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Work Rhyton in the form of a lion

Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Anatolia

Vase en forme de lion

© 2008 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault

Near Eastern Antiquities
Anatolia

Author(s):
Prévotat Arnaud

This zoomorphic rhyton in the form of a lion was probably used to offer libations to certain gods. A neck formed on the back of the animal allowed the liquid to be poured in; it was then poured out through the mouth. The lion's glare and its wide-open mouth, teeth bared, give it a menacing air. Contrasting with this realism, the mane and cheeks are represented by schematic marks in brown-black paint.

A rhyton in the shape of a lion

The lion is immobile on its feet, each with four painted claws. The open mouth, its outline emphasized by a band of paint, reveals four large, pointed canine teeth and a tongue that hangs out. The staring, globular eyes have a dot of paint at the center to mark the pupil. Other details are indicated by schematic motifs in dark paint on white slip, the mane being suggested by spirals and the pelt by dots. The neck-opening on the back allowed the introduction of liquid that would then be poured out through the mouth: this type of vessel, called a rhyton, was used in cultic ceremonies to perform libations in honor of the gods

A long tradition

This lion was found at Kültepe, together with a series similar vessels, also in the Louvre, of which it is the only one to survive intact. These zoomorphic rhytons are found in Early Bronze Age III (2300-1750 BC), distributed across a relatively broad area extending from Crete to the Balkans and including Anatolia, but they seem to be absent from Mesopotamia. Their origins date back to the Neolithic period, more particularly at Hacilar (Anatolia, c. 6000 BC), evidence of the early beginnings of a tradition that would develop through succeeding periods to reach its apogee in Cappadocia, especially at Kültepe - the ancient Kanesh - in the Early Bronze Age III.

A flourishing trade

This lovely terra-cotta piece testifies to the refinement of Cappadocian civilization at that time. Anatolia, a region rich in raw materials, particularly in copper, gold, and silver, became prosperous through the activities of the Assyrian merchants who established themselves on the outskirts of the cities, in settlements called "karu" (literally meaning "quays," designating a trading post). The discovery of this rhyton in the Karum II level at Kültepe thus testifies to the adoption by the Assyrians of aspects of the native culture. In return, the merchants brought textiles and the tin necessary for the production of the local bronze, and with them, writing.

Bibliography

Amiet Pierre, L'Art antique du Proche-Orient, Mazenod, 1977, p. 387, fig. 456, pl. 57.
De Genouillac Henri, Céramique cappadocienne, t. II : acquisitions du Musée du Louvre (Musée du Louvre. Département des Antiquités Orientales. Série archéologique, II), Paul Geuthner, 1926, pp. 52-53, n 141, pl. 8.
Dupré Sylvestre, Bestiaire de Cappadoce, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1993, p. 69, n 44.
Huit millénaires de civilisation anatolienne, exposition Maison de l'UNESCO, 1981, n 10.
Roaf Mickaël, Atlas de la Mésopotamie et du Proche-Orient antique, Brepols, 1991, p. 112.

Technical description

  • Vase en forme de lion

    Epoque des Comptoirs assyriens, XIXè-XVIIIè s. av. J.-C

    Kültepe, ancienne Kanesh

  • Terre cuite modelée et peinte

    H. : 20,50 cm. ; L. : 21,50 cm.

  • Acquisition, 1911 , 1911

    AM 1517

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

    Richelieu wing
    Ground floor
    Anatolian civilizations, from the earliest times to the 1st millennium BC
    Room 230
    Vitrine 2 : La Cappadoce à l'époque des colonies marchandes assyriennes (vers 1950-1750 avant J.-C.). La Cappadoce à la fin du Bronze Ancien.

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