Weight: 451.08 g. H: 22.76 cm
Allegedly from the region of the Black Sea
Second/third quarter of the 5th century B.C.

The body of the vessel roughly shaped [1] by repeatedly hammering and annealing as it is raised [2] from a disc of silver sheet in a technique that is called raising or back raising [3] possibly on a wooden stake in a step-by-step operation followed by planishing to smooth out the ridges.

The lower part of the vessel is virtually brought to a finish with some of the outline of the design drawn out using a fine chasing tool. The decorative motifs detailed by repoussé and chasing, leaving at the lower section of the neck a ridge embellished with a tongue pattern. The upper part is then worked, the neck raised and planished to the finished shape.

The handles of silver sheet made in two halves by repoussé; the horns and ears made separately and inserted in holes prepared for them. The two halves joined together and burnished, and soldered to the flaring mouth and shoulder of the vessel. A spout soldered on the back of one of the handles, made by forming a piece of silver like a plain gargoyle, the end with a thickened rim, most of the top covered with silver sheet cut to size and soldered on. At the join of this handle to shoulder of vessel, a hole enabled the liquid to flow through the spout.

Condition: a small section of the flaring mouth, bent outwards and cracked, restored to shape. Part of the lower body, between the base of the spout-handle and a hole, slightly crushed in and restored. Both handles reattached; the one with the spout damaged and reshaped in part has a horn missing as well as a section of the right side of the ibex's head and neck. The surface of the vessel smooth with the odd patch of silver chloride.

The sources of Achaemenid art which under Cyrus the Great (559-529 B.C.) at Pasargadae shows a certain Greek and Ionian influence are ancient and varied. However it is under the prestigious reign of Darius (522-486 B.C.) that it acquired its "Court Style" [4] and formalism with its repertory of shapes. Achaemenid art may be considered his royal achievement. Foreign workers, craftsmen and artisans contributed to the artistic output and to the royal buildings: Egyptians, Syrians, Ionians, and in particular Carians are mentioned on the Persepolis Treasury tablets as being the silversmiths [5] P. Amandry says that to qualify an object as Achaemenid in keeping with a relative unity of style is far more a chronological assessment rather than a judgment on its place of origin.

There is for this amphora with zoomorphic handles and spout a most pertinent parallel, the vessel in Sofia [6] from the treasure of the Koukova Mogila tumulus (Duvanlij). It is identical for its shape, type of handles and decoration. The differences are in certain details, the handles are fantastic beasts with lion head and ibex horns, whereas here they are ibexes. Probably because the Duvanlij vessel is larger it has a double frieze of facing lotus flowers and palmettes separated by a guilloche, below these the vertical fluting. On the present example the only difference in this respect is that we have one frieze, the same as the upper one in Sofia, but with the guilloche here placed between the frieze and the fluting. Under both vessels there is a rosette, with twenty-seven petals at Duvanlij and twenty on ours. Certain gilt details on the Duvanlij amphora have been preserved, there are no traces of gilding on this example. There is no doubt that they must be from the same workshop [7].

The Schimmel silver rhyton with a ram protome in the Metropolitan Museum [8] has on the outside circumference of the cup's lip an identical frieze and guilloche although it is surely from a different workshop and the repetition of these two motifs is to be explained as part of the koine of Achaemenid art. There is a silver amphora handle of tubular form, flaring at its base [9], showing a winged bull as he looks back, of the same type as on the present examples, from a silversmith's hoard in Mesopotamia that belongs to a similar general type of production.

Both vessels, the Duvanlij and this amphora, are in spirit as in shape, decoration and style truly Persian [10] in character and are as N.K. Sandars has said "absolutely typical of the unlocalised Achaemenian court style" [11].

Pfrommer, M.: Ein achämenidisches Amphorenrhyton mit ägyptischem Dekor, AMI, 23, 1990, pp.191-209.

1 The firm of Plowden & Smith Ltd. has performed the conservation work on this amphora with its ibex handles. We are deeply indebted to Peter Smith and Peter Willett for discussing technical details and enlightening us with respect to the technology employed in the making of such vessels as this amphora and the rhyton, cat. no. 206.

2 In the initial stages a hollowed-out tree trunk may be used laying the silver sheet over the cavity and working it down.

3 Raising from top downwards to reduce size of bottom area.

4 Amandry, P.: Orfèvrerie achéménide, AntK 1, 1, 1958, p. 15 n. 52 quoting E. Herzfeld, Iran in the Ancient East (New York, 1941), pp. 247, 274.

5 Amandry, P.: op. cit., p. 18.

6 Archaeological Museum 6.137: Fol, D.R.A.: Tesoros de las Tierras Bulgaras (San Fernando, 1988), no. 25, p. 64. This ensemble had been dated to the first half of the 5th century (Fol, D.R.A.: loc. cit.), the amphora to the second quarter by P. Amandry (Toreutique achéménide, AntK 2, 2, 1959, p. 40) and E.S.G. Robinson (A "silversmith's hoard" from Mesopotamia, Iraq XII, 1950, p. 48).

7 The author pointed this out to M. Pfrommer when he visited.
He seems to concur and writes "... ein anscheinend werkstattgleiches Exemplar...". (AMI, 23, 1990, p. 193.)

8 New York, Metropolitan Museum 1989.281.30a,b (gift of the Norbert Schimmel Trust): Muscarella, O.W.: Gifts from the Norbert Schimmel Collection, BMetrMus, Spring 1992, pp. 16-17.

9 As with our example, and surely the Duvanlij amphora, to enable practical and aesthetic attachment to the shoulder of the vessel. Robinson, E.S.G.: op. cit., p. 44 ff., pl. XXIII.

10 Amandry, P.: op. cit. (footnote 6), p. 40 citing S. Casson, H. Luschey and P. Jacobsthal. The style of the frieze and palmettes has been considered Greek but it should not be forgotten that the Greeks adopted and made common use of these forms which they took from the Near East.

11Antiquity XLV, 1971, p. 108 quoted in Hoddinott, R.F.: Bulgaria in Antiquity. An Archaeological Introduction (London/Tonbridge, 1975), p. 61.