with the largest exposure. As a result, most of the works of art from different periods which can serve as guideposts for other excavations come from Ḥasanlū. Thus Ḥasanlū V, about 1350 to 1100 B.C., corresponds to the period covered by the tombs of Mārlīk. Ḥasanlū IV, about 1100 to 800 B.C., has no more parallels at Mārlīk but provides criteria for dating objects found without proper stratigraphy at Ḵorvīn and as far south as Luristan. Ḥasanlū III B, about 750 to 600 B.C., is the period of Urartian art on Iranian soil in west Azerbaijan and also covers the period of finds assembled as coming from Zīwīya in Kurdistan. With few links to the north but strongly influenced by Elam in the south, bronzework flourished in Luristan from about 1200 to 700 B.C. with most characteristic objects: cheekpieces, finials, wands, etc., produced between about 900 to 700 B.C.
The picture here outlined is incomplete. The material excavated by ʿA. Ḥākemī at Kalūraz was only selectively published in preliminary form (Archaeologia Viva 1, November, 1968, pp. 63-65). Many ancient Iranian works of art in western museums are unprovenanced, though their origin in Gīlān and Māzandarān can often be assumed. In the rest of the country only the long-known site of Sialk (R. Ghirshman, Fouilles de Sialk II, Paris, 1939) provides criteria for chronological and and geographic classification of works of art from other sites.
Iron Age I. Finds from Mārlīk, Ḥasanlū V, and unidentified sites, ca. 1350 1100 B.C. The graves of Mārlīk have produced works of art of different cultural levels from primitive figures of clay to the finest gold vessels (Plate XII, 20, 21; Propyläen Kunstgeschichte XIV, pl. 307) which were probably imported from as yet unknown sources though there was also a local style which can be observed in a variety of gold objects. A male and a female clay figure, each holding a vessel, bring to mind a ritual detail in a Vedic sacrifice in the course of which a male and a female vessel with food were buried. Figures here called demonic because they seem to express visions of a fetus, unborn but nevertheless able to act like an adult human, associated with vessels, are also known from Luristan (C. Goff Meade, Iran 7, 1969, pl. III) and also from Ḥasanlū (R. Ghirshman, The Arts of Ancient Iran, New York, 1964, p. 24). They thus constitute a type of object, which was probably made over several centuries for specific rituals in western Iran. At Mārlīk clay figures with big weapons also have been found in graves possibly having been placed there to defend the dead. The potters who produced such figures surely did not belong to the craftsmen of high rank, not even those who shaped the impressive bovine vessels (Plate XII, 22) many versions of which can now be seen in public and private collections of Europe and the United States, often bigger and not as well proportioned as those of Mārlīk. Likewise the fine pottery (E. O. Negahban, Preliminary Report on Marlik Excavation, Tehran, 1964, fig. 25, 26) was probably made by far simpler workmen than those who produced the gold beakers.
The magnificent gold beaker with bulls standing on either side of a sacred tree (Plate XII, 20) suggests that it and those related to it among the finds of Mārlīk were made by a goldsmith familiar with the stylistic predilections of Elamite, Assyrian, and Babylonian craftsmen. The animals which turn their heads at right angles to the direction of the body into the surrounding space share this feature with the animals of a bronze vase from Susa (Amiet, Elam, pp. 472 73). The short heads of the bulls on the gold beaker and perhaps the form of their horns may also be Elamite. But details like the patterning of the bulls’ bodies have Assyrian and Babylonian parallels (cited by P. Calmeyer, Reliefbronzen, p. 192, nn. 385, 386), as does the elaborate tree design (see the alabaster vase from Assur, Propyläen Kunstgeschichte XIV, pl. 254, and tree designs of the Second Dynasty of Isin on Babylonian boundary stones and cylinder seals cited by Calmeyer, ibid., pp. 194 95, nn. 402 3).
