2nd millennium bc

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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. 

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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

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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.

Syro-Hittite Terracotta Horse and Rider, Late 2nd - Early 1st ML BC

The Syro-Hittites were Luwian, Aramaic and Phoenician-speaking political entities of the Iron Age in northern Syria and southern Anatolia that arose following the collapse of the Hittite Empire around 1180 BC and which lasted until roughly 700 BC.

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Sumerian Necklace and Ring, 2nd Millennium BC

A very rare set, made of gold and sedimentary stone beads. 

Sumer (map) was the site of the earliest known civilization, located in the southernmost part of Mesopotamia between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, in the area that later became Babylonia and is now southern Iraq from around Baghdad to the Persian Gulf.

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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.

Bactrian Gold Ibex, c. Early 2nd Millennium BC

This was probably used as a strap ornament.

Bactria was an ancient country located in modern northern Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. It was situated near the Silk Road between the Hindu Kush mountains in the south and the Oxus River (modern Amu Darya) in the north. The terrain consisted of very fertile alluvial plains, a hot desert, and cold mountains. The region was famous for its fierce warriors and its ancient Zoroastrian religion, which was founded by Zarathustra (aka Zoroaster).

Bactria has often been part of various empires and has been conquered many times — notably by Cyrus the Great and several later Persian rulers, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and by Russia.

More about Bactria…

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Bactrian Silver Dog Statuettes with Collars, Late 3rd to Early 2nd ML BC

These two little silver dogs are quite exceptional pieces. Indeed, although dogs are often represented in Iranian or Mesopotamian art, objects of this type - probably ornaments of dress - are rare. They testify to the high technical skill achieved by goldsmiths of the region termed trans-Elamite.

These two little dog figures come from Bactria, a region situated between Afghanistan and Tajikistan, defined as trans-Elamite by Pierre Amiet. The historian was referring to the production in the late 3rd and early 2nd millennia BC of objects that are similar to those found in Iran in the same period (example), but whose beauty is enhanced by the use of more precious materials and by more lavish decoration.

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