Goblet decorated with a frieze of birds

Period:
Chalcolithic
Date:
ca. early 4th millennium B.C.
Geography:
Iran, Tepe Sialk
Culture:
Iran
Medium:
Ceramic, paint
Dimensions:
8.27 in. (21.01 cm)
Classification:
Ceramics-Vessels
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1948
Accession Number:
48.98.7
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 402
This goblet comes from a site near Kashan called Tepe Sialk. Excavations conducted at the site in 1933, 1934, and 1937 uncovered large amounts of prehistoric pottery which have provided important evidence for the early chronology of the central Iranian plateau. Like much of the pottery from Iran in the Chalcolithic Period (ca. 5500-3000 B.C.), this piece is very skillfully made, with thin walls and a crisply formed, symmetrical profile. It was likely created or finished using a tournette, the precursor to the potter’s wheel, which is a flat disc balanced on a central pivot that can be spun with one hand while the other hand is used to smooth and shape a pot in the center of the wheel. The designs painted in dark brown against the buff-colored ceramic work in harmony with the shape of the goblet. Large, widely spaced dotted lines fan out vertically across the foot, below a horizontal band. Another thick band encircles the widest point of the vessel, above which rows of comb-like horizontal lines or wavy vertical lines rise to cover the outside surface, topped by three narrower bands above which a row of bent-legged waterbirds proceeds in single file to the right, filling the space of the slightly flaring lip. The combination of stylized animals, especially birds and ibexes, with geometric patterns is typical of the fine pottery from this period at Tepe Sialk. This vessel was probably used for drinking, and the elaborate decoration brings into question whether it was intended to serve as utilitarian tableware, or for use on special occasions including rituals.
1933-37, excavated by Roman Ghirshman, on behalf of the Conseil des Musées Nationaux; ceded to the Tehran Museum in the division of finds; acquired by the Museum in 1948, presented by the Tehran Museum in exchange for surveying equipment at the close of the Iranian Expedition of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.