Plaque of Winged Creatures approaching stylised trees

800-700 BC

Iran

Iron Age III

In 1947 a treasure was reputedly found at a mound near the village of Ziwiye in northwestern Iran. Objects attributed to Ziwiye are stylistically similar to Assyrian art of the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. as well as to the art of contemporary Syria, Urartu, and Scythia. Many objects of gold, silver, bronze, ivory, and ceramic have since appeared on the antiquities market with the provenance of Ziwiye, although there is no way to verify this identification.


This plaque, perforated around the edge, was perhaps once attached to a garment of a wealthy lord or to the shroud of a prince. Its design is similar to contemporary art of Assyria, Urartu, and Scythian-style objects. The plaque was originally composed of seven registers decorated in repoussé and chasing; two were separated and are now in the collection of the Archaeological Museum, Tehran. The registers display the familiar composite creatures of the ancient Near East striding in groups of three toward a stylized sacred tree, the central motif. The human-headed, winged lion, seen in the first and third register, is a creature that also appears as a gate guardian on the doorjambs in the palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud. A sphinx struts along the second band, followed by winged lions and an ibex. The bodies of the fantastic creatures are composed of unusual combinations of animal and bird parts: in the uppermost register, the lions sport ostrich tails, while in the second, their tails are those of scorpions. The trees of life bear pomegranates, pine cones, and lotus flowers. Each scene is framed and separated by a delicate guilloche pattern.

(Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

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