Painted beaker

Susa A, late 5th-early 4th millennium BC
From Susa, south-west Iran

This beautiful vessel is typical of pottery discovered in graves in a large cemetery at Susa. The cemetery was located near the base of a monumental mudbrick platform which probably supported temples. Excavations took place in 1906-8. At least a thousand graves were found with fully extended skeletons, each accompanied by three or four ceramic vessels. The pottery is carefully made by hand and three types of vessels recur - a beaker, like this one, a dish and a small jar - suggesting a standard grave ritual. The vessels are all different in design and the finest must have belonged to important people. Geometric patterns are common but there are also stylized humans and animals, like the birds around the rim on this example. Along with the vessels copper axes and discs were found in the graves and these, it is suggested, may have been used by priests during certain ceremonies.

The site of Susa was founded at the end of the fifth millennium BC when it was probably a religious centre. Elaborate painted ceramics and stamp seals with complicated scenes link the culture of Susa to the Iranian highlands. They are different from the products of the contemporary Ubaid cultures to the west in southern Mesopotamia.

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More information


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

H. and M. Munsterberg, World ceramics from Prehistori (New York, Penguin Studio Books, 1998)

P.O. Harper, J. Aruz, and F. Tallon, The royal city of Susa (New York, Metropolitan Museum, 1992)


Height: 20.500 cm
Diameter: 17.000 cm (top)
Diameter: 17.000 cm (top)
Capacity: 2.460 litres

Museum number

ME 1924-9-2,2


On loan from the Musée du Louvre, Paris.


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