Figurines of Priests

  • Late 6th century B.C.
  • Gold
  • H-5.7
Catalogue Entry

Late 6th century B.C.
(a)H. 5.7 cm, W. 1.3 cm(b)H. 6.6 cm, W. 1.4 cm
cH. 9.6 cm, W. 1.2 cm(d)H. 5.1 cm, W. 1.3 cm

Cat. Nos. 48 a-c are made of gold, while cat. Nos. 49 a and b are made of silver. Each figurine represents a Zoroastrian priest standing on a small rectangular stand. The figures are all shown wearing knee-length tunics and bashlik caps on their heads with the front of the caps leaning to the left. They are wearing masks with mouth and nose areas that protrude to the front and sides. Each figure is belted with the ends of the belts hanging to the front of each figure. The legs from knees down are decorated with circular patterns which were pressed or incised into the gold. The long sleeves of the tunics reach the figures' wrists, and the fabric's wrinkles are clearly depicted on the arms. Almost all of these priest figurines are shown with the right arm bent at a 90 degree angle to hold out barsoms. The gold wires made to represent the barsoms in cat. No. 48 c are long and twisted, while the other figures hold simple gold wires. The silver wires meant to represent barsoms and held by cat. Nos. 49 a and b have corroded and are no longer extant. Cat. No. 48 d has the same gold-formed figure as those described above, but here both arms are extended to hold the barsom in front of the figure, and only his mouth is covered with a flat mask. Further, the legs beneath the tunic are incised with chevron patterns on their outer edges.
Three small figurines of barsom-carrying standing figures are included in the Oxus treasure at the British Museum. Of these British Museum figures, no. 1 is a silver-cast male figure with a beard and no mask. He wears a cylindrical headgear and is a standing figure carrying barsoms in his left hand which is pressed against his chest. He wears a long tunic which hangs to his ankles and is belted with the ends of the belt hanging in front. Figures no. 2 and no. 2a are made of gold and are figurines of priests wearing bashlik headdresses with front peaks, and flat masks. They wear kandys over the tunic but not extending to the sleeves, and hold barsoms in their right hand which is pressed against their chest. All three figures hold short sheaves of barsoms. The expression of the barsoms differs from that found on the votive plaques in gold from the Oxus treasure and the Bactrian treasure, while the expression of the barsoms in cat. Nos. 48 and 49 is
closer to that found in the temples depicted on the gold plaques.