Furniture plaque: deer

Old Assyrian Trading Colony

Not on view

This piece belongs to a group of five carved ivory plaques probably found at the site of a palace at Acemhöyük in central Anatolia. Originally, they formed the composition of a falcon with outstretched wings grasping antelopes in its extended talons. The central plaque forms the head and body of the bird, finely carved to indicate the swelling of the breast, the stylized peregrine falcon cheek markings, and the large eyes with holes for inlaid pupils, now missing. Traces of gilding survive on the eyes and beak. The plaque is discolored with a combination of reddish areas, where iron oxides are present on the surface, and a gray hue that indicates the object was exposed to considerable heat, perhaps during the destruction of the palace. Scans of the surface revealed traces of silver in the more intensely red areas, although it cannot be determined whether this is due to a metal overlay that is no longer preserved or to the proximity of a silver object during burial. There is one hole in the top of the head for attachment to another furniture element and two on the bottom, probably for attachment to the missing legs. Mortises at the sides of the breast held the tenons that extended from the large wings; only one of the original wings survives in the Metropolitan Museum collection. Two small plaques depicting antelopes held by powerful talons must have belonged to such an ensemble. While there are two holes at the bottom of each plaque, there are no visible means by which to attach them to the bird’s body. The larger antelope has a light pink surface discolored by black stains, while the smaller is red with a surface that has bubbled from burning. As only one plaque is in proper proportion to this falcon, the antelopes probably belonged to two different but similar compositions. This image of a bird of prey recalls Egyptian depictions of the god Horus as a falcon. Here, it has been transformed from divine symbol to hunter, clasping prey in its talons, perhaps deriving from a Near Eastern tradition in which the lion-headed eagle known as the Imdugud bird is sometimes depicted with stags held in its talons.

Furniture plaque: deer, Ivory (hippopotamus), Old Assyrian Trading Colony

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