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Luristan Bronze Master of Animals Standard

Ancient Near East, modern day Iran, Luristan, ca. 1000 to 700 BCE. A heavy, cast bronze standard depicting the Master of the Animals on both sides. The Master of the Animals was a supernatural being, highly respected as a protector of game, the ruler of the forest, and the guardian of the entire animal kingdom. Here we see a human figure standing between the heads, necks, and stylized bodies of equestrian creatures presented in profile. The figure grasps the animals in what some have seen as an image of control. Many of these standards/finials were removed from Luristan in the 1800s and early 1900s without proper archaeological excavation; only two have been scientifically excavated. As a result, their true function is unknown. Suggestions for their interpretation have ranged from the religious - depictions of deities, idols, talismans, etc. - to the utilitarian - adornments for chariots or articles used in funerary rituals. Size: 4.75" H (12.1 cm); 5" H (12.7 cm) on included custom stand.

The horse head and body motif speaks to the importance of horses in Luristan society. The region of Luristan, which encompasses the rugged Zagros Mountain chain, is famous for its bronze work that was above and beyond the skill level of contemporary groups. The affluent group in Luristan society that patronized the metalworking industry and purchased fine items like this sword were nomadic horsemen. They would travel into towns and purchase swords and other bronze and iron objects from craftsmen there. Although these horsemen were pre-literate, we know from the records of the Elamites and other southern neighbors that these tribesmen functioned as mercenaries in the constant warfare between the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Elamites. When they died, they were buried in rock-covered tombs with rich metal objects like this standard.

Condition: Old losses to tips of horse's ears; otherwise very good. Nice age wear with a stunning deep green patina gracing the surfaces.

Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection

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