Beaker with birds on the rim

Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex

Not on view

During antiquity, vessels of precious metal were used in ritual ceremonies and as symbols of status for members of the ruling elite. From the western Caucasus to eastern Afghanistan, several hoards of these vessels in gold and silver have been found and recorded. Such a cup is this one, made of a natural alloy of gold and silver known as electrum. Resting on its narrow base, the body of the vessel curves gently inward before flaring out again to a wide mouth. The vessel is decorated at the rim with eight birds of prey incised with patterned lines. They are placed at equal intervals, with wings outspread and heads projecting above the rim of the cup. Each bird is attached with three round-headed rivets. Since the placement of the birds makes it awkward to drink from the cup, it is probable that the vessel was intended for some kind of ceremonial libation. The bird of prey is prominent in the iconography of western Central Asia, and in this particular posture—viewed as if from below—it had an extremely long life in the art of Iran.

Beaker with birds on the rim, Electrum, Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.