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[BenchTube] Clasp with an eagle and its prey


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Clasp with an eagle and its prey
Gold, turquoise inlay Parthian (Iran) ca. A.D. 1st-2nd century

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Gold, turquoise inlay Parthian (Iran) ca. A.D. 1st-2nd century This
solid gold ornament is in the form of a roundel with two projecting
elements that have slots for the attachment of a strap. The rim of
the roundel, consisting of eighteen thumbnail-shaped cells for
turquoise inlay in the manner of some Sarmatian roundels, frames the
openwork figure of an eagle in high relief. Grasping a small,
crouching animal in its talons, the bird perches in three-quarter
view, facing right, with its chest extended and the rest of its body
receding into the background. Its wings are outspread, the one on the
left seen emerging from behind the swelling of the chest and the one
on the right receding into the back plane. The body and legs carry
ridges and linear patterning to suggest the texture of feathers. The
bird’s head is in profile, with a cell for the prominent ear, a
protrusion at the eye area, a curved beak, and a downcurved line for
the mouth. The entire figure is worked in the round, although the
back is distorted and not as carefully finished as the front. The
eagle’s prey has been variously identified as an antelope, a goat,
and a hare. Turquoise is inlaid in its large ear and in several
places on its body. The tabs on either side of the roundel have cells
for inlays at the corners in the form of debased acanthus leaves.
This piece is one of a pair; its mate, in the British Museum, London,
depicts an eagle facing the opposite way. It was thought by Ernst
Herzfeld to be part of a treasure found in 1910-11 in a chamber tomb
near Nihavend in Iran. Herzfeld speculated that this trove had
belonged to an aristocratic Parthian family and had originally
included a group of Roman gold coins of the first to second century
A.D. that surfaced independently in modern times. Another related
piece of jewelry, found in excavations at Dalverzin Tepe in Iran, can
be dated archaeologically to the first century.

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