Jul 18, 2014, 2:12 PM
News Code: 81241590
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Archeological excavations in Ardebil where precious goblet found

Ardebil, July 18, IRNA – Archeological excavations began in vicinity of Meshkin Shahr City, in Iran's northwester Ardebil province, where recently a precious ancient goblet was found in recent past, head of Ardebil Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Office said here Friday.

'The initial budget allocated to the purpose in two billion rials (around US $70 million) by Mohaqqeq Ardebili University, Ardebil Water Company, and Meshkin Shahr Governorate,' said Yahya Naqibzadeh in an interview with IRNA on Friday on the sidelines of a coordination session among the concerned officials and experts in Meshkin Shahr's ancient region.

'The Meshkin Shahr goblet has been classified by archeologists only 2nd in terms of archeological significance, next to the Marlik and the Hasanlou goblets, which is why the archeological excavations in the spot where this precious goblet was found if both of great archeological significance for the country and an appropriate opportunity for Ardebil province,' added Naqibzadeh.

He said that the archeological excavation period will be around 60 days, to be conducted by the highly experiences Iranian experts in the field, after which the scientific findings will be shared with the entire enthusiasts in the field and the public, too, will be appropriate informed.

The goblet that led to the beginning of this archeological research work was discovered and confiscated in a consignment of artifacts from smugglers and its archeological value was estimated to be as much as the famous Marlik goblet.

Side by side of this gold goblet a silver goblet, too, has been discovered whose value is also very high and they together have convinced the provincial Cultural Heritage officials to arrange for this national research project.

The other items of the 300 confiscated archeological items from the smugglers include baked clay works, warfare, women's ornaments, different types of dishes and, gold, silver and copper stamps, dating back to iron era, the 1st and 2nd centuries Before Christ (BC) and historical eras after that.

Meshkin Shahr (city) is located at an 85 kilometer distance to the northwest of the provincial capital city, Ardebil.

In the second half of the second millennium BC, the Marlik culture, located southwest of the Caspian Sea, developed a very original art of vessels, made both in ceramic and precious metals. Ceramic vases, often polished, represented humans or animals. Goblets, made of gold, silver, or electrum, were decorated with mythological scenes or beings.

The Marlik culture

The people of Marlik were nomadic horsemen whose way of life and art are known only through their necropolis in the fertile Iranian province of Gilan, southwest of the Caspian Sea. They did not use writing, and no trace of their dwellings remains, but it is thought that they amassed their wealth as suppliers of raw materials to the neighboring great powers of Mesopotamia and Elam. Most of the Marlik pieces date from Iron Age I, between the fourteenth and twelfth centuries BC. The art of Marlik is often attributed to what were, strictly speaking, the first Iranians, that is to say, to an Indo-European population. Before this period the inhabitants of Iran are described as Elamite.

Description of the goblet

The most common status objects placed in tombs were large polished vases and goblets of precious metals. The anthromorphic and zoomorphic vases are very refined. The tall goblets, with concave sides and a slight swelling at the base, are always decorated with a single or double spiral design.

The vessel seen here, whose origin is unknown, appears to be related to such goblets. Made of electrum, an alloy of gold and silver, it is worked in repoussé and engraved. On the outside of the goblet, repeated three times, is a monster with its jaws open, each paw holding a gazelle by the tail.

A hybrid monster

The monster is a two-headed composite being. The head and part of the body are feline (leopard or panther), with flecked fur, but it has wings and human arms and hands. Furthermore, the lower limbs look like coiled snakes but terminate in hawk's claws.

Each type of animal skin is incised differently, with great attention paid to detail: pointed circles for the feline, lines of oval plates for the snake, diamond-shaped hatching for the claws, chevrons and hatching for the wings, and tighter hatching for the fur of the gazelles.

The personality of this hybrid monster is not very clear. It is seemingly a being that dominates weaker species than itself, a counterpart of the Master of Animals. This status and the creature's two heads are clearly borrowed from Middle Assyrian glyptics of the fourteenth century BC, showing that nomad Marlik craftsmen were in contact with the great contemporary Mesopotamian empires.