- Museum number
Circular greenish grey chlorite box carved on the outside with what appear to be mythological scenes. These include a central female figure, repeated twice, with long plaited hair and wearing a skirt decorated with incised cross-hatching, one clutching a pair of serpents with dragon-heads, gaping mouths and spotted bodies, and the other grasping the tails of what may be other serpents. Additional motifs include a scorpion; an antithetical pair of lions with their heads turned backwards to face one another; an antithetical pair of humped bulls standing facing left and right; and an up-ended bull being attacked by a lion and a vulture or similar large bird of prey. The top of the box has been lightly reworked and modified in antiquity, hence the irregular unfinished rim and truncation of the uppermost elements of the design composition. The top of this modified rim is carefully smoothed.
- Production date
Height: 10.90 - 11.20 centimetres
Diameter: 17.80 centimetres (rim, exterior)
Diameter: 17 centimetres (rim, interior)
Volume: 2100 millilitres
- Curator's comments
- The present rim of this vessel is not the original one but is cut down and is approximately 1 cm lower than the original which would have been recessed for a lid seating with the top of the narrative scene framed by a horizontal raised line. A fragmentary Jiroft-style relief-carved circular box excavated at Ur (BM 116455) gives the best idea of this original appearance. Moreover, a second chlorite box, also excavated at Ur but without relief-carving, not only has this seating but also has the lid preserved (BM 121696) and a variety of square and rectangular compartmented stone boxes were excavated in the cemetery at Shahdad (not in the BM). The reworking of the rim may have followed loss or breakage of the original lid, thus the rim was modified to remove the lid seating and transform the object from a box to a bowl.
The surfaces of the vessel appear relatively worn, suggesting that this object may have been curated for a considerable period of time in antiquity. Although the type of chlorite is different, the high polish on BM 116455 probably gives a better impression of its original intended appearance.
The central female figure wearing a buffalo-horned headdress on the present box is interpreted as a mother-goddess by A. Hori (2001/02, "Buffalo-crowned deity on a steatite bowl from Kerman, Iran", 'Bulletin of the Ancient Orient Museum' 22, 1-10). Seton Lloyd (1978a p. 118) regards it as an import from Baluchistan, but Frankfort (1954a p. 19) disagrees.
- Bibliographic references
Frankfort H 1932a / Archaeology and the Sumerian Problem (p.12)
Smith S 1937a / Early sculptures from Iraq (pp. 117-119 and pls. XXXI-XXXIII)
Frankfort H 1954a / The art and architecture of the Ancient Orient (p. 19, fig. 9, pl. 11b)
Barnett & Wiseman 1960a / Fifty masterpieces of Ancient Near Eastern Art (pp.18-19, no. 6)
Strommenger E & Hirmer M 1962a / Funf Jahrtausende Mesopotamien (pls 38-39)
Porada E 1965a / Ancient Iran, the Art of Pre-Islamic Times (p. 36, fig. 12)
Barnett & Wiseman 1969a / Fifty masterpieces of Ancient Near Eastern Art (pp. 16-17)
Lloyd S 1978a / The Archaeology of Mesopotamia from the Old Stone Age to the Persian Conquest (p. 118, fig. 71)
Huxley F 1979a / The Dragon: nature of spirit, spirit of nature (p.82)
Maxwell-Hyslop R 1988a / A comment on the finds from Khinaman (p. 132)
Collon 1998b / Lapis lazuli from the east: a stamp seal in the British Museum (pp.36-37)
Hori, A 2001/2a / Buffalo-crowned deity on a steatite bowl from Kerman, Iran (p.3) (roll-out drawing and photograph)
Aruz & Wallenfels 2003a / Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus (no. 227, pp. 330-32)
Verdi R 2003a / Saved! 100 Years of the National Art Collections Fund (cat. 52, p. 123)
- On display (G56/dc5)
- Exhibition history
2003-2004 Oct-Jan, London, Hayward Gallery, 'Saved!100 Years of the National Art Collections Fund', no.52
2003 5 May-17 Aug, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 'Art of the First Cities'
- Partially restored from numerous sherds
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Collection deposited September (?) 1936 by one Mme. Dumont of Foyer Suisse, 12 Upper Bedford Place on card of Mme Luiz de Sousa Barbosa; acquisition reported to Trustees 1/12/36. This particular object was previously seen in fragments in Baghdad by Rostovtzeff; when offered to the BM it triggered correspondence with the Yale Babylonian Collection as to its then-unusual style (CORRES 1935, q.v. Stephens).
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: 1018 (Art Fund Review no.)