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ḤASANLU TEPPE

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archeological site in West Azerbaijan Province in northwest Persia, a short distance southwest of Lake Urmia (former Reżāʾiya). OVERVIEW of the entry: i. The site. ii. The golden bowl.

archeological site in West Azerbaijan Province in northwest Persia, a short distance southwest of Lake Urmia (former Reżāʾiya). OVERVIEW of the entry: i. The site. ii. The golden bowl.

A version of this article is available in print

Volume XII, Fascicle 1, pp. 41-46

ḤASANLU TEPPE, the name of an archeological site located in western Azerbaijan Province in northwest Persia, a short distance southwest of Lake Urmia (former Reżāʾiya). This entry will be treated in two sections: the site and the ‘gold bowl of Ḥasanlu’ which was found at the site in 1958.

ḤASANLU TEPPE i. THE SITE

Ḥasanlu Tepe is the largest site in the Qadar River valley and dominates the small plain known as Solduz. The site (37°00’ N, 45°13’ E) consists of a 25-m high central “Citadel” mound surrounded by a low Outer Town, 8 m above the surrounding plain. The entire site, once much larger but reduced in size by local agricultural and building activities, now measures about 600 m across, with the Citadel having a diameter of about 200 m.

Figure 1. Provisional plan of the structures of Ḥasanlu IVB within the period IIIB fortification wall.

FIGURE 1. Provisional plan of the structures of Ḥasanlu IVB within the period IIIB fortification wall.FIGURE 1. Provisional plan of the structures of Ḥasanlu IVB within the period IIIB fortification wall.View full image in a new tab

Figure 2. Overview of Ḥasanlu. Used by permission of the University of Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia.

FIGURE 2. Overview of Ḥasanlu. Used by permission of the University of Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia.FIGURE 2. Overview of Ḥasanlu. Used by permission of the University of Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia.View full image in a new tab

Figure 3. Ḥasanlu period IV B drawing of Horse breastplate of bronze found with a mess of horse gear. L 42.28 HT 20.2 cms. HAS 74-241. Iran Bastan Museum, Tehran.

FIGURE 3. Ḥasanlu period IV B drawing of Horse breastplate of bronze found with a mess of horse gear. L 42.28 HT 20.2 cms. HAS 74-241. Iran Bastan Museum, Tehran.FIGURE 3. Ḥasanlu period IV B drawing of Horse breastplate of bronze found with a mess of horse gear. L 42.28 HT 20.2 cms. HAS 74-241. Iran Bastan Museum, Tehran.View full image in a new tab

The Qadar River rises to the west in the Zagros on the Assyrian frontier near the ancient Urartian city of Musasir. Its eastern end drains into marshes north of the modern town of Mahābād, which lies northwest of the ancient country of Mannai. Ḥasanlu is the largest site in this valley, but it is only one of many dating to various early periods. Several of these mounds, Ḥāji Firuz, Dalmā, Pisdeli, Denḵā (qq.v.), Se Gerdān, and ʿAqrab Tepes, were partially excavated as part of the Ḥasanlu Project of the University of Pennsylvania Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Archeological Service of Iran between the years 1956 and 1977. Earlier brief excavations at the site occurred in 1934-35 (Ghirshman, II, pp. 78-79, 253-54, pl. C), 1936 (Stein pp. 389-404, figs. 106, 108-10, pls. XXIV-XXVI, XXX, XXXI) and 1947 and 1949 (Ḥākemi and Rād). Prior to 1956 only one major site with a stratigraphic sequence had been excavated in Azerbaijan, that was Geoy Tepe (q.v.) located fifty miles north of Ḥasanlu near Urmia (Burton-Brown, 1951a). The excavation lasted only two weeks and lacked stratigraphic control, the objects being recorded primarily by inches below the datum. It was the purpose of the Ḥasanlu Project to develop a carefully controlled sequence of cultural remains providing substantial information on as many aspects of occupation as possible for the prehistoric periods in the area.