A more distinctively Iranian style is seen in the second beaker with bulls from Mārlīk (Plate XII, 21). The animals are arranged in the picture plane of the vessel in two rows, one above the other, walking in opposite directions. Although these bulls are wingless, they nevertheless create the impression that they are heavenly creatures, stepping only lightly upon the earth, as if they were floating above it. The impression is created by the delicacy of the wing like curls of hair on legs and back and the abstract patterning of the bodies which negate all earthly gravity. To this style belong several gold vessels of unknown provenience such as the gazelle cup in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Propyläen Kunstgeschichte XIV, pl. XXXVII) and the gold cup with serpentine monsters in the Louvre (A. Parrot, Syria 35, 1958, pp. 175 81, pl. XV, and figs. 4, 5). In view of the observable tendency in Iranian art of the late second and early first millennium B.C. toward increasing stylization and patternization of animal bodies, the second bull beaker and the related vessels are here thought to belong to a later style.
Between the styles of the two beakers from Mārlīk, the first of which is tentatively assigned to the thirteenth or the twelfth century B.C. and the second to the eleventh century B.C., may be placed the narrative style of the gold bowl of Ḥasanlū (R. H. Dyson, Jr., Expedition 1, 3, 1959, pp. 12 14; E. Porada, The Art or Ancient Iran, pls. 23 and 24, pp. 98 101). Other vessels of precious metal which show a narrative style related to the gold bowl are one from Mārlīk (Negahban, Preliminary Report on Marlik Excavation, pl. IV) and the second from an unknown site in Iran now in the Louvre (P. Amiet, Syria 42, 1965, pp. 235 51). The gold bowl from Ḥasanlū which has become known in its entirety through the drawing of Maude de Schauensee (Figure 27), shows in the uppermost part of the bowl a sacrifice before the great gods in their chariots; below there is a battle of god and monster and other mythological scenes represented in an extraordinarily lively, linear manner with loving care applied to all the details of the garments of the human figures, the fleece of the animals, the scales of a mountain and serpent monster, and the feathers of the soaring eagle or falcon. Of all the gold vessels which have appeared since the discovery of the Ḥasanlū bowl, it remains the most important work for an insight into the mythology of northwest Iran.
Iron Age II, ca. 1100 800 B.C. For the first time in the history of architecture in Iran outside of Elam, the major buildings of a site, Ḥasanlū in its level IV B (Figure 28, from R. H. Dyson’s plan in O. W. Muscarella, The Catalogue of Ivories from Hasanlu, Iran, University Museum Monograph 40, 1980, p. 3), can be seen to form a coherent complex around a court. The niched facades of the buildings giving onto the court leave no doubt about the fact that this area was planned as the center of an architectural unit. In the major buildings at Ḥasanlū, not all of which are directly connected with the court, a standard architectural plan appears to have been followed. It consisted of an anteroom, a side stairway room, a columned hall, and auxiliary storage rooms. Not only is the columned hall of major importance for the subsequent development of official architecture in Iran, indicating how the need for a large place of assembly in inclement weather could be met by Iranian architects, but columns were also used at the entrances of buildings, to which they gave the grandeur and dignity which such architectural elements impart to the structures in which they are used.
In the works of art of level IV B at Ḥasanlū such as the silver beaker (Plate XII, 23; Survey of Persian Art XIV, 1960, pl. 1488), human representations play a larger role than in other regions. This may correspond to a specific tendency, a wish to see humans and gods acting directly instead of suggesting their actions through the symbolic language of animal representations. Works like the beaker give a lively picture of the appearance of the people who inhabited and ruled Ḥasanlū. They were men with large noses, long stringy hair, and equally stringy beards. The lips appear to have been exceptionally thin, or so they are shown although the beard often covers them (R. H. Dyson, Jr., Archaeology 17, 1964, pp. 3 11). The same features can be noted on the gold bowl of Ḥasanlū. Thus the type did not change from the bowl of the late second millennium B.C. to the time of the beaker in the early part of the first millennium. But the large noses and the small, egg-shaped heads are exaggerated, perhaps as a result of simplification. Nevertheless, the representation of humans remains within the limits of credibility. Not so the animals, which constitute a world of forms of its own; by stresses and changes certain parts of the body, like the jaws of the lions are transformed into hooks on the lion pins of Ḥasanlū (Plate XII, 25; Porada, Art of Ancient Iran, pl. 29, p. 115). Furthermore, the sharp division of the single parts of the body such as the legs, created by sharply lining them and by marking them with different patterns, was a means of making the animals appear different from what they are in nature.
