Bronze figure of a winged bull

Urartian, late eighth century BC
From Toprakkale (ancient Rusahinili), eastern Turkey

This bronze figure of a winged bull was probably part of the decoration of a piece of furniture (the dowel at the bottom is for attachment). It comes from Toprakkale (ancient Rusahinili) in ancient Urartu, and was acquired in 1877. The missing face was probably made of ivory, and the sockets in the wings once contained inlay, while the bronze itself was covered in gold leaf. Both sides of the wings were inlaid, showing that the object was designed to be seen from either side. Like many ancient furniture decorations, it must originally have been very bright and colourful.

We know from Assyrian documents that the peoples of eastern Anatolia (modern Turkey) exploited the rich copper deposits found there. In the first half of the first millennium BC the Urartian kingdom had the most highly developed bronze production of Anatolia and the ancient Near East. The tin required for the production of bronze was probably imported from Afghanistan in the east.

Urartu, centred on Lake Van, was the northern neighbour and rival of the Assyrian Empire during the ninth to seventh centuries BC. It then disappeared, possibly destroyed by raids of horse-borne warriors, known to the Greeks as Scythians, associated with the Medes from western Iran. The name survives, however, in that of its highest mountain, Ararat.

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More information

Bibliography

D. Frankel, The ancient kingdom of Urartu (London, The British Museum Press, 1979)

R. Merhav, Urartu: a metalworking centre (Jerusalem, Israel Museum, 1991)

R.D. Barnett, 'The excavations of the British Museum at Toprak Kale near Van', Iraq-6, 12 (1950)

Dimensions

Length: 13.010 cm
Width: 10.160 cm

Museum number

ME 91248

WCO22718

Obtained by A.H. Layard (1877)

Location

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