Elamite worshipper gold

7.5 x 2.4 cm, Gold and Bronze, 12th century Susa

Brief IdentificationEdit

This artifact is a rather small, golden and bronze statue of an Elamite worshiper hold some sort of small, four legged animal, which dates back from the 12th century BCE. It was discovered at the archeological site of the ancient city of Susa, which was a city in the empire of Elam in the Khuzestan lowlands ["Elamite Empire"]. The Khuzestan province is located in soutwest Iran, bordering the Persian Gulf ["Khuzestan"]. The Elamite Empire was a Non-semetic empire, nor was their language Indo-european in origin ["Visual Arts"].

During the 12th century BCE, Susa is supposed to be the residence of the Elamite kings who ruled during the second half of a period of Iranian history that is currently referred to as the Middle Elamite Period ["Elamite Empire"]. Susa, based on its location, was most likely irragated by the Kerkha and Kerun rivers ["Visual Art"].

Technical EvaluationEdit

The primary metals present in this sculpture are gold and bronze, which is an alloy of primarily copper and other metals [Oudbashi, Omid, and S. Mohammadamin Emami, 20]. Archaeological sites about 20 km south of Susa were excavated in 1965-1978 [Oudbashi, Omid, and S. Mohammadamin Emami, 20]. In these sites, which date back to the Middle Elamite era, in the Khuzestan lowlands, furnaces have been discovered which cam be used to smelt ores for metal extraction [Oudbashi, Omid, and S. Mohammadamin Emami, 20]. Analysis of theses metallurgic remains revealed that copper was one of the primary metals extracted in this area [Oudbashi, Omid, and S. Mohammadamin Emami, 20]. Evidence reveals that, by the 4th century B.C.E., ancient Iranians were able to achieve the appropriate temperature to melt precious metals by using fernaces ["Copper"]. These bronze sculptures were likely casted and then hardened and annealed afterward [Oudbashi, Omid, and S. Mohammadamin Emami, 20]. While this site was excavated, a complex was used to store these sculptures that has since been turned into the Haft Tappeh (named after the site) museum, where many of these uncovered artifacts were stored [Oudbashi, Omid, and S. Mohammadamin Emami, 23]. There is some struggle in preserving theses artifacts and preventing corosion, because of the humid air that is prevalent in the area [Oudbashi, Omid, and S. Mohammadamin Emami, 23].

Some of the earliest sites of metal smelting in the world are in Iran [Thorton 308]. Archaeologists first discovered evidence of metallurgy in Iran in at the Ali Kosh site in soutwestern Iran, located northwest of Susa in the lowland area [Thorton 308]. Copper beads, discovered in this area, do not predate those found in Anatolia about a millenium earlier, but predate copper tools found in Mesopatamia [Thorton 308]. The utilization of copper in these areas last over a thousand years, signaling that smelting metals was not a mere extention of stoneworking industries [Thorton 320].  

There is an abundance of ores present in the Iranian area, including large deposits of copper [Thorton 321]. The prevalance of smelting appeared transform in Iran based on the abundace of tin and bronze alloys and evidence of smelting stags which indicate a rise in production [Thorton 321].

Local Historical ContextEdit

This artifact was uncovered in the site of the ancient city of Susa, which was the capitol of the Elamite Empire during the time the artifact dates back ["Susa"]. Modern day Khuzistan, the site of the Elamite empire, saw the earliest urbanization and civilization of a society in the Iranian area [Gershevitch, 1]. It is plausable that the city of Susa was in fact originally separate from Elam until the empire expanded from the hills into the lowand areas [Gershevitch, 5].  The sacking of the Mesopotamian city of Ur by the Elamites in the late 2000s B.C.E. Mesopotamian thought, as recorded in clay tablets during this time ["Visual Arts"]. 

There is little that is completely understood about the internal history of Elam, thanks on the complex language, which has not been completely deciphered ["Visual Arts"]. What scholars know about the ongoings in Mesopotamia are mostly contained on clay tablets that merchants used for records, but Elam lacks these tablets, signalling insignificance of writen record in Elamite culture  ["Visual Arts"].

The Elamite Empire is said to have been at its peak in the 13th and 12th centuries BCE ["Elam"]. During this time, Elam experienced an artistic renaissance of sorts with regards to architecture and culture ["Elam"]. 

