Pole Top: Gilgamesh with Two Animals

800–600 BCE
Tools and Equipment
8 1/8 × 2 7/8 × 3/4 in. (20.64 × 7.3 × 1.91 cm)
Classical Art
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase

General Description

This bronze figurine, usually described as a standard finial, consists of a composite human figure and animals. The upper part of the figure holds two mythological animals of lion-monster form in the "master of animals" position. The lower half of the figure includes a repeated human head flanked by the heads of cocks, which form the tails of the upper animals. The entire image is supported by a form resembling animal legs, which in turn rests upon a tripod-like structure with lugs. The work is solid cast in one piece.

Like the axe (1962.12), animal-headed pin (1963.22), and horse bit (1974.75) from Luristan in the DMA's collection, this work is part of a large body of material from western Iran, about which there is little concrete information. Who the people of Luristan were in antiquity, what language they spoke, and whether they were nomads or sedentary villagers are unanswerable questions. Given the quality and output of their bronze work, they seem to have been at least partly settled people, and it is clear that horses played an important part in their culture. The heraldic figure in this example has been interpreted as Gilgamesh, the hero of a Mesopotamian epic. Since the "master of animals" motif occurred in Mesopotamia, this may be so, but without any written documents it is hard to know the meaning of the wealth of human and animal imagery in Luristanian art. Roman Ghirshman interpreted the figure as Sraosha, the early Iranian god of justice (Ghirshman 1964, 44 ff.). Whether these figures really were carried on standard poles in processions is not clear. Some of them were buried in graves, as were other major types of Luristan bronzes.

Excerpt from

Anne R. Bromberg, and Karl Kilinski II, Gods, Men, and Heroes: Ancient Art at the Dallas Museum of Art. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996. 34.