The stratigraphic sequence at Ḥasanlu, developed over ten three-month excavation seasons, produced a number of ceramic phrases numbered X to I from the bottom up, with subdivisions in VII, IV and III. The sequence (Voigt and Dyson, 1992, I, pp. 174-75, II, p. 137) began with a Neolithic village (X) better known from excavations at nearby Ḥāji Firuz (Voigt), and continued through the Dalmā and Pisdeli period occupations of the fourth millennium B.C.E., characterized by distinctive geometric painting styles (Hamlin, 1974; Dyson and Young). These ceramic phases were followed by a phase with rare pottery sherds painted with parallel vertical lines interspaced with circles with a dot in the center (VII C). In the mid-third millennium B.C.E., the settlement expanded to include the Outer Town area and a new kind of pottery, Painted Orange Ware, appeared (VII B and A; Dyson and Pigott). Then followed a period in the second quarter of the second millennium B.C.E. of painted “Ḵābur Ware.” This pottery reproduced shapes, fabrics, and designs identical to those known from northern Mesopotamia at this time (Hamlin, 1974), but neutron activation analyses showed that the Ḵābur Ware at Ḥasanlu and Denḵā is locally made.

In the second half of the second millennium B.C.E., a major change took place in burial customs, ceramics, and architecture with the appearance of burnished gray, black, red, and brown pottery made in a variety of shapes, including stemmed goblets, spouted jars, and vessels reproducing metal techniques such as gadrooning. At the end of the second millennium B.C.E., the top of the Citadel mound was occupied by a series of monumental buildings, of which at least one was a large temple with a columned hall measuring 18 by 24 meters with four rows of six columns each, a forerunner of later columned halls in Media and Achaemenid Anshan (q.v.).

During this period, the mound’s summit was surrounded by a narrow wall with small buttresses which ran down the western slope enclosing three parallel ramps. These sloping ramps gave access to areas and to a small chariot gate that led to the central open area. Horse trappings recovered from the excavations were for both ridden and driven horses, and the charred remains of a chariot were identified. The gear, and several horse skeletons, were recovered from the collapsed remains of the temple center, which had been destroyed by burning in a sudden attack at the end of the ninth, or early in the eighth, century B.C.E. by an unknown foe.

Due to the suddenness of the sacking, most of the buildings retained their contents, especially the materials stored on their second floors. Over 7,000 artifacts were identified (Dyson and Voigt, 1989) which include a wide range of utensils, weapons, jewelry, decorative wall tiles, metal and ceramic vessels, horse gears, seals and sealings, and so on. Materials represented include iron, bronze, gold, silver, antimony, shell, ivory, bone, amber, glass, wood, and stone. No written tablets were recovered, but stone maceheads and vessel fragments preserve names connected to Assyria and Elam (qq.v.).

Unique among the artifacts of this period, found in 1958, were a silver beaker ornamented in electrum figures, showing a victory scene with chariot, driver, soldiers, and prisoners, as well as a two-and-a-quarter pound solid gold bowl ornamented with repousée figures (see the next article; see also Porada; for detailed color illustration, see Life magazine, 12 January 1959). The bowl, executed in a local style, draws on the iconographies of ancient Mesopotamia and Anatolia and is a major document for the art history of this period, the subject of much discussion and speculative interpretation (Winter, with references).

Following a hiatus in the 8th century, the abandoned site was occupied by the Urartians, who built a massive fortification wall with towers and buttresses to house a garrison meant to anchor the southern frontier of their territory (period IIIB). Sometime, probably in the later 7th century, this fortress was abandoned. There was another hiatus, followed by the final ancient occupation (period II/IIIA) of the Achaemenid-Early Parthian period (Dyson, 1999).

