Illustrated introduction to Mesopotamia, £8.99
Diameter: 9.800 cm
Thickness: 1.500 cm
Decorative roundel with a bearded face
Elamite, about 1350-1200 BC
Said to be from Pir-i Kuh, Dailaman region, north-west Iran
Traces of silver and gold on a roundel to decorate a belt, clothing or a horse's harness
This decorative roundel, with a frontal bearded face, may have been used to ornament clothing or as a horse-trapping. It is made of bitumen with a band of copper. It bears traces of silver gilt, and other similar objects show that this metal originally covered the bitumen. The gold leaf was attached to the silver by burnishing and heating, a process known as diffusion bonding.
The use of bitumen as the core material suggests this roundel was manufactured in Susiana, where there are substantial bitumen seeps and a lengthy tradition of its use in sculpture. Similar objects have been excavated in this region at Susa and Haft Tepe. The latter site was probably occupied only during the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries BC hence this object can be relatively closely dated.
The period known as Middle Elamite (fifteenth-twelfth centuries BC) was the heyday for Elam, the name given to the south-western part of Iran in antiquity. By the mid-twelfth century BC the Elamite king Shutruk-nahunte was sufficiently powerful to invade southern Mesopotamia and carry off booty to Susa, including the stone stela inscribed with the Code of Hammurabi (now in the Musée du Louvre in Paris). However, some forty years later the tables were turned when the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar I, invaded Elam and brought an end to this flourishing dynasty.
J. Curtis, Ancient Persia (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)