Luristan (or Lorestan) literally means “Land of the
Lurs”, and was situated in a wide sweep of the
Zagros mountains in what is now western Iran.
The sociopolitics of this area are complex, with
repeated waves and invasions of Medes,
Cimmerians and Persians, amongst others, but
the culture thus created is remarkable for its
superb control of metalworking. There are many
styles, but the best-known pieces of bronze
from this area are anthropomorphic and
zoomorphic pieces reflecting religious and
secular tastes, as well as weaponry and utilitarian
items that were buried with the deceased in
tombs across the Zagros area. It was
nonetheless viewed as a precious resource, and
was used alongside iron once this metal became
available, for while its qualities of hardness and
durability were recognized, it merely made
bronze a more socially exclusive material. The
hallmark of Luristan wares is the tendency to
elongate the necks, tails and bodies of the
animals to produce graceful curves and arches.
The re-discovery of the splendor of Luristan
metalwork began in the 1930s and made
considerable progress after World War II. The
absence of relevant written records makes their
complex imagery difficult to interpret in specific
religious terms but it is likely that they represent
local deities of some kind. It has been suggested
that such elaborate bronze items must have been
the preserve of the tribal leaders, a warrior class
with the means to equip themselves and their
households for war.
Centuries ago, some individual hoping for the
blessings of the gods left this gift of costly
bronze at a shrine. Abstract yet elegant, it is
meant to capture the attention of the deity it
depicts. Except for the land and the time that the
votary lived, we know little else about him or her.
What was it that they requested of the heavens?
Were their dreams for health, wealth and
happiness so very different from our own? As we
contemplate this small image of a forgotten
deity, we recognize that the essentials of human
existence have changed little with the centuries.