Bibliography

  • Theodore Burton-Brown, Excavations in Azarbaijan, 1948, London, 1951a.
  • Idem, “Recent Archaeological Work in Azerbaijan,” Asiatic Review, no. 169, 1951b, pp. 60-65.
  • M. de Schauensee, “Northwest Iran as a Bronze-Working Centre: The View from Ḥasanlu,” in John E. Curtis, ed., Bronzeworking Centres of Western Asia, ca. 1000-539 B.C., London, 1989, pp. 45-62.
  • Michael D. Danti, Mary Mathilda Voigt, and Robert H. Dyson, Jr., “The Search for the Late Chalcolithic (Early Bronze) Age Transitional Period in the Ushnu-Solduz Valley, Iran,” in Antonio Sagona, ed., Viewfrom the Highlands, forthcoming.
  • Robert H. Dyson, Jr., “Early Cultures of Solduz, Azerbaijan,” in Survey of Persian Art XIV, pp. 2951-70, fig. 1029.
  • Idem. “Hasanlu 1972,” in Proceedings of the 1st Annual Symposium of Archeological Research in Iran, separate fascicle, Tehran, 1972b.
  • Idem. “The Hasanlu Project, 1961-1967,” in The Memorial Volume of the 5th International Congress of Iranian Art and Archeology, 11th-18th April, 1968, Tehran, 1972c, I, pp. 39-58.
  • Idem. “Hasanlu 1974: The Ninth Century B.C. Gateway,” in Proceedings of the 3rd Annual Symposium on Archeological Research in Iran/Gozārešhā-ye majmaʿ-e sālāna-ye kāvešhā wa pažuhešhā-ye bāstān-šenāsi-e Irān III, Tehran, 1354 Š./1975, pp. 179-88.
  • Idem, “Architecture of the Iron I Period at Hasanlu in Western Iran and Its Implications for Theories of Migration on the Iranian Plateau,” in Le Plateau Iranien et l’Asie Centrale des origines à la conquête islamique, Paris, 1977, pp. 155-69.
  • Idem. “Excavations at Hasanlu in 1970,” in A Survey of Persian Art XVIII, 2002.
  • Robert H. Dyson, Jr. and T. Cuyler Young, Jr, “The Solduz Valley, Iran: Pisdeli Tepe,” Antiquity 34, 1960, pp. 19-27.
  • Robert H. Dyson, Jr. and Vincent C. Pigott, “Ḥasanlu,” Iran 13, 1975, pp. 182-85.
  • Robert H. Dyson, Jr. and Mary Mathilda Voigt, eds., East of Assyria: The Highland Settlement of Ḥasanlu, Expedition31/2-3, 1989.
  • Robert H. Dyson, Jr., and Mary Mathilda Voigt, “A Temple at Hasanlu,” in Naomi F. Miller and Kamyar Abdi, eds., Yeki bud Yeki Nabud: Essays on the Archaeology of Iran in Honor of William M. Sumner, forthcoming.
  • Roman Ghirshman, Fouilles de Sialk près de Kashan, 1933, 1934, 1937, 2 vols., Paris, 1938-39; tr. Aṣḡar Karimi as Sialk, Kāšān, Tehran, 2001.
  • ʿAli Ḥākemi and Maḥmud Rād, “Šarḥ wa natija-ye kāvešhā-ye ʿelmi-e Ḥasanlu (Solduz),” in Gozˊārešhā-ye bāstān-šenāsi I, Tehran, 1329 Š./1950, pp. 87-103.
  • Carol Hamlin, “The Early Second Millennium Ceramic Assemblage at Dinkha Tepe,” Iran 12, 1974, pp. 125-53.
  • Idem, “Dalma Tepe,” Iran 13, 1975, pp. 111-27.
  • Michelle I. Marcus, Emblems of Identity and Prestige: The Seals and Sealings from Hasanlu, Iran, The University of Pennsylvania Museum Monograph 84, Philadelphia, 1996.
  • Oscar White Muscarella, The Catalogue of Ivories from Ḥasanlu, Iran, The University of Pennsylvania Museum Monograph 40, Philadelphia, 1980.
  • Edith Porada, “Notes on the Gold Bowl and Silver Beaker from Hasanlu,” in A Survey of Persian Art IX, pp. 2971-78.
  • Marc Aurel Stein, Old Routes of Western Iran: Narrative of an Archaeological Journey Carried Out and Recorded, London, 1940.
  • “The Secrets of The Golden Bowl,” Life magazine, 12 January 1959, pp. 50-60 (with detailed color photographs).
  • Mary Mathilda Voigt, Haji Firuz Tepe, Iran: The Neolithic Settlement, The University of Pennsylvania Museum Monograph 50, Philadelphia, 1983.
  • Mary Mathilda Voigt and Robert H. Dyson, Jr., “The Chronology of Iran,” in Robert W. Ehrich, ed., Chronologies in Old Worlds Archeology, 2 vols., Chicago, 1992, I, pp. 22-78; II, pp. 125-53.
  • Irene J. Winter, A Decorated Breastplate from Ḥasanlu, Iran: Type, Style, and Context of an Equestrian Ornament, The University of Pennsylvania Museum Monograph 39, Philadelphia, 1980.
  • Idem, “The ‘Ḥasanlu Gold Bowl’: Thirty Years Later,” in Robert H. Dyson, Jr. and Mary Mathilda Voigt, eds., East of Assyria: The Highland Settlement of Hasanlu, Expedition 31/2-3, Philadelphia, 1989, pp. 87-106.