In addition to works which are considered to have been made in the local style of Ḥasanlū, there are objects which manifest the influence of other styles. A wall tile and knob of faience, the latter sculptured in the round in the form of a human headed bull (R. H. Dyson, Jr., Survey of Persian Art XIV, 1960, pl. 1484: B.), point directly to Elam. Other works, especially cylinder seals, are either Assyrian imports or artifacts made under strong Assyrian influence. Ivories are largely of local style but there was a group imported from north Syria and another, somewhat smaller one, of ivories in Assyrian style (Muscarella, op. cit., p. 222). Stylistic and iconographic relations between the art of northwest Iran and that of north Mesopotamia and north Syria, which are manifested in the works of Mārlīk and in the gold bowl of Ḥasanlū (M. J. Mellink, Iranica Antiqua 6, 1966, pp. 72 87), were obviously also present in the early first millennium B.C., side by side with some local production and probable imports from other parts of Iran.
The full panorama of works of art of the early first millennium in western Asia was summoned by I. J. Winter to serve as possible source material for the stylistically enigmatic decorated breastplate from Ḥasanlū (A Decorated Breastplate from Ḥasanlu, Iran, University Museum Monograph 39, 1980). By having the stylistic relations with far flung areas pointed out to him, the reader is made aware of the intensity of contacts which Ḥasanlū must have had with the rest of the world of which it was a part.
Iron Age III, ca. 800 600 B.C. The excavations of this period in western Iran from Azerbaijan and Kurdistan to Luristan have yielded mostly fortified sites; numerous Urartian fortresses, Zīwīya, Godīn Tepe, and Bābā Jān. The village and Manor 2 of the last named site, however, were probably built earlier, at the end of the ninth century B.C. in the Iron II period (C. Goff, Iran 8, 1970, p. 155). The striking examples of metal work which constitute the major works of art of this period: gold repousse‚ said to come from Zīwīya and most of the cast and hammered bronzes from Luristan, unfortunately lack—with few exceptions—all information about the circumstances of their discovery. Their dates are therefore only gradually being determined, while the context of the objects is forever lost.
Urartian fortresses. A large number of fortresses was discovered by W. Kleiss in northwest Iran, west of Ardabīl. They are usually sited at the rim of a plain, overlooking and protecting its villages and major settlements as well as the course of a river and the road running parallel to it. The most important of these fortresses was the one called today Basṭām, Rusahinili in antiquity, which flourished in the seventh century B.C. It was probably a royal residence comparable in size to two such fortresses, one on Lake Van, the other near it in Turkey. At Basṭām characteristics of Urartian stone architecture are exemplified; these are of importance for the understanding of some of the architectural features in the Achaemenid structures of Persepolis, which differed from the usual Near Eastern tradition in using dressed stone, little employed in the predominantly mud brick architecture of earlier times as at Ḥasanlū and Čoḡā Zanbīl. For example, the rock cut bedding for stone foundations of mud brick walls was noted by W. Kleiss below the fortification wall at Persepolis; this consisted of a socle of dressed ashlar masonry on which rested the mud brick walls of the upper construction (Mitteilungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft 103, 1971, pp. 69 73). Perhaps even the planning of the fortification walls with strong corner towers and salients at regular, carefully planned intervals goes back ultimately to the accomplished Urartian fortification architecture.
The most important structures at Basṭām contained gigantic columnar halls. Those which had only two naves were probably used as magazines whereas those with three naves were doubtless rooms for large assemblies like the smaller ones of Ḥasanlū and the even bigger ones of Persepolis. Temples square in plan with stressed corners and very thick walls were probably rightly considered by D. Stronach to have been prototypes for the two tower temples of Pasargadae and Naqš e Rostam (JNES 26, 1967, pp. 278 88).
Unfortunately, the yield of art works from Basṭām has been limited so far to a drinking vessel in the form of a gazelle head (W. Kleiss, AMI, N.F. 6, 1973, p. 92, fig. 2). The vessel is related to one said to come from Zīwīya (Propyläen Kunstgeschichte XIV, pl. XXXVIII), which may thereby be classified as related to a Urartian example. Another drinking vessel seen by Kleiss in Leylān, northeast of Mīāndoāb (AMI, N.F., 5, 1972, p. 157, fig. 30, pl. 39) may show the distinctive stylization of lion heads used in the Urartian areas of Iran.
