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Gold griffin-headed armlet from the Oxus treasure


Width: 11.570 cm
Height: 12.800 cm
Thickness: 2.610 cm (at horns)

Bequeathed by Sir A.W. Franks

ME 124017

Room 52: Ancient Iran

    Gold griffin-headed armlet from the Oxus treasure

    Achaemenid Persian, 5th-4th century BC

    From the region of Takht-i Kuwad, Tadjikistan

    This gold bracelet is part of the Oxus treasure, the most important collection of gold and silver to have survived from the Achaemenid period. There is a companion piece in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

    The bracelets are similar to objects being brought as tribute on reliefs at the Persian centre of Persepolis. The Greek writer Xenophon (born around 430 BC) tells us that armlets were among the items considered as gifts of honour at the Persian court. The hollow spaces would have contained inlays of glass or semi-precious stones. The bracelets are typical of the Achaemenid Persian court style of the fifth to fourth century BC.

    The companion piece, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, was bought by Captain F.C. Burton when he rescued a group of merchants who had been captured by bandits on the road from Kabul to Peshawar. They were carrying with them the Oxus treasure, which Burton helped them to recover, and so they allowed him to buy this bracelet before going on to sell the remainder of the pieces in Rawalpindi. It was from the bazaars of India that other pieces of the Treasure emerged, reaching the British Museum by a circuitous route.

    J. Curtis, Ancient Persia-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)

    D.M. Wilson, The forgotten collector: Augus, The Walter Neurath Memorial Lectures 16 (London, Thames and Hudson, 1984)

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

    M. Roaf, Cultural atlas of Mesopotamia (New York, 1990)


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    On display: Room 52: Ancient Iran

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