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Parthian Bronze Bell

Parthian Bronze Bell

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The Parthian Empire,  c. 200 BC - 200 AD, Northwestern Iran.

Fabulous small-sized, finely cast bronze bell of conical form, decorated with elegant incised zigzag-motifs and two bands with a animal-shaped loop on top. Bronze bells with and without iron clapper hung on the bridles of horses and donkeys, as pendants in the Assyrian Empire. According to tradition, the Prophet Mohammed was not happy about the bells (Arabic jaras) hanging from the necks of pack animals in Arabia in pre-Islamic times. It is said that angels avoid caravans that produce such noises. Burial finds in Central Asia from the period from the 2nd century BC until the 10th century AD also show that the harness was hung with multiple bells of different sizes.

The Parthian Empire (also known as the Arsacid Empire) was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran from 247 BC to 224 AD. At its height, the Parthian Empire stretched from the northern reaches of the Euphrates, in what is now central-eastern Turkey, to present-day Afghanistan and western Pakistan. The empire, located on the Silk Road trade route between the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean Basin and the Han dynasty of China, became a center of trade and commerce. Establishing a primary residence at Ctesiphon, on the Tigris River in southern Mesopotamia, Parthian kings ruled for nearly half a millennium and influenced politics from Asia Minor to northern India, until they were overthrown by Sasanian armies from southwest Iran in the early third century A.D.

Good condition. Wear consistent with age and use. Iron clapper missing. Surface scratches and corrosion due oxidation. Built up verdigris patina, light earthen deposits. Size approx. 4,5cm x 3,5cm x 3,3cm.

Provenance: Danish private collection.

For a similar examples see:

Bell, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession Number: 62.225.5 (https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/325552)

Bell, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Nasli M. Heeramaneck Collection of Ancient Near Eastern and Central Asian Art, Accession Number: M.76.97.894 (https://collections.lacma.org/node/226644)

References and further reading:

The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 3, Issue 1: The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian Periods, William Bayne Fisher & Ehsan Yarshater, Cambridge University Press, 1968

The Parthian Empire (247 B.C.–224 A.D.), expanded original text by Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art, Blair Fowlkes-Childs, In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/part/hd_part.htm)

Ṣandj, Henry George Farmer, In C.E. Bosworth (ed.), The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, Vol. IX, Leiden: Brill. 1997, p. 11a.

Ancient Bronzes, Ceramics, and Seals: The Nasli M. Heeramaneck Collection of Ancient Near Eastern, Central Asiatic, and European Art, Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1981.

Caucasian, Iranian and Urartian Bronze Bells, Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia, Manuel Castelluccia & Roberto Dan, 20(1), Brill, 2014, pp. 67-104.(https://doi.org/10.1163/15700577-12341261)

The Music of the Sumerians and their Immediate Successors, the Babylonians and Assyrians, Francis W. Galpin, Strasbourg University Press, 1955. p. 11.

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