Illustrated introduction to Mesopotamia, £8.99
Height: 18.000 cm
Width: 12.000 cm
Diameter: 23.000 cm
Bequest of Oscar Raphael
Room 52: Ancient Iran
Bronze horse-bit with decorated cheek-pieces
Early Iron Age, about 10th-7th centuries BC
From Luristan, western Iran
The region of Luristan in western Iran saw a rich tradition of bronze production in the early part of the first millennium BC. Virtually all the bronzes that have survived come from plundered cemeteries of stone-built graves in the region. These mostly date from between about 1000 and 700 BC. At a number of sites, bronzes were also deposited in shrines.
The bronzes were cast in a variety of forms using the lost-wax process. While each object is unique they are related in style and decoration to a range of objects widely distributed in west Iran.
The bronze workers of Luristan excelled in producing horse decoration, perhaps not surprisingly in view of the fact that, as Assyrian reliefs make clear, cavalry was rapidly replacing chariotry as the main mobile force in most Near Eastern armies. Throughout the Late Assyrian period (about 1000-612 BC) many horses for the Assyrian armies came from the plains of western Iran.
A variety of cheek-pieces decorated Luristan horse-bits, and the composite creatures decorating this example are very characteristic of the region. In graves they were often placed under the dead person's head. Signs of wear on many of the bits suggest that they were actually used, if only as parade harness, and were not just offerings specially made for the grave.
P.R.S. Moorey, Ancient bronzes from Luristan (London, The British Museum Press, 1974)
J. Curtis, Ancient Persia (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)