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Bronze ceremonial axe head inlaid with silver


Length: 17.800 cm

ME 123268

Middle East

    Bronze ceremonial axe head inlaid with silver

    Bactrian-Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC), around 2000 BC
    Acquired in Pakistan

    Three animals elaborately entwined

    This bronze axe head is in the form of three animals, a boar, a tiger and a goat, all intertwined. The boar's back forms the blade, which is blunt. The tiger, beautifully striped with silver inlay, seizes the goat. The complex decoration suggests that it was probably ceremonial, and the rivet holes indicate that it was firmly fixed onto a curved wooden handle, which has not survived. It was obtained in the North-West Provinces of India (now Pakistan) but may originally have come from eastern Iran or Bactria. Related in form to axe heads from Khinaman, near Kerman in Iran, it perhaps dates from around 2000 BC. Analysis has shown that the alloy is copper with approximately 10% tin and between 1% and 3% arsenic.

    At the end of the third millennium there was a flourishing civilization in South-East Iran with connections with south Bactria (northern Afghanistan) and southern Turkmenistan.

    J. Curtis, Ancient Persia-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)

    D. Collon, Ancient Near Eastern art (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

    R. Maxwell-Hyslop, 'British Museum axe no. 123628: a Bactrian bronze', Bulletin of the Asia Institute, NS I (1987), pp. 17-26


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