- Museum number
Cast copper alloy pendant amulet in the shape of human figure, standing with legs apart. The head and cap are triangular in section. The cap is pointed with a narrow rim and a tuft on the top. The nose and eyes and device in the centre of chest are rendered as a dot in circle. Lying across the shoulders and the back of the neck is a lizard-like animal with a large head and a tail. Tthe right arm is bent at the elbow; the left hanging at the side. Worn parallel incisions are visible on the left leg. The reverse is flat with a loop for attachment.
- Production date
- 8thC BC-2ndC BC (circa)
Height: 29 millimetres
Width: 12 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- C. Fabrègues: Bronze, cast amulet pendants in the shape of a 3–4 cm high standing human figure occur over a long period at various places in northern Iran and Central Asia. Few come from controlled excavations. Most have been purchased on the open market and have therefore neither a firm provenance nor date. With the exception of a few which have modelling, albeit crude, on the back, the majority have a flat back with a suspension loop attached. The legs are square in section, while the arms are occasionally extended, but more generally akimbo with the hands clasped at waist or chest level.
Among the examples from clandestine excavations, six are in the Godard collection (De Waele 1982, fig.149, nos.293–6, fig.220, nos.399, 400), one in the Adam collection (Moorey 1974, p.165, no.145), and two in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (Moorey 1971, pl.66, figs.429–30) . Those in the Godard collection are undoubtedly from Iran since they were acquired by him when he was director of the archaeological services there between 1928 and 1960. De Waele shows that they come from northern Iran, i.e. south of the Caspian Sea, and attributes to them a date from the late 2nd to the beginning of the 1st millennium BC.
Wilber gives Luristan, a region located between Mesopotamia (Iraq), Nehavend and ancient Elam (Khuzistan), as the provenance of the example in the Missouri Museum collection. This is because he bought it himself in the Tehran market soon after the plundering of Luristan which followed the chance discovery in that region in 1928 of the first Lur burial. Moorey says of the example in the Adam collection that it is supposed to have been found either in Azerbaijan or Gilan, i.e. either to the east or south of the Caspian Sea, and he dates it to Iron Age I or II (c. 1200–750 BC). As far as the figures in the Ashmolean Museum are concerned, Moorey seems to suggest for them an origin in central Iran or Luristan and a dating to the 8th century BC. Indeed, he mentions in connection with the figurines, first, eight bronze specimens found in burials of the 8th-century BC necropolis B at Sialk, near Kashan (central Iran), where they were placed on the chest of the deceased (Ghirshman 1938, p.58, fig.6, pl.XXVII.2, pl.LII, S.582, pl.LXXV, S.918, pl.LXXIII, S. 939); and second, specimens Stein recovered from burials in the mound of Kazabad near Hulailan, Luristan. The burials are claimed by Stein on the basis of accompanying objects to be no earlier than the 1st millennium BC (Stein 1938, pp.331–2). It should be noted that Moorey's connections are not entirely convincing as Stein does not describe nor illustrate the figurines he found at Kazabad and, moreover, the Sialk examples are stylistically different from those in the Ashmolean Museum. On the one hand, their sex is denoted: one is masculine and the others are feminine. On the other hand, they are 5–6 cm high, and if their arms are akimbo, their legs are joined together and they are pierced with holes for attachment or suspension.
Northern Iran rather than Luristan seems therefore the most probable provenance of these figures; a view consistent with the fact that excavations of Lur burials from the Bronze and Iron Age carried out by Van den Berghe (1968, 1970, 1973), and more recently by Haerinck and Overlaert (2004), do not record any examples of such figurines. Furthermore none appears among the antiquities from Luristan in the David Weill collection (Amiet 1976), nor in the published catalogues of the Graeffe collection (Godard 1954) and of the Coiffard collection of bronzes from Luristan (Amiet 1963) though these may not have been published completely.
Beyond their general shape, the Begram specimens share with these examples of probable northern Iranian origin some further details. So, for instance, 1880.3677.b and an example in the Ashmolean Museum (Moorey 1971, no.430) both represent the eyes as a dot and circle and repeat the same motif on the chest. It also shares with an example in the Godard collection the rendering of the nose and mouth (De Waele 1982, no.296). It may be added that the stick and plume held by 1880.3677.b and IOLC.5492 is not dissimilar from the depictions of the arms of female figurines, 9–14 cm high, with a flat body, short legs, a large head with open eye-sockets and prominent pierced ears, which are reported from the Piravend region (north of Luristan) and attributed to the 8th century BC (Amiet 1976, fig.230; Moorey 1971, fig.211). Because of their artistic links with these figures from northern Iran, there is therefore little doubt that the Begram figures share a similar prototype. That they come from the same region and are of the same date is however not certain. Indeed, they display some features, such as the headdress and parallel incisions across the legs, which are not met with in the northern Iranian figures. They could accordingly have been produced locally.
