Height: 15.000 cm
Weight: 75.500 g
Bequeathed by Sir A.W. Franks
On loan to
Gold plaque from the Oxus treasure
Achaemenid Persian, 5th-4th century BC
From the region of Takht-i Kuwad, Tadjikistan
A Mede involved in a religious ritual
This embossed ornament is part of the Oxus treasure, the most important collection of silver and gold to have survived from the Achaemenid period. The treasure is from a temple and dates mainly from the fifth and fourth centuries BC.
The single largest component of the Oxus treasure is a group of about fifty thin gold plaques, of which this is one. Ranging in height from under 3 cm to almost 20 cm, most have chased outlines of human figures. Some are very crude and roughly executed, suggesting local or amateur workmanship. This, however, is one of the finest examples.
Like many of the other plaques, this shows a man wearing Median costume. He has an akinakes (short sword) of a type depicted on reliefs at the Persian centre of Persepolis and represented in the Oxus treasure by a fine gold scabbard. The man is sometimes identified as a priest because he carries a bundle of sticks known as a barsom. These were originally grasses that were distributed during religious ceremonies.
The purpose of the plaques is unclear, but they may have been votive objects left as a pious act in a temple or shrine.
J. Curtis, Ancient Persia-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)
D. Collon, Ancient Near Eastern art (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)
M. Roaf, Cultural atlas of Mesopotamia (New York, 1990)