- Oxus Treasure
Model of gold chariot drawn by four horses abreast: the chariot box or cab is open at the back. It has an irregular square front, wider at the top than the bottom, ornamented with two incised bands in saltire, probably representing diagonal bracing struts. These bands are decorated with triangles and have a Bes head at the intersection. The floor is covered with cross-hatching, most probably representing a flooring of interlaced leather thongs. The two large wheels each have nine spokes, and the running surfaces are studded with small pellets to represent the bulbous heads of large stud-like nails which in the full-size original would have secured a tyre and felloe-sheathing of bronze. The axle is soldered at either end but the wheels originally rotated freely. A seat, in the form of a narrow strip of gold, runs from the front to back of the interior. On this is seated the principal figure. He wears a long robe reaching to the ankles, the sleeves of which appear to be empty like those of the 'kandys'. On his head is a hood or cap, around the front of which is a flat strip of gold, resembling a fillet, with the ends projecting above the forehead, and around his neck is a gold wire torc. The driver wears a similar cap without a fillet, a short girded tunic and a wire torc; his legs are also formed of wires. The two human figures are fixed to the chariot by wires.
The chariot is pulled via a pair of draught-poles fixed to four horses under a single four-bay yoke. On the yoke, above each horse, is a large loop, representing the terrets, through which the wire reins pass; alternating with these loops were originally four crescentic fan-shaped yoke ornaments. The bits have large rings at the sides as rein attachments, and each animal has duplicate representations of the neck-strap and backing-element, the former with a pendant tassel, punched into the metal.
The horses are small, pony-sized animals, but otherwise have the appearance of ram-headed Nesaeans. Their tails are tied up in mud-knots and the hair of the forelock is pulled back Only nine legs of the horses survive and the spokes of one wheel are imperfect. The two human figures are fixed to the chariot by wires passing through holes in the bottom and doubled over beneath. In the case of the charioteer these wires are attached to a small plate connecting his feet; in the case of the other figure they are longer, and also pass through the seat.
- 5thC BC-4thC BC
- Excavated/Findspot: Takht-i Kuwad (?)
- (Asia,Tajikistan,Takht-i Kuwad)
- Length: 19.5 centimetres
- Height: 7.5 centimetres
- Height: 4.5 centimetres (wheel)
- Weight: 75.5 grammes
Related bronze chariot-model formerly in the Bröckelschen Collection, attributed to western Iran and a 7th-6th century BC date by P. Calmeyer and more recently by Houshang Mahboubian in "Art of Ancient Iran: Copper and Bronze" (London 1997), p. 252, cat. no. 329. The profile of the chariot and the wheel construction exactly match representations of Achaemenid chariots on the sculptured facades of the Apadana at Persepolis, the so-called Darius seal, and the upper register of a Persian-period stela from Paphlagonia. These do not show the fronts of the chariots, thus it is unclear what was normally used to decorate this portion of the chariot. The use of a Bes-head on the Oxus chariot-model is compatible with it having been made for a boy as Bes was regarded as being a protective deity of the young, and his popularity throughout the Persian empire is demonstrated by the discovery of amulets (e.g. in a hoard at Babylon) and on gold jewellery. The hand rail at the back of the Oxus chariot model is a practical feature for mounting and dismounting and has also been noted on a Persian-period chariot model from Amathonte in Cyprus, and on sarcophagi of the same period. The identification of the horses has attracted some different opinions. Littauer (1971) suggested they were ponies and the vehicle was merely an excursion chariot but others have regarded them as Nisaean horses.
- Mongiatti, Meeks & Simpson 2010
- MacGregor 2010 26
- Curtis & Tallis 2005 399
- Dalton 1964a 7, pp. 3-4, pl. IV
- Curtis & Tallis 2012 98
- Pugachenkova G A & Rempel L I 1965a fig. 4
- Rogers R W 1929a fig.35
- Pinder-Wilson 1971a no.24
- Du Ry C J 1969a p. 152
- Knowles D 2003a p. 20
- Gafurov B G & Cibukidis D I 1980a p. 263, figure
- Boardman J 1994a p.114
- Abdi 1999a p.135, table 8.4
- Littauer M A & Crouwel J H 1979 p.145, fig.82
- Roaf M 1990a p.221
- Hicks J 1976a p.70
- Karageorghis 1973 p.79, figs 10-11, pls
- Allen 2005a p.93 (suggests it may be a religious dedication)
- Von der Osten H H 1956a pl. 73: top
- Barnett 1968a pl.V.1
- Simpson 2004b pp. 230-32 (discussion of Bes)
- Littauer M 1971a pp.27-28, pl. IXa
- Simpson 2012a pp.32-33
- Kipiani 1999 pp.7-18
- Kipiani 2000 pp.74-95
2012 24 May - 30 Sep, London, BM, 'The horse: from Arabia to Royal Ascot'
2006 7 Mar-11 Jun, Barcelona, Fundacion La Caixa, 'L'imperi Oblidat'.
2005-2006 Sept-Jan, London, BM, 'Forgotten Empire'.
G52/IRAN/27, 17/11/95-Aug 2005.
G49/IRAN/27, 16 Jun-23 Dec 1994.
1989 Temporary display, BM, Room 35 (Hinton St Mary mosaic staircase)
Iranian Room [IR], OT case, no. 7, Jul 1975-ca 1990.
1979, State Hermitage, Leningrad.
1971, BM, 'Royal Persia: a commemoration of Cyrus the Great and his successors on the occasion of the 2500th anniversary of the founding of the Persian Empire'.
Persian Landing, c/c (south-west), from 1958.
Room 20: Persian Room, 1932-ca 1939.
King Edward VII Building: Franks Display, 1923-1932.
Gold Ornament Room, 1900/1901-.
Only nine legs of the horses survive (out of a total of sixteen); the wheels no longer move freely as they have been partially glued (in 1975); the same glue was used on the underside to fix the split pins securing the figures inside the chariot.
2 December 2004
Reason for treatment
Clean. Examine. Discuss support, etc.
13.2.1975: dirty. Raymonde Enderly30.11.04: dingy and dusty. Concern over various factors of mount. The present perspex support at the front is not adequate support to the horses. The horse with only one rein tends to slew over. Horse second from left, head on, has a green tail - gold sheet over corroded copper alloy wire. Copper is corroded but seems stable.Wire supporting figures has tarnished a little. Old glue joins have stuck ends of fastenings to bottom of chariot. Blobby old glue jojns either side of chariot at axle.
13.2.1975 - washed in water and a neutral detergent, rinsed in distilled water and dried thoroughly. Figures stuck with HMG. Raymonde Enderly30.12.04 - Swabbed and brushed with Industrial methylated spirits (ethanol,methanol) to remove grime. Glue left as time not allowed for what might have been a difficult reconstruction. PMP
15 March 1957 - 19 March 1957
Reason for analysis
Gold chariot statuette from Oxus Treasure
Straighten wheels and repair.
Analysis materials group
- Gold & Alloys
Main type of investigation
Analysis reference number
- OT 7 (catalogue number)
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Object reference number: WCO26153
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