In addition there are imprints of fine cylinder seals which show characteristics of Urartian art such as diaper patterns, scroll forms, and a host of composite monsters (to be published by U. Seidl and P. Calmeyer).
The Treasure of Zīwīya. Zīwīya is a small village about 85 km southeast of Ḥasanlū in Kurdistan. Behind the village lies an eminence, once fortified, the walls of which were 7.50 m wide. The paved stairway, 30 meters of which have been excavated, led to the top. The connection between this fortress and the treasure purported to have been washed out of the mountain or, alternatively, to have been found in a hidden spot in mountain, has not been established. The following groups of objects were ascribed to the treasure: ivory plaques and sculptures in the round, repousse‚ gold appliqués of relatively large dimensions, silver jewelry for horse gear, and pieces of a bronze trough or sarcophagus (A. Godard, Le trésor de Ziwiye, Haarlem, 1950; C. K. Wilkinson, Iraq 22, 1960, pp. 213 20). The whole lot was handled by dealers, not one piece having been excavated under scientific control. For that reason even the determination “Zīwīya” as the place of origin of certain pieces is subject to doubt (O. W. Muscarella, Journal of Field Archaeology 4/2, 1977, pp. 197 219). The ivories, which appeared first on the market, seem to be older than the objects made of gold; they may therefore come from different finds. An interesting ivory plaque shows two figures apparently concluding a treaty (R. Ghirshman, The Arts of Ancient Iran, p. 102), carved in the local style of Ḥasanlū. This may mean that the style was more widely distributed than our knowledge has so far permitted us to assume. Most of the ivory works associated with this group, however, depend on Assyrian motifs, though often with a patternization which is reminiscent of metalwork (C. K. Wilkinson, Ivories from Ziwiye, Abegg Stiftung, Bern, 1975, cover). The date of these ivories can not be set before Tiglathpileser III (744 27 B.C.) (Wilkinson, ibid., p. 16) and probably falls into the reign of that king, at the latest in that of Sargon II (721 05 B.C.).
Goldwork said to come from Zīwīya is exemplified here by an epaulette (Plate XII, 24; The Pomerance Collection of Ancient Art, Brooklyn Museum, New York, 1966, pp. 46f.; and C. K. Wilkinson, “Assyrian and Persian Art,” Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 13, 1955, p. 220). The piece can be related to several examples of such goldwork published by Godard. The monsters which appear in the broad border: sphinx, lion griffin, winged bull (with and without horned feather crown), horned lion dragon with scorpion’s tail, are all found in the so called pectoral from Zīwīya (Godard, Trésor, figs. 15 25) and in several other pieces of gold repousse‚ said to come from the same site. Incidentally, the same monsters are also found at Persepolis in various contexts, from gate figures to opponents of the royal hero.
The central figure in the Pomerance epaulette is a bird of prey with spread wings and curled up crest. Below his head, perhaps meant to be in the grasp of his beak, is a human head. Facing the big bird is a small defiant lion. Two small animals are clutched in the bird’s talons. The representation was doubtless meant to benefit the wearer for whom the piece was made; perhaps it was a portent of victory. The bird is paralleled in Urartian art (Urartu, Katalog der Ausstellung, Munich, 1976, p. 49, fig. 41). This is a powerful indication for classifying works of this type as Urartian, thereby taking up a suggestion made earlier by H. J. Kantor (JNES 19, 1960, pp. 1 14). The Syrian influence in this Urartian art, strongly stressed by M. N. van Loon (Propyläen Kunstgeschichte XIV, p. 455) is as important an ingredient as the later Scythian. The most pleasing pieces like the bracelet with lions (Plate XII, 25; ibid., pl. 314) owe their shining beauty to the Scythian taste for smooth surfaces. The international art, which manifested itself especially in valuable materials and which could also be seen at Mārlīk and Ḥasanlū probably indicates mobility on the part of the most qualified workers. The great Persian king Darius may have increased to gigantic proportions the number of craftsmen brought from all parts of his empire, but the practice had probably been very old in Iran.