ḤASANLU TEPPE ii. THE GOLDEN BOWL

The context. The ‘gold bowl of Ḥasanlu’ was found in the debris of Burned Building I West on the Citadel Mound at Ḥasanlu in 1958. It had fallen into room 9 in the southeastern corner of the building where, at the end of the 9th century B.C.E., it was buried under the collapsed mud brick walls of the second story along with the bodies of three men. One of these men was carrying the bowl. Although badly crushed, it could be determined that the man had fallen on his right shoulder, with his head facing the north wall. His lower right arm lay upright against the wall face, his hand bent at the wrist. This arm, from wrist to shoulder, was protected by a gauntlet made perhaps of leather (represented by a thin, half-centimeter thick film of powdery yellow and plum-red material). It was backed by six or seven rows of round, flat-topped bronze buttons attached by loops at the back. Two larger flanged buttons formed attachments at either end. The left arm was unadorned, the upper part lying in front of, and parallel to, his chest, with the lower part lying against the wall. Between his hands, lying at forty-five degree angle, was the flattened gold bowl. The bowl was being carried in an upright position and contained three other valued artifacts: a mottled red and white uncut stone cylinder with gold caps, a shattered figurine (perhaps a bird) of laminated ivory (?), and a sword-hilt with a U-shaped bronze guard set over the shoulder of a broken iron blade with round tang. The grip was composed of three red sandstone and three white stone discs fitted over the tang. The pommel was missing. This object is of considerable interest as it matches one found in the former Russian Armenia at Mouci-yeri, dating to between 1200 and 900 B.C.E. (de Morgan, p. 91, figs. 34, 35; Schaeffer, p. 501, nn. 6 and 7).

Figure 1. Hasanlu Silver Beaker from period IV B. Electrum overlay. HT 17.0 cm. HAS 58-427. Iran Bastan Museum, Tehran.

FIGURE 1. Ḥasanlu Silver Beaker from period IV B. Electrum overlay. HT 17.0 cm. HAS 58-427. Iran Bastan Museum, Tehran.FIGURE 1. Ḥasanlu Silver Beaker from period IV B. Electrum overlay. HT 17.0 cm. HAS 58-427. Iran Bastan Museum, Tehran.View full image in a new tab

The bowl. The Ḥasanlu bowl weighs 33 3/8 ounces and is decorated by repousé work and chasing. The bowl is about 20 cm in height, with a base about 15 cm and a rim about 18 cm in diameter, indicating a slight outward flare for the sides. A slight bulge around the base duplicates the shape of the gold cup found at Kalār-dašt in Māzandarān Province in 1934 (Porada, 1969, pp. 99-100, fig. 61). The sides of both vessels have guilloche borders, double at the top and single at the base, with chased patterns on their bottoms. The bottom of the Ḥasanlu bowl is decorated with a checkerboard pattern, flanked on each side by a ram walking to the right, giving a rotary motion to the design.

The decoration on the sides of the Ḥasanlu bowl is organized into an upper and a lower register, linked at only one point by a flow of water issuing from the mouth of a bull in the top register and falling to the register below. The upper register presents a single composition consisting of a young, unshaven, male individual carrying a beaker, followed by two others, each bringing a sacrificial lamb. All three wear ankle-length draped garments like those of the three gods riding in chariots, whom they approach. The first god, identified as a storm, weather, or atmospheric god, drives a chariot drawn by a pair of bulls (the second bull indicated by the doubling of the horns). The god is identified by a pair of rays, wings, or flames issuing from his shoulders. He wears a simple headband ending in a triangular tab at the back. The second god is a sun god, as shown by his solar-disc headdress, while the third is a moon or local god, identified by a horned headdress. These two gods ride chariots with six-spoked wheels drawn by mules or onagers. The weather god’s type of headband is worn also by three male figures in the lower register: One offers a libation in a tall beaker to an altar, and the other two are combatants, holding their arms outstretched at a forty-five degree angle in opposition to each other. The position of this combat scene at the base of the falling water singles it out as the focal point for the lower register.

The lower register, in contrast to the upper, is composed of a series of episodes that begin to the right of the combat scene with a nude goddess exposing herself while standing on the backs of two rams (indicated by a doubling of the face and horns). All of the figures in the episodes, including the goddess, look to the right in the direction of the combat scene which comes at the end of the sequence. This fixed orientation may well indicate the direction in which the story unfolds. The figures include (from the right of the nude goddess) a warrior-hunter, dressed in a woven, tasseled kilt carrying a bow, an arrow, and a quiver; an eagle carrying a woman (who alone looks to the left); another woman riding on a lion, gazing into a mirror; two attendants, wearing draped ankle-length garments like those in the upper register but with no headbands, subduing a third figure similarly dressed; three swords in a group pointing downward; a seated male figure wearing a woven garment, offering a tall beaker to an altar with animal feet; and a female wearing a woven garment, a counter-balanced necklace, and some kind of hair ornament. She offers a nude child to a male figure wearing a short-sleeved shirt and woven skirt, without a headband, holding an axe-adze in his left hand, and seated on a throne(?) stool with animal feet. Curiously, both the seated male and the child extend their right hands with the same open gesture toward the woman.

