Extremely Rare Bactrian Ceremonial “Lock” Idol with Inlaid Bulls, Late 3rd ML BC

A carved stone tent weight with bull images and inlay; accompanied by an old scholarly note, typed and signed by W.G. Lambert, late Professor of Assyriology, University of Birmingham, 1970-1993, which states: ‘Ancient Alabaster “Weight” 29cm, high 25cm diameter. This is roughly oval with a hollowed out hole near the top, creating a handle. The edges are rounded and on each side a bull in deep relief with inlay of turquoise and brown stone appears. Much detail is used in the depiction of the bulls. The bull on one side is shown with head facing forwards, while on the other side it faces backwards. In details also the two bulls are quite different. The object is generally in good condition, though some of the inlay is lost on one side. This is an extremely rare object, though certainly from West Central Asia. It dates to c.2000-1700 BC. Its purpose is not certain, but most probably it was carried in some religious rites.’

Among the most iconic Intercultural Style objects are the so-called “lock weights”. These were probably not weights at all, but were likely badges of high office, carried to indicate authority. Fragments of similar objects have been found throughout Mesopotamia, the islands of the Persian Gulf, on the Iranian steppe, as well as the Indus Valley. The production of them seems to be concentrated in two areas, the Gulf island of Tarut, as well as Tepe Yahya in south central Iran, that has produced the only known mine for the stone. The artistic styles on these chlorite objects represent a fusion of art and religious themes from the diverse regions that they are found in, representing both Mesopotamian and Indus culture. The bull was a popular, and sacred animal in both Mesopotamia and the Indus civilisation. In Mesopotamia it was often associated with storm gods, such as Ball. In the Indus region it appears on seals and is often associated with a horned deity that has been identified as a proto-Shiva type figure.


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

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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.