Furthermore, there is some evidence that figures of the same sort continued being made long after the 8th century BC. Burials in the Kara-bulak cemetery in Ferghana (eastern Uzbekistan) dating from the 2nd century BC to the 7th century AD (Gorbunova 1986, p.177) have produced four examples, all 3 cm high, with straight legs standing apart and square in section, the arms akimbo and the hands either on the hips or the belly. One has a pointed hat. (Gorbunova 1986, pp.143, 331, pl.LI.2–5). The early medieval city of Penjikent in Sogdiana, western Tajikistan (Belenitsky et al.1973, fig.56.7), dated to the 6th–8th century AD (Formozov et al. 1977, p.145), has yielded an example, also 3 cm high, with a pointed hat and the arms ending in stumps. All have minimal face modelling with the mouth and eyes rendered as elongated holes. As for the Penjikent example, its back is also modelled. When compared with these Central Asian examples, the Begram anthropomorphic figures seem to be earlier and moreover closer to their northern Iranian counterparts. They may be tentatively dated to the 8th–2nd century BC.
Amiet, P. (1963) ‘Les bronzes du Luristan de la collection Coiffard’, La Revue du Louvre et des Musées de France, XIIIème année, pp.11-90.
Amiet, P. (1976) Les Antiquités du Luristan. Collection David-Weill, Paris.
Amiet, P. (1977) L’art antique du Proche-orient, Paris.
Belenitsky, A.M., Bentovich, I.B. and Bol'shakov, O.G. (1973) Srednevekovyi gorod Srednei Asii [Medieval cities of Central Asia], Leningrad.
De Waele, E. (1982) Bronzes du Luristan et d’Amlash. Ancienne collection Godard, Louvain-La-Neuve.
Haerinck, E. and Overlaert, B. (2004) ‘The Iron Age III Graveyard at War Kabud, Pusht-i Kuh, Luristan (Luristan Excavation Documents, vol.V),’ Acta Iranica, 27.
Formozov, A.A., Jacenko, I.V., Belenitsky, A.M. and Darkevic, V. L. (1977) Proizvedeniya iskusstva b novieikh narodkakh sovetskikh arkheologov, Moscow.
Ghirshman, R., (1938) Fouilles de Sialk près de Kashan, vol. II, Paris.
Godard, Y. et al. (1954) Bronzes du Luristan, Collection E. Graeffe. Exposition du 6/7 au 26/9/1954 au Gemeente Museum, La Haye.
Gorbunova, N.G. (1986) ‘The Culture of Ancient Ferghana VI century BC–VI century AD’, BAR International Series 282.
Moorey, P.R.S. (1974) Ancient Persian Bronzes in the Adam Collection, London.
Stein, M.A. (1938) ‘An Archaeological Journey in Western Iran’, Geographical Journal 92, pp.331–2.
Van den Berghe, L. (1967) ‘La nécropole de War Kabud ou le déclin dune civilisation du bronze’, Archeologia 18, Oct., pp.49–61.
Van den Berghe, L. (1968) ‘La nécropole de Bani Surmah. Aurore d’une civilisation de bronze’, Archeologia 24, Sept.–Oct., pp. 53–63.
Van den Berghe, L. (1970a ) ‘La nécropole de Kalleh Nisar’, Archeologia 32, Jan.–Feb., pp.65–73.
Van den Berghe, L. (1970b) ‘Luristan. Prospections archéologiques dans la région de Badr‘, Archeologia 36, Sept.–Oct., pp.10–21.
Van den Berghe, L. (1973a) ‘Le Luristan à l’Age du Bronze. Prospections archéologiques dans le Pusht-i Kuh central’, Archaeologia 63, Oct., pp.25–36.
Van den Berghe, L. (1973b) ‘Le Luristan à l’age du fer. La nécropole de Kutal-I-Gugul’, Archeologia 65, Dec., pp.17–29.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Collected from the site of Begram, 1834-8 (MSS Eur. E161/VII, ff.31-3).
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: IM.Metal.13 (British Museum no.: India Museum collection)