Byzantine and Russian icons, £15.99
Length: 15.240 cm
Height: 7.620 cm
Room 54: Anatolia and Urartu
Bronze furniture attachment
Urartian, late 8th - early 7th century BC
From Toprakkale (ancient Rusahinili), eastern Anatolia (modern Turkey)
This bronze object was acquired in 1877 by the archaeologist Henry Layard. It was made using the lost wax process and is cast in three pieces. It was probably part of a throne or bed and has incised decoration and fitter's marks. In antiquity furniture was primarily made of wood, with costlier materials like metal used for decoration. This piece is unique among surviving bronze furniture fittings of the Urartian kingdom.
Urartu, centred on Lake Van, was the northern neighbour and rival of the Assyrian Empire from the ninth to the seventh centuries BC. However, the kingdom disappeared before 600 BC, possibly destroyed by raids of horse-borne warriors known to the Greeks as Scythians. The name survives, however, in that of its highest mountain, Ararat.
In the first half of the first millennium BC the Urartian kingdom had the most highly developed and sophisticated bronze industry in Anatolia and the ancient Near East, perhaps because of rich local sources of metals. Assyrian records of campaigns against Urartu list vast amounts of captured booty, including large numbers of metal vessels, statues and furniture.
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)