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Gold figures of deities


Height: 1.750 cm (largest figure)

ME 116232

Middle East

    Gold figures of deities

    Hittite, 13th century BC
    From Carchemish, south-east Anatolia (modern Turkey)

    Hittite gods on a miniature scale

    Most of the thirty-eight small gold figures (five illustrated here) are inlaid with steatite or lapis lazuli (a rare blue stone imported from Afghanistan). They represent Hittite deities and are very similar to the gods carved in the thirteenth century BC on the rock of the open-air shrine at Yazilikaya near the Hittite capital of Hattusa (modern Bogazköy) in central Anatolia. Since this is their probable date, they must have decorated an object that became an heirloom, as they were found in a grave of the seventh century BC.

    The rich burial, which also contained a cylinder of lapis lazuli, an openwork gold strip and disc and gold tassels from the ends of a belt, was discovered by Leonard Woolley when he was excavating the Neo-Hittite and later levels at Carchemish. The burial was a cremation within the walls of the city. This was unusual because at that time cremation burials were generally made in cemeteries outside the walls of settlements. The cremated bones were in a coarse domestic vessel instead of the normal urn, and, because the burial was very rich, Woolley suggested that it might have been that of an important person who died during the siege of Carchemish by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 605 BC.

    M. Caygill, The British Museum A-Z compani (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

    D. Collon, Ancient Near Eastern art (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)


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