- Museum number
Fragment of limestone relief: showing a bearded male guardsman facing left; wearing a pleated headdress and holding a spear with both hands, right hand placed above the left, with a strung recurved bow with bird's head tips slung over his left shoulder, and a quiver with hanging cords with egg-shaped tassels worn on his back.
- Production date
- 6thC BC-5thC BC
Height: 37 centimetres
Weight: 20.50 kilograms
Width: 28 centimetres
Depth: 16.50 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- This fragment of sculpture belongs to a row of Achaemenid guards wearing identical dress consisting of a so-called Persian robe and a cap, probably made of felt. He is holding a spear and wearing a tasselled quiver on his back, with a composite or recurved bow slung over his left shoulder. Like all of the sculptures at Persepolis, it was probably originally painted but no traces of the original pigment survive on this weathered fragment. It comes from the north staircase of the Apadana at Persepolis. This was begun by Darius I (521-486 BC) at the end of the sixth century BC and completed by his successor Xerxes (486-465 BC) at the beginning of the fifth century. It was raised on a stone platform which was accessed by staircases on the north and east sides. These were decorated with sculptures showing rows of guards and delegations drawn from across the Achaemenid empire. The Apadana itself was a monumental columned hall probably intended as the audience hall of Darius’ palace and the size and shape of the terrace on which it was placed imitated that of Darius’ earlier palace complexes at the capitals of Susa and Babylon. Further construction and modification to the layout of the buildings on the Persepolis terrace continued throughout the Achaemenid period until it was sacked and burnt in 330 BC by Alexander. The wooden roof and soft furnishings of the Apadana must have burnt quickly and the exposed mudbrick walls soon collapsed once they were exposed to the winter rains. The brick collapse totally covered the east staircase and that was only revealed through excavations by the Oriental Institute Chicago in the 1930s. In contrast, only the lower two thirds of the north staircase was buried in this manner, leaving the upper parts to be defaced by later iconoclasts and parts of the freestanding reliefs were detached and became buried in the ground. These were discovered during the first antiquarian excavations at the site at the beginning of the nineteenth century and it was through these that the present piece was found and brought back to England. The lowermost section of the facade was only cleared in the 1930s, hence the very clear visible differences in weathering and preservation of this facade today.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2018, 6 May- 30 June, National Museum, New Delhi, India and the World: A History in Nine Stories
2017-2018, 10 Nov 2017 - 18 Feb 2018, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai, India, India and the World: A History in Nine Stories
2016 19 Mar-29 May, National Museum, Delhi, 'The Everlasting Flame'
2013 Oct-Dec, Brunei, SOAS, 'Everlasting Flame: Zoroastrianism in History and Imagination'
2006 7 Mar-11 Jun, Barcelona, Fundacion La Caixa, 'L'imperi Oblidat'
2005-2006 Sept-Jan, London, BM, 'Forgotten Empire'
2003-2004 Nov-Nov BM, G1/Enlightenment gallery
- Incomplete; old damage and flaking to the exterior surface; light brown exterior surface arising from 19th century oiling; a pair of modern drilled dowel holes for previous display in the bottom but previously concealed by a stone mount made when this object was placed in storage; small area of what appears to be modern dark red gallery paint on the lower arm; object encased in a modern stone mount with traces of blue overpainting red paint splashes but this mount was removed during conservation work prior to the object being displayed in the King's Library (December 2002); splashes of wax down the front largely removed during conservation (December 2002); small dark rectangular area of what appears to be lichen growth on the left edge.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Originally acquired at the site of Persepolis by the Fourth Earl of Aberdeen in 1811. The donation of this collection of "Fifteen fragments of Sculpture, from Persepolis, [and] collected by the late Earl of Aberdeen, K.T., and presented by the present Earl of Aberdeen" was highlighted in the published 'Accounts of the Income and Expenditure of the British Museum for the Financial Year ended the 31st day of March 1862' (p.14).
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number