• Western Iran
  • 8th - 7th century B.C.
  • Gold
  • H-3.9 D-22
Catalogue Entry

This now-fragmentary dish reputedly owes its present state to the greed of the individuals who found it and cut it into chunks to share the value. Nonetheless, its elegance is apparent from the seven concentric rings of its central disk to the fine, raised rays alternately ending in delicately formed gazelle heads and larger, ribbed almond shapes. In addition, the techniques employed to produce the bowl set it apart from most other related examples. The concentric rings were not raised by hammering but, instead, were carved into the intentionally thickened central section-as were the lines that encircle the bowl on its exterior, just below the rim. The gazelle heads and the almond-shaped forms were not raised in repouss either, but were worked from behind into a matrix, in order to quickly create detailed and uniform shapes.

The shallow profile of the dish places it closer to the Phoenician bowls of the ninth and the eighth century B.C. found in the Assyrian palace at Nimrud rather than to the carinated examples of Assyrian production.1 The discovery of a large, elaborate Phoenician bowl in a seventh-century B.C. Elamite tomb in southwestern Iran reveals that these luxurious bronzes reached Iran proper.2 The delicate gazelle heads, depicted, from above, with their symmetrically curving horns, are unusual in Iranian art. This distinctive motif also appears on a fragmentary strip of gold appliqu said to have been found at Ziwiye3-the supposed source of the Shumei dish. Other images of gazelles are seen on an ivory appliqu and on a ceramic rhyton,4 both of which also are reported to have come from the site. Ziwiye is the location of a now-ruined fortress dating to the Iranian Iron Age, where a spectacularly diversified hoard of gold, silver, ivory, and other precious materials was found during clandestine digging in 1947.5 Since that time, many unprovenanced works have been associated with Ziwiye with varying degrees of probability. The Shumei gold dish presents a stronger case than most of these other objects for this claim.

1. See Curtis and Reade 1995, pp. 134-41, 142.
2. See Majidzadeh 1993.
3. See vanden Berghe 1959, pp. 112-13, pl. 141d.
4. See Godard 1950, p. 90, fig. 79; Culican 1965, p. 121, fig. 30.
5. See Godard 1950, p. 90, fig. 79 ; Muscarella 1977, pp. 184-86.