Ancient Near East, Achaemenid Persian Empire, ca. 500 to 330 BCE. A huge bronze basin or phiale, a special libation bowl used for holding wine, with a hollow, rounded, raised boss, known as an omphalos, in the center. The omphalos is thought to have symbolized the navel of the earth, the central point of power that all things revolved around. The lower part of the bowl is has an interesting three-dimensional motif of circles and teardrop shapes, creating a dramatic texture around the omphalos. Size: 6.8" W x 1.2" H (17.3 cm x 3 cm)
Libation bowls, known as phiale, were used across a wide geographical area - from Greece to Tibet, throughout the ancient Near East and Central Asia. These shallow bowls for holding wine in ritual and ceremonial settings were made from many materials - glass, ceramic, and many kinds of metal. They functioned both as tableware and as wealth - they could be stored in the royal treasury or given as gifts to people they were hoping to influence. Fluted bowls like this one seem to have been inspired by the Assyrian period. Bowls like this one are remarkably similar across the Achaemenid Empire, reflecting a central iconography and artistic style; they were used by the elite across the Empire to signify their membership in a rarified club of powerful people.
Provenance: private New York, USA collection
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