Stone bowl

From Khafajeh, Iraq
Early Dynastic period, about 2600-2400 BC

Links with ancient India?

This vessel was found in Mesopotamia on a major trade route though the mountains on to the Iranian plateau. It is made of a stone called chlorite or softstone. Tepe Yahya in Iran was a major production centre and one of the main sources of the stone.

Similarly carved chlorite vessels have been found on many Near Eastern sites of this period. In Mesopotamia they have been found in temples, in palaces and in graves. They have also been found at sites in the Gulf on the Island of Tarut and further south. The most frequent motifs are a type of building, but animals, particularly snakes, are also common.

The carving on this vessel is particularly fine. The design is probably linked to Iranian mythology. A man in a net skirt kneels on two humped-backed bulls, or zebus, standing back to back, and grasps streams watering vegetation and a palm tree; above are two undulating lines (rain clouds?), a crescent moon and a rosette sun. A similar figure with a rosette grasps two snakes and stands between two felines lying back to back. A lion and eagle attack a bull with a small animal below.

Some of these motifs are known from Iranian cylinder seals dating back to the beginning of the fourth millennium BC. The zebus are not native to Mesopotamia, and their presence here indicates a connection with the civilization which was developing at this time along the Indus Valley in Pakistan and north-west India.

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More information


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

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


Diameter: 17.780 cm
Height: 11.430 cm

Museum number

ME 128887


Purchased with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund


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