This finial was produced in the era when the
Luristan metal workshops were at their most
prolific, c. 900-600 B.C. Similar designs can be
found on a range of items including horse gear,
axes and hair and clothing pins. These were all
burial items distinguished by the large repertory
of animal motifs, both real and imagined. By this
period bronze was reserved for decorative
artefacts that symbolised social standing among
the communities of the Zagros mountains; more
mundane, utilitarian objects were made of iron.
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 splendour 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.
This piece is clearly related to a type known as
the ‘mistress of the beasts’ in which the central
figure grasps a pair of wild animals by the neck.
Although the iconography is similar, in this
example the female deity encircles her breasts
with her arms. Cockerel heads spring from both
shoulders, forming small curves with their beaks.
The face itself is highly stylised with large round
eyes and a protruding triangular nose. The body
and legs of the figure are indicated in
abbreviated form in the lower section. The tube
itself is hollow with an opening at the top and
bottom. Although its precise function is
unknown it may have been attached to a
standard or pole made of a perishable material
such as wood. The attractive patina and the
mystery of the iconography make this a desirable