Myths from Persia, £8.99
Silver-headed iron pin
Luristan culture, 10th-7th century
From western Iran
This elaborately decorated pin is linked stylistically to the rich metalworking tradition of the region of Luristan in the mountains of western Iran. Surviving examples mainly come from plundered graves. According to reports, tribesmen of Luristan plundered ancient cemeteries containing large quantities of bronze and sometimes iron objects from the 1920s onwards. At first they melted the bronzes down. The iron was thought too corroded for any use so they threw it away. Then dealers began to be interested and the objects became greatly admired for their fine craftsmanship and exotic decoration. The metalwork varies in date, but is predominantly of the early first millennium BC.
The head of this pin is cast in silver. It shows a male figure grappling with lions in a pose known as that of the 'master of animals'. The motif is known in western Iran from at least the fourth millennium BC.
Pins are particularly common amongst collections of Luristan metalwork. Although exotic pins were made elsewhere in the Near East they are comparatively rare. They were used to fasten garments and in dressing the hair, or simply pinned in a way that displayed the decorated head. In the shrine at Dum Surkh in Luristan, elaborate pins served as votive gifts inserted in the walls. The simpler pins, as in Greek sanctuaries, may have been dedicated along with clothes, as western Iran was famous for its textiles.
P.R.S. Moorey, Ancient bronzes from Luristan (London, The British Museum Press, 1974)
J. Curtis, Ancient Persia (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)