2nd millennium bc

Stones with Okunev’s culture petroglyph (first half of 2nd millennium BC) in the National museum of Republic of Khakassia.

Okunev Culture is the first Bronze Age culture of southern Siberia, specifically the region known as the Minusinsk Basin. It is known primarily from two kinds of archaeological remains: burials and stone monuments…


Ancient Worlds - BBC Two 

Episode 1 “Come Together”

The “Kanesh Tablets”, clay Cuneiform tablets found in the archaeological site of Kültepe, ancient city of Kanesh, Anatolia, Turkey.

Kanesh produced, up to now, 23.500 cuneiform tablets, recorded in the Old Assyrian dialect of the Akkadian language using the cuneiform script, the knowledge of which came into Anatolia with Assyrian merchants in the 2nd millennium BC. The city was a major trading center so the majority of the tablets are of a commercial and legal nature. Personal letters describing the quality of trade goods, family relations, prices, foodstuffs, marriage proposals and other daily affairs have also been found.

The tablets are the earliest written documents which illustrated the ancient Anatolian history. 


Ancient Worlds - BBC Two

Episode 1 “Come Together”

Assyrian animal shaped vessels -Rhytons- from the archaeological site of Kültepe, ancient city of Kanesh, Anatolia, Turkey (21st - 18th centuries BC).

Kültepe became a key centre of culture and commerce between Anatolia, Syria, and Mesopotamia during the first quarter of the 2nd millennium BC. Assur, the capital of the Old Assyrian Kingdom, established one of the largest trade network the world had ever seen at Kanesh (Karum Kanesh). A huge assortment of artefacts from the Assyrian colony period have been recovered in the excavations at the site.

The word rhyton comes from the Greek rhyta, meaning “to run through.” Rhytons featured a filler hole at the top and a hole at the bottom so that the liquid could flow through them. They were used in religious ceremonies such as libations. Rhytons in the form of animal heads or horns are believed to have originated in Persia. Their spread to other civilisations was by the ancient Silk Roads of Central Asia and by Persian military campaigns. Rhytons were also used by the Minoans and Mycenaens in the Bronze Age.

“The Assyrian exhibit”, Anatolian Civilizations Museum, Ankara, Turkey


Syrian Bone Idol, 2nd ML BC

Ancient idols like this one, that reduce the human figure to a simple collection of shapes and lines, are considered some of our oldest abstract art. They fascinate us today in part because they hint at a belief system and cosmology that we can no longer access or understand. Instead, scholars continue to pursue educated guesses about their meaning - Are they fertility charms? Representations of old gods? Were they made to be carried as apotropaic charms, or simply to be placed in tombs? Their mute figures raise more questions than they answer.


Bactrian “Master of Animals” Vase, 2nd ML BC

See it in 360°

A carved serpentine vase, conical in profile with flared rim; frieze of a standing kilted god or hero with horned headdress and hatched hair, grasping in each hand the neck of a rearing serpent, each with gaping mouth and slender protruding tongue, elliptical panels in two lines to the body; supplied with a laminated card clarifying the design.

Items such as this were produced on the island of Tarut in the Gulf, close to the Arabian coast. The carving is known as the Intercultural Style and combines stylistic elements that are paralleled in eastern Iran and western Central Asia with iconography that derives from, and mingles, those of Mesopotamia, Iran and Harappa. The figure is most commonly described as the ‘Master of Animals,’ a hero figure that is associated with the control of the chaotic forces of nature as represented by wild animals. vessels such as this have been found at religious sites, such as the temple of the moon god Sin at Khafajah.


Very Rare Bactrian Jar with Figural Scene, 2nd ML BC

A carved chlorite(?) jar with high-relief image of two oxen tied to a tree, inverted nude male between them. 222 grams, 64mm (2 ½"). 

Vessels made from steatite or chlorite have frequently been found at early to mid-third millennium BC sites in Mesopotamia, Iran, and along the southern shore of the Persian Gulf. On the island of Sarut, in the Gulf, sites have been discovered where large quantities of the raw material, unfinished and completed vessels, which would indicate that this was the center of manufacture and from where they would eventually be disseminated through international trade.

Motif on these vessels vary from scenes of animals, mythological creatures and deities, to representations of textiles and wool - important commodities to the emerging Empires at the time. Important animals, apart from sheep and goats, were bulls who were associated with important deities associated with rain and fertility. The nature of the representations would suggest that these vessels were used in religious ceremonies.


Egyptian Faience and Carnelian Bead and Pendant Necklace, New Kingdom/3rd Intermediate Period, 1540-716 BC

Composed of turquoise faience openwork plaques alternating with carnelian seated Harpocrates pendants and interspersed with carnelian spherical beads, two additional Harpocrates pendants at the ends, the faience plaques each in the shape of a naos containing the goddess Sekhmet, molded in relief on both sides, facing right and holding a scepter.

Assyrian Gold Winged Bull Mount, c. 15th-10th century BC

A repousse gold foil mount in the form of an advancing winged bull with curved horns, gaping mouth, elliptical ear, thick trunk, broad wing and curled tail; on the reverse a gold attachment loop.

At its peak, the Assyrian empire stretched from Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea to Persia (Iran), and from the Caucasus Mountains (Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan) to the Arabian Peninsula and Egypt. Assyria is named for its original capital, the ancient city of Aššur (aka Ashur) which dates to c. 2600 BC (located in what is now the Saladin Province of northern Iraq), originally one of a number of Akkadian city states in Mesopotamia.