Myths from Persia, £8.99
Diameter: 17.400 cm
Height: 11.000 cm
Capacity: 600.000 ml (at carinated shoulder)
Bequeathed by Sir A.W. Franks
On loan to
Deep silver bowl
Achaemenid, 5th century BC
From near Erzincan, eastern Anatolia (modern Turkey)
The region where this bowl is said to have been found was distant from the centre of political power in the Achaemenid period, and little is known of life there at the time. The presence of the bowl, however, demonstrates the widespread influence of Achaemenid court style. In fact such bowls were used throughout the vast Persian Empire, which stretched from Egypt and the Aegean to the Indus Valley.
There is evidence to show that vessels in gold and silver, as well as various other precious objects, were esteemed for their bullion value. They were probably made from carefully prescribed weights of metal, and could have been stored or exchanged as currency. The long tradition in the ancient Near East of using precious metals for currency continued even after the introduction of coinage. Bowls such as this one would have belonged to the royal treasury, and would have counted as part of the wealth of the state. They were probably also standard items from a royal table-service.
Many Classical authors refer to the great richness of the Persian royal treasuries, and it is clear that bowls in precious metals were amongst the treasures. Their importance is shown by the fact that bowls were presented by the Persian king as gifts and they were also considered to be suitable gifts for the great king himself. They appear on the famous reliefs from the city of Persepolis, being carried by tribute bearers.
O.M. Dalton, Treasure of the Oxus: with oth, 3rd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1964)