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HOME : Near Eastern Art : Near Eastern Art Collection/ HK : Intercultural Style Chlorite Vase
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Intercultural Style Chlorite Vase - X.0314 W
Origin: Near East
Circa: 3000 BC to 2000 BC
Dimensions: 7" (17.8cm) high
Collection: Near Eastern
Style: Intercultural Style
Medium: Chlorite

Additional Information: HK/ rim restored. Art Logic-Aaron Gallery (London) 2003

Location: Great Britain
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Chlorite is a distinctive gray-green stone that was utilized during antiquity for the fabrication of luxurious containers in the greater Gulf region as well as southern Iran. Excavations at the archeological site of Tepe Yaya, dated to the mid-third millennium B.C., in Iran unearthed the ruins of workshops where such vessels were discovered. As well, raw materials used for their manufacture, chlorite as well as steatite, quarried from the nearby hills were also present. On the island of Tarut, in the Gulf close to the Arabian coast, over six hundred complete and fragmentary vessels and weights have been unearthed. Because many partially formed objects found on Tarut were discovered next to chunks of unworked chlorite, it has been surmised that this island was once a center of production for these works.

Found throughout the ancient Near East, from Syria to the Indus Valley, revealing the extensive trade routes of the time, these works are classified by modern historians as belonging to the “Intercultural Style,” called so because they derive iconographical elements from both Near Eastern and Harappan traditions. Much like the written cuneiform alphabet was used by several distinct cultures throughout the ancient Near East to dictate their individual spoken languages, so such vessels were created by various cultures, each adorning the works with their own distinct aesthetic style. Many examples were discovered in the ruins of palace and temple structures or entombed in the graves of the nobility, including Sumerian Mesopotamia. Clearly these vessels were among the most precious luxury items that could only be afforded by the ruling elite.

This tall conical vase with a flaring rim has been decorated with the image of a long- haired avian-headed deity riding upon the backs of two bulls. Similar compositions have been described as portraying “masters of the beasts.” Here, the master of the beasts holds an arching band over the backs of the bulls that flows behinds their heads and falls towards the base where they bend at sharp angles. Most likely this band represents a stream or river. Such iconography seems to originate in eastern Iran and Central Asia, where the theme of man dominating over the animals appeared to be quite popular. According to some scholars, the wild beasts represent chaos and are contrasted to the humans, who display control over nature and the promise of fertility in the form of water. - (X.0314 W)


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