Belt Plaque with Three Ibexes

Period: Xiongnu culture

Date: 2nd–1st century B.C.

Culture: Northwest China

Medium: Bronze

Dimensions: H. 2 1/4 in. (5.7 cm); W. 5 3/8 in. (13.7 cm)

Classification: Metalwork

Credit Line: Gift of George D. Pratt, 1928

Accession Number: 28.68.4


An interest in real animals in naturalistic settings characterizes the designs found on belt ornaments made for the Xiongnu, a powerful confederacy that controlled much of eastern Central Asia in the third and second century B.C. On this plaque, two ibexes with their bodies in profile and their heads shown frontally stand to either side of a third figure. The animals inhabit a wooded setting. The foreleg of each flanking ibex is raised and hooked over a branch of tree trunk. The remains of a curved hook on the right side of the plaque indicate that it would have been paired with a matching piece to form a complete belt buckle.