Bābā Jān and the bronzework of Luristan. In the Luristan region of the Zagros mountains, which for many decades had been known only by the bronzes which have been found there, architectural complexes have been excavated in recent years. Bābā Jān near Nūrābād in the heart of Luristan was excavated by Clare Goff. The site had a village and a fortified manor which was protected by nine towers in its earlier stage (Iran 7, 1969, pp. 115 22) and at that time had an assembly area which was probably an open interior court. In the later form two of the towers in the middle of the building were transformed into open porticus installations and the inner court became a columnar hall. Historically, this means that there was a greater sense of security among the inhabitants. Nevertheless, the manor was destroyed about 700 B.C. In the period when the manor was still inhabited by its original owners there was a small fortress on a low hill and beside it a building which housed a painted chamber, an irregularly shaped hall measuring approximately 10.40 × 12.50 m; this was either a throne room or a temple, in the opinion of the excavator (Iran 8, 1970, p. 147). The tiles which were found on the floor of the hall and which must have fallen from above (ibid., pl. III) have striking patterns (R. C. Henrickson, Iranica Antiqua 18, 1983, pp. 81 96) paralleled by designs on pottery from Tepe Sialk (R. Ghirshman, Fouilles de Sialk II, pls. IX XI). These geometric designs were therefore not isolated inventions of a given area but were widely used and may even have had meanings associated with them. Together with gaily painted red on white pottery showing the kite and cross (Iran 6, 1968, p. 118) genre Luristan, these tiles create a colorful background for the Luristan bronzes. The connection of the bronzes with the settlement at Bābā Jān was provided by the discovery of a pin in the shape of a lion stylized in the abstract, stereometric manner characteristic of Luristan bronzes (Iran 6, 1968, p. 129, fig. 12).
It is surely in such substantial settlements as Bābā Jān that the intricate work on the bronzes must have proceeded as suggested by P. R. S. Moorey, who mentioned even larger, urban sites (Iran 7, 1969, p. 138), although the principal patrons of the bronze workers may well have been tribesmen like those described by C. Goff as living during the summer in settlements “on the summit of the Kakawand Aftabron plateau or along the Badavar and Khangari river valleys.” Such settlements consist of a few mud brick houses, a large number of tents and a cemetery. When the main part of the tribe migrates to warmer pasture of the west only a few families remain behind to caretake (Iran 6, 1968, p. 109).
In the cemeteries of such tribes which lived in these regions in the early first millennium B.C., were found cast and hammered bronzes which have been greatly appreciated by lovers of modern art because of their elegant forms and fascinating combinations of animal and human forms into monsters which seem to emerge from a demonic world of their own. Hence the high monetary value of the bronzes which has resulted in the pillaging of cemeteries and the destruction of the archeological context. Only in recent years has L. Vanden Berghe succeeded in finding undisturbed graves in cemeteries of Luristan (e.g., Archaeology 24, 1971, pp. 263 70; Iranica Antiqua 10, 1973, pp. 1 79; Archaeologia 63, 1973, pp. 24 36 and 108, 1977, pp. 52 63).
The bronzes were classified in P.R.S. Moorey’s standard catalogue (Catalogue of the Ancient Persian Bronzes in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1971) into categories of tools and weapons, horse harness parts, finials, figurines and other statuettes, pins and personal ornaments. Stylistic and iconographic motifs connect these cast bronzes with repousse‚ work, in which disk shaped pins and quiver covers as well as covers for shields were the principal categories. The intense expression of these bronzes affects the viewer, even if their precise interpretation remains closed because there are neither texts nor an unbroken tradition which would provide clues to their meaning. Yet the discovery by L. Vanden Berghe of a finial, lying beside the head of the deceased in a grave at Chinan (Plate XII, 26; Archaeology 24, 1971, p. 265) has revealed the principal purpose of such objects: they were meant to ward off demons as terrifying as the likenesses were themselves. The more monstrous the demon image, the more certainly the actual demon would be able to ward off others of his or her kind. Also, the animals surely had a meaning which transcended that of the animal itself. They were probably acolytes and symbols of deities who shared with these beings the ability to help man and protect him against evil forces. Very precise observation of the representations indicates what qualities of animals seemed especially important, notably, strength and courage. One can feel how these animals were viewed with admiration, with fear, even with hate, but always with respect for the divine life within them.
Bibliography: Given in the text.
Originally Published: December 15, 1986
Last Updated: August 15, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. II, Fasc. 5-6, pp. 549-565