Height: 2.600 cm (amulet case)
Width: 2.500 cm
Depth: 0.800 cm
Length: 5.300 cm (bevelled rectangular plaque)
ME OA 1938.11-12.1 (bowl);ME OA 1939.3-13.1-39
Room 34: The Islamic world
Objects from the Nihavand find
Found at Nihavand, western Iran
11th-12th century AD
Belonging to 'the eminent courtier'
These silver objects were discovered together in Nihavand, in western Iran, along with a small gold wine-bowl, also in The British Museum. The find included an amulet case in nielloed silver, with its lid missing. Both sides of the case are decorated in repoussé technique with a peacock, surrounded by an inscription of sura 112 of the Qur'an, which translates: 'Say: He is God, One God, the Everlasting Refuge, who has not begotten, and has not been begotten, and equal to him is not any one.' The end of the case is decorated with a lion, in high relief.
The find also revealed two different series of silver plaques, to be attached to leather belts (or horse-trappings). One series is made using the repoussé technique, and has a bevelled design. The other series is decorated in a finer scrolling pattern against a black nielloed ground.
A buckle-ring from the same find names the owner of these precious items: Abu Shujac Inju Takin, 'the eminent courtier'. This is a Turkish name, and it is most likely that Abu Shujac was an official of the Seljuk Empire. The Seljuks were a Central Asian Turkish dynasty, which established an empire across the Islamic world, from Eastern Iran to Anatolia, during the eleventh century. This empire gradually disintegrated at the end of the twelfth century. The belt was an emblem of rank in Turkish societies, sometimes presented by the ruler to a deserving courtier. Abu Shujac's fine gilded silver belt may show that he was an official with important social standing.
R. Ward, Islamic metalwork (London, The British Museum Press, 1993)
B. Gray, 'A Seljuq hoard from Persia', The British Museum Quarterly-5, 13: 3 (1938-39), pp. 73-79, plates 32-33
R. Hasson, Early Islamic jewellery (L.A. Mayer Memorial Institute for Islamic Art, Jerusalem, 1987)