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Lot 0055A
Ancient Near East, Luristan, ca. 1100 BCE. A short iron sword with a triangular blade marked by a broad, flat midrib and an elaborate handle - a crescent-shaped pommel above a wide guard, with two paper-thin iron discs between them, presumably to wrap leather around to form a comfortable grip. Luristan is famous for its bronzework, but its blacksmiths produced some of the oldest known iron decorated tools and weaponry in the world. Partly this seems to have been in imitation of the bronzework; hence the incredibly-shaped handle here. This is remarkable, because iron is a much less tractable metal to work with compared to bronze, and items like this sword had to be laboriously made from many separate pieces of low-carbon iron. Based on similar swords from the area, the bulbous shapes at the top of the handle may actually be degraded forms of lion couchants; the overhanging edges might once have had grotesque human faces on them. Size: 2.45" W x 15.3" H (6.2 cm x 38.9 cm)

It seems that these pieces were made not to be used in battle, but instead to show status or as votive weapons. There is a strong tradition in the ancient Near East of swords and other weapons being associated with the gods. For example, there is a rock carving dating to ca. 1300 BCE from this region that shows a scene of the gods of the Underworld, including one who is holding a sword similar to this one. Similarly, a golden bowl excavated at Hasanlu shows three swords of similar form to this one that are associated with three deities from the Hittite pantheon. Whatever its original function, this would have been a spectacular weapon to behold; iron objects from this time period are extremely rare, especially ones as decorated as this. The gleaming surface would have been even more interesting to see than bronze, the most common prestige metal of the time. Whoever commissioned the making of this sword must have been a high status individual, perhaps seeking to honor their gods by handling such a weapon.

Provenance: ex-private United Kingdom collection

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#136265

Condition

Fine oxidized patina that does not obscure the form. Blade tip is lost and edges have some small losses, but for ancient iron, this is in a great state of preservation.

Starting Bid

$600.00

Buyer's Premium

  • 24.5%

Rare Luristan Iron Short Sword

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Estimate $1,500 - $2,500
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