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Number Seven Thousand Three Hundred and Eighty Seven - 17 September 2023
Iran Daily - Number Seven Thousand Three Hundred and Eighty Seven - 17 September 2023 - Page 3

Development of polymetallism

In the course of the 4th millennium BCE, new metals attracted interest: gold, silver and lead, a phenomenon visible at Susa and Tappeh Hesar. The gold most probably came from Muteh, near Kashan, one of the richest mines worldwide.
Its treatment is illustrated in the little dog with pendant loop, treatment of silver in the cruciform pendant and the triangular chased pendants with hematite inlays, all of them coming from two children’s tombs.
Obviously, a play of colour effect between the silver and the new materials was sought. This phenomenon is not inherent to Susa. As Francoise Tallon emphasises, «this extremely refined jewellery, consisting of precious materials previously unknown at Susa, have to be compared to objects from a contemporary burial at Sialk, namely two circular silver medallions with lapis lazuli and bone inlays.
Actually, the burial where the triangular pendants had been found, also held an intricate piece of jewellery made of lapis lazuli, quartz, shell, carnelian and rock crystal beads.
Lead appears in Susa and Sialk in the Late Uruk period, but is rare elsewhere. It is used to fashion vessels like the beak-spouted jar, bowls and cups. At the end of the 4th millennium BCE, the material was mined in the same district of Anarak that already provided copper. The simultaneous appearance of lead and silver at Susa is certainly not accidental. In fact, no silver-bearing mineral deposit in the Middle East seems to exist; silver emerges as a by-product of copper and lead following the cupellation process.
The emergence of new techniques
Lost-wax casting – already known for several centuries in Palestine and magnificently showcased in the Nahal Mishmar Hoard – allows the production of metal sculptures at the same time as the stone sculpturing which develops rapidly. The objects are in the round, like the small golden dog mentioned earlier or its even smaller counterpart in silver, or adorn the heads of pins. The bird sitting on a closed fist nicely demonstrates the original and sometimes humorous approach to art in Susa.
Soldering is used for the first time in the manufacture of the golden dog that, as small as it may be, definitely synthesizes the important innovations of the period. In the Proto-Elamite period, soldering was used on several joints of the silver bull in the Metropolitan Museum.
In both cases, the solder is an alloy – gold and copper, silver and copper – to reduce the risk of overheating and thus deforming the objects.
The champlevé of silver pendants allowed inlays of the already mentioned rare materials and simplified their fixation. Metal hammered into sheets was used in the manufacture of statuettes, such as the bull from the Metropolitan Museum. Equipped with a beaked spout, they reproduce ceramic models and demonstrate the virtuosity of the metalworkers, since the entire vessel was made out of a single sheet by hammering and annealing. X-rays and microscopic studies indicate that the transition from the spout to the body of the vessel is continuous and not soldered.

The above is a lightly edited version of part of a chapter entitled, ‘Susa’, from a book entitled, ‘Persian Antiques Splendor’, edited by T. Stollner, R. Slotta, and A. Vatandoust, published by German Mining Museum. The photo was taken from the book.


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