Inscriptions do not specify the decendants of the monarchs of this time period [Gershevitch, 17]. During the 12th century the Elamite King Shutruk-Nahhunte I raided Babylon and brought back such treasures as Naram-Sin’s stele and the stele containing the code of Hammurabi [Oxford]. Shutruk-Nahhunte even had his own engravings commissioned in which he replaced the effigy of a Kassite King with his own image [Oxford]. A temple was built in Susa by Shutruk-Nahhunte I, including a mural which depicts him and his sons as mythical creatures [Oxford]. One of Shutruk-Nahhunte's sons Kuter-Nahhunte III (r. 1155-1150? B.C.E.) assumed the throne afterward, while the conflict between the Babylonians and the Elamites continued [Gershevitch, 17]. His coquest of Babyonia was unsuccesful during his brief time as ruler, in that he was unable to coquer the whole of its territory despite capturing the Kassite king Ellil-nadin-ahhe [Gershevitch, 17]. 

Kuter-Nahhunte's brother Silhak-Insusinak I inherited the throne afterward [Gershevitch, 17]. He is regarded as one of Elam's greatest warriors, thanks to his conquest of northern Babylonia to the borders of Assyria [Gershevitch, 18]. He seemed to have been succeed by weaker monarchs, however, who transitioned the Elamite empire from the "middle era" to the "neo-elamite era" [Gershevitch, 18].

The religion of the period was centralized around the ziggurat in Susa ["Religion"]. The original ziggurat had a high temple dedicated to the god of Susa, Insusinak ["Religion"]. This ziggurat was eventually demolished, however, signalling a transition in religious value ["Religion"]. The buildings around the ziggurat were incorporated into the surviving version, dedicated to Napirisa, the supreme god of Elam, and Insusinak ["Religion"].

World SignificanceEdit

This artifact holds particular significance with regards to illuminating the historical period surrounding the Elamite empire. Sites in the Khuzistan lowlands, such as Susa and Ali Kosh, reveal informationon the settled life of Elamite villagers during the time period [Ghirshman and Vanden Berghe, 99]. Discoveries at sites such as these can help determine the cities' places within Iranian history [Ghirshman and Vanden Berghe, 134]. With regards to the metallurgy of the artifact, this is one of the oldest examples of smelting in the world [Thorton 308]. This gives perspective on where Elam was on the technological spectrum at a global level. The bronzes at theses sites not only include religous relics, but tools bowls, cilinders, and weapons as well [Ghirshman and Vanden Berghe, 164].

Suggested BibliographyEdit

"Copper Resources in Iran", Encyclopedia Irania, accessed April 20, 2013,

"Elam," Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, February 2013,

Gershevitch, Ilya, "Elam," in The Median and Achaemenian Periods, edited by Sir Harold Bailey. Vol. 2 of The Cambridge History of Iran. (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1985)

Ghirshman, R. and Vanden Berghe, L., "Bronzes Inscrits du Lurishtan de la Collection Foroughi" in Vol. 2 of Iranica Antiqva. (Netherlands: E.J. Brill, Leiden, Netherlands, 1962).

Ghirshman, R. and Vanden Berghe, L., "Excavations at Ali Kosh" in Vol. 2 of Iranica Antiqva. (Netherlands: E.J. Brill, Leiden, Netherlands, 1962).

"History of Iran: Elamite Empire," Iran Chamber Society, accessed April 15, 2013,

"History of Iran: Susa, Capitol of Iran," Iran Chamber Society, accessed April 16,

"Iran: Visual Arts: The Art of the Elamites," Iran Chamber Society, accessed April 18, 2013,

"Iranian Provinces: Khuzestan" Iran Chamber Society, accessed April 21, 2013,  

Oudbashi, Omid and S. Mohammadamin Emami "A Note on the Corrosion Morphology of some Middle Elamite Copper Alloy Artefacts for Haft Tappeh, South-West Iran," Studies In Conservation, 20-24, March 2010.

"Religion in Iran: The Elamite Religion" Iran Chamber Society, accessed April 18, 21, 2013,

"Susa," Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, February 2013,

"Susa in Oxford Art Online," Oxford Art Online, accessed April 20, 2013,

Thorton, Christopher, "Emergence of Complex Metallurgy in Iranian Society,"Journal of World Prehistory, Sep 2009, 301-321.