Ceremonial gold scabbard from the Oxus treasure
Achaemenid Persian, 5th-4th century BC
From the region of Takht-i Kuwad, Tadjikistan
This scabbard is part of the Oxus treasure, the most important collection of gold and silver to have survived from the Achaemenid period. The treasure, probably from a temple on the banks of the river Oxus, dates mainly from the fifth and fourth centuries BC.
This is one of the earliest pieces in the treasure and is a scabbard for an akinakes, a short sword which is also shown on reliefs from Persepolis and on plaques within the treasure itself. The thin gold, which was originally laid over another material such as wood or leather, is embossed with scenes showing a lion hunt. These are reminiscent of Assyrian reliefs showing the same subject. The horsemen, although wearing trousers in the Iranian fashion, have headgear not unlike that worn by Assyrian kings. How this influence was transmitted is unclear: the Assyrian cities had lain abandoned for decades by the time this scabbard was made. Perhaps some of the sculptures were still visible, or possibly the artistic tradition had found its way earlier into Iran.
J. Curtis, Ancient Persia-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)