Cylindrical Cup with Crenellated Decoration

  • Bactria
  • Late 3rd - early 2nd millennium B.C.
  • Silver
  • H-12.4 D-11.7
Catalogue Entry

This vessel is roughly cylindrical in form and has raised horizontal bands that protrude from the surface.1 The three registers of decoration are divided into rectangular panels, with ten in each row. Each of these panels contains a central crenellated cross surrounded by vertical hatching, alternating with plain narrow vertical bands. As the vessel is wider at the base, the crenellated crosses increase in size in the lower registers so that the rows of panels do not align from top to bottom. The vessel has a dropped circular base similar to that of the cup in catalogue number 17.

The crenellated-cross pattern repeated on this vessel is a motif that first appears on the painted pottery of western Central Asia in the Chalcolithic period (4th millennium B.C.).2 Stepped designs including cross patterns are found on gold and silver vessels from the "Fullol hoard."3 Crenellated crosses also occur on a large number of Bactrian metal stamp seals and, like the cross patterns, of various forms found on seals and other objects in many areas of the ancient world, may have had a specific meaning. A cross with stepped crenellations also seems to have been a significant motif in Iran, and is found on a Proto-Elamite wall painting from Tell Malyan as well as on an "intercultural style" carved chlorite vessel.4

1. See Amiet 1986, pp. 201, 326, fig. 200.
2. See Masson 1988, pl. xvii.
3. See Maxwell-Hyslop 1982, p. 28, figs. 5-7.
4. See Amiet 1986, p. 262, fig. 52; Amiet 1988a, p. 365, fig. 11.

Catalogue Entry(Bac#005)

Late 3rd‐early 2nd millennium B.C.
H. 12.4 cm, Dia. 11.7 cm
This cylindrical cup made of silver has been divided vertically into three bands, with each band made up of a crenellated pattern. These patterns create cross-shaped motifs and ten such groupings are found on this cup. This design first appeared in the eastern Caspian region in the Turkmenistan Namazga II culture (4th millennium BC) as a design on pottery, and this design then spread to the Oxus River (Amu Darya) and its tributaries, and various regions of eastern Iran during the 3rd millennium BC. This design then became suitable not only for pottery, but also for jewelry items and stamp seals. Connections with the actual crenellated structures have been indicated, and it is thought to hold some sort of exorcising of evil spirits meaning.