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Helmet with divine figures beneath a bird with outstretched wings

Middle Elamite
ca. 1500–1100 B.C.
Southwestern Iran
Bronze, gold foil over bitumen
H. 16.5 cm, W. 22.1 cm
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1963
Accession Number:
  • Description

    This example of military headgear is elaborately decorated with three figures on the front. The central one is a male water deity who holds a flowing vase at his chest. He has a multiple horned crown, a beard, curled hair, and a mountainlike or scale pattern on the lower body like the one on the background. The top of the garment crisscrosses his chest. He is flanked by two female deities with horned crowns who hold their hands up in supplication. Their robes are flounced and they wear necklaces and bracelets. Hovering over the figures is a raptor like bird with carefully delineated feathers. At the back is a decorated tube that may have held an actual feather plume. All of these elements were carved from bitumen and overlaid with silver and then gold foil with incised decoration, a technique that, along with the style and types of the figures, point to Elam as the source. The water god might be either the Elamite Inshushinak or Napirisha, similar to Ea, the Mesopotamian god of the sweet waters.

    Such a helmet would have been worn by a warrior of high rank, and perhaps on special occasions rather than in actual battle. The representations of protective and important deities could certainly have been apotropaic for the wearer.

  • Provenance

    Acquired by the Museum in 1963, purchased from K. Rabenou Ltd., New York.

  • Exhibition History

    "Beyond Babylon: Art, Trade, and Diplomacy in the Second Millennium B.C." The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, November 17, 2008–March 15, 2009.

  • References

    Wilkinson, Charles K. 1963. "Near Eastern Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 22 (2), The Metropolitan Museum of Art Ninety-Third Annual Report of the Trustees for the Fiscal Year 1962-1963 (Oct., 1963), p. 78.

    Wilkinson, Charles K. 1965. "Art of the Marlik Culture." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 24 (3), p. 107.

    Crawford, Vaughn E. 1965. "Some Notes from an Excavation." Apollo LXXXII, No. 43 (September 1965), p. 215, fig. 7.

    Crawford, V. et al. 1966. Guide to the Ancient Near East Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 24, fig. 37.

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1972. Guide to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 47, fig. 11.

    Keel, Othmar. 1972. Die Welt der altorientalischen Bildsymbolik und das Alte Testament: Am Beispiel der Psalmen. Cologne: Orbis Biblicus Et Orientalis, pl. 1 B.

    Keel, Othmar. 1978. The Symbolism of the Biblical World: Ancient Near Eastern Iconography and the Book of Psalms. New York: Seabury Press, pl. 1 B.

    Hibbard, Howard. 1980. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Harper and Row, p. 53, fig. 98.

    Harper, Prudence O. et al. 1984. "Ancient Near Eastern Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 41 (4), Spring 1984, p. 21, fig. 20.

    Muscarella, Oscar W. 1988. Bronze and Iron: Ancient Near Eastern Artifacts in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 223, no. 331.

    Calmeyer, Peter. 1995. "Buchbesprechungen: Muscarella, Oscar W., Bronze and Iron. Ancient Near Eastern Artifacts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und Vorderasiatische Archäologie 85 (1), p. 158.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History