The left-hand figure in the combat scene wears a woven kilt with embroidered border and tassels, and some kind of “boxing mittens.” His opponent stands, or sits, in a throne(?) chair with high back covered with mountain scales. The throne appears to rest on the back of a recumbent lion. This figure also apparently wears only a kilt, represented by the top of its belt-line. From the back of this mountain throne issues a scaled monster with three fox-like heads, facing left toward the combat scene.

These elements, which recall mythological episodes, reflect older Akkadian, Hurrian, Hittite, Neo-Hittite, and perhaps Iranian traditions. It is evident that the style and content of the Ḥasanlu bowl developed from a mixture of such traditions, perhaps organized around some specific story such as the myth of the Hurrian god Kummarbi (Porada, 1969, p. 104). Given the very complex ethnic composition of northwestern Iran, and the absence of written evidence, attributions of date of origin, place of manufacture, or ethnic association are, at present, speculative (Barrelet).

Note: Robert Dyson (1959, p. 14), erroneously attributed the gauntlet to the left arm, an error repeated in Porada (1969, p. 103), but corrected in Dyson 1960, p. 250. The official, corrected, drawing of the bowl, designated as MTMS 1974, was reproduced in Marie Barrelet (Pl. V) and used for Irene Winter, Fig. 6.

Bibliography

  • Marie Thérèse Barrelet “Le décor du bol en or de Hasanlu et les interprétations proposés à son sujet,” in M. T. Barrelet et al., eds., Problèmes concernant les Hurrites II, Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations Mémoire 49, Paris, 1984, pp. 13-176.
  • Robert H. Dyson, Jr., “Digging in Iran: Hasanlu 1958,” Expedition 1/3, 1959, pp. 4-17.
  • Idem, “The Golden Bowl and the Silver Cup—Pt. II,” The Illustrated London News, no. 235, 13 February 1960, pp. 250-51.
  • Roman Ghirshman, The Art of Ancient Iran from Its Origins to the Time of Alexander The Great, tr. Stuart Gilbert and James Emmons, New York, 1964, figs. 30-31.
  • Machteld J. Mellink “The Hasanlu Bowl in Anatolian Perspective,” in Mélanges Ghirshman I,Iranica Antiqua6, 1966, pp. 72-87.
  • Jacques de Morgan, Mission Scientifique au Caucase: études archéologiques et historiques, 2 vols., Paris, 1889, I, p. 91, figs. 34, 35.
  • Ezzat O. Negahban “Gold Decorated Vessels,” in idem, Marlik: The Complete Excavation Report, The University of Pennsylvania Museum Monograph 87, Philadelphia, 1996, I, pp. 54-79.
  • Edith Porada “The Hasanlu Bowl,” Expedition 1/3, 1959, pp. 19-22.
  • Idem, “The Finds from Marlik: The Gold Bowls of North-Western Iran, and The ‘Amlash Culture’,” in idem (with collaboration of R.. H. Dyson and contributions by C. K. Wilkinson), The Art of Ancient Iran: Pre-Islamic Cultures, 2nd rev. ed., New York, 1969, pp. 98-107, figs. 61, 63, and 64.
  • Idem, “Notes on the Gold Bowl and Silver Beaker from Hasanlu,” Survey of Persian Art XIV, pp. 2971-78, fig. 1043 and the plate facing p. 2978.
  • C. F. A. Schaeffer “Le Talyche et la Transcaucasie au Bronze Récent et au début du Fer,” in Stratigraphie Comparée et Chronologie de l’Asie Occidentale (IIIe et Iie millénaire), London, 1889, pp. 497-507.
  • “The Secrets of a Golden Bowl,” Life magazine, 12 January 1959, pp. 55-60 (with detailed color photographs).
  • Irene J. Winter, “The ‘Hasanlu Gold Bowl’: Thirty Years Later,” in Robert H. Dyson, Jr. and Mary Mathilda Voigt, eds., East of Assyria: The Highland Settlement of Hasanlu, Expedition 31/2-3, Philadelphia, 1989, pp. 87-106.
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