Weapons depicted on the Hasanlu Gold Bowl; Once More

Framework of my research fellowship at Lyon

For the academic year 2019/2020, I received a research grant of 10 months long at Collegium de Lyon, Institute for Advanced Study, University of Lyon to do a research entitled “Comparative study on the weapons from Iran and the Caucasus region during Late Bronze Age and Iron Age”. My research is implemented in collaboration with the Archéorient Lab and in close link with Michèle Casanova, professor of archaeology of the Ancient East. My study is based on the results of the old and more recent archaeological excavations in Iran and the Caucasus region in present day Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. I compare artifacts brought to light during excavation with objects displayed in the museums both from technical and iconographic points of view.

During my previous studies, I distinguished a specific group of weapons, which are generally reported from northern Persia and the Caucasus region at the turn of the 2nd and 1st mill. BC. About one year ago while doing a technical study on the weapons from Marlik in Iran National Museum at Teheran the close similarities between the Marlik weapons and the weapons depicted on the Hasanlu Gold Bowl attracted my attention. I had the opportunity to analyze the Hasanlu Gold Bowl in detail in Iran National Museum. It appeared to me that a detailed study of the various weapons depicted on the relief decoration on this famous bowl would provide more reliable evidence to propose a more accurate chronology for the bowl as well as data on the identity/culture of the people who produced and used it. In the following lines I am going to introduce the preliminary results of my study on these types of weapons, the final results of which will be published soon in a more detailed article.

Hasanlu Gold Bowl

The so-called “Hasanlu Gold Bowl” was discovered in 1958 by Robert Dyson, in room 9 of the Burnt Building I West on the Citadel Mound at Hasanlu phase IVB, at the end of 9th century B.C.E. (Dyson, 1959: 14- 15). Now it is in the Iran National Museum. Hasanlu mound is located in the south of Urmia Lake in northwest Iran (Map. 1). The Level IVb is very important because of its remarkable finds from the burnt building and the discovery of the Gold Bowl. The sophisticated rich iconography and the scenes depicted on this bowl (Fig. 1) reflect the ethnic, linguistic, religious and cultural complexity of the people who manufactured and used it. Among the numerous studies, concerning the mythical scenes and their significance little attention has been paid to the weapons depicted individually or in the hands of the figures in the scenes on the bowl and, more importantly the typo-chronological characteristics of these weapons have not been taken into consideration. I propose a renewed analysis of the weapons depicted on the bowl based on the weapons depicted on it based on the results of recent archaeological discoveries.

Map 1. Map showing the location of some of the sites mentioned in the text
The Weapons on the Hasanlu Gold Bowl:

Different kinds of weapons, including daggers or swords, bow and arrow are depicted in various scenes in the lower and middle registers of the Hasanlu bowl. These figures are shown in the hands of the figures or individually (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: The decorative scheme of the Hasanlu bowl after (after Winter, 1989: fig. 6)


In the middle register on the bowl, three swords are depicted floating and pointing downward between the hero-archer and the seated female figure wearing a woven garment in the offering scene (Fig. 3). These daggers are rendered in repoussé with incised details. They are composed of two different types, which have similar general characteristics but with little differences in their guards.

The two daggers depicted at the sides have similar characteristics. They have a fan-like or crescentic pommel, with a probably simple grip, which ends with a bar-shaped or long rectangular guard.  The results of my study demonstrate that several daggers similar to these ones have been reported from sites in northern and northwestern Persia (Kouzehgari, 2011: 65- 67, 82- 89). The central dagger on the bowl is a crescentic guard dagger. Based on the results of my previous studies these daggers, which could be classified in to two general sub-types, first: those with crescentic guards with open tips, running along the blade, second: daggers with crescentic guards with closed tips cast-on the blade. The pommel and the blade of this dagger is the same to those in the sides and the only difference is the crescent guard on its blade (ibid, 2011; for similar classifications see for Piller, 2012). Despite an inaccurate schematic drawing recently published by Rafiei (2019: fig 8) which demonstrate a dagger with hilt ending to an open tip guard along the blade, while the dagger on the bowl is similar to those with a cast-on crescent guard on a blade with pointed shoulders. This type of dagger is one of the characteristic of the crescentic guard daggers. Despite the daggers with hilts end to an open tip crescent that are reported from other sited in the Middle East, the daggers with cast-on crescent guards on the blades are the characteristic of the Northern and Northwestern Persia.

The early examples of these types of daggers were reported in various sites in Iranian Talish (de Morgan 1905: 277). A dagger if this type was also present in Khurvin cemetery (Vanden Berghe, 1964: 39- 45, 65). Several daggers of these types were discovered from archaeological excavations in Marlik graves (Negahbān, 1995: 41- 50) (Fig. 2. a,b,c). More recent archaeological excavations in

Fig. 4: (a, b, c) Shaharyeri (Azarnush & Helwing, 2005: fig 40), (d, e, f) Lenkoran (Makhmoudov, 2008), (g) copper dagger from Hasanlu Building I
(Winter, 1981: 91, fig. 11)

Shaharyeri, in northwestern Iran yielded similar daggers of these types in tombs (Azarnush & Helwing, 2005: fig. 40) (Fig. 4.a, b, c). Rather than Iran these two types of weapons were reported from Azerbaijani Talish (Makhmoudov, 2008) (Fig. 4.d, e, f). Based on these archaeological evidences I believe that these two types of weapons were the characteristic of the southern and western Caspian Sea region.


The “hero-archer” depicted on the lower-right register of the Hasanlu bowl is holding a bow with rather straight arms, which gave it a triangular shape, in a turned position (Fig. 6). A triangular turned bow is also depicted in the hand of an archer on another silver beaker from Burned Building I at Hasanlu IVb (Fig. 5). The depicted war scenes would demonstrate similarities with Assyrian iconography but the beaker is decorated in “Hasanlu Local Style”. Most of the representations of the bow in northwestern Persia are of this type. On the other hand, a bronze triangular bow has been discovered during archaeological excavations in Marlik tomb no. 27 (Negahbān, 1995: 91, Pl. XIII, 160).

Fig. 5: An individual holding a turned bow and a raised spear is involved in the battle scene in the top register (far right)


The arrowhead, represented in the hand of the archer on Hasanlu gold bowl, is of the so-called “barbed” type (Fig. 6). This type of arrowhead has two convex curvatures back towards the core of the arrowhead, which resulted in two sharp, downward points at its shoulders. Large numbers of barbed arrowheads have been discovered from archaeological excavations at Marlik (Negahbān, 1995: 81, fig. 54, 55). Recent archaeological excavations in Iranian Talish yielded several examples (Khalatbari, 2005: fig. 55) (Fig. 7). While those reported from Hasanlu IVb are made of both bronze and iron. Similar arrowheads are also reported from the wider Caucasian region.

Hasanlu Gold Bowl and the Cultural Interaction with Caspian Sea Region

The remarkable point about the weapons depicted on the Hasanlu gold bowl is that almost no similar weapons have been discovered at Hasanlu.  Although some daggers with crescentic guards have been discovered from Hasanlu, in my opinion they differ in some cases with the daggers depicted on the bowl. The crescentic guards with open tips in these daggers running along the two edges of their blade is a new functional part of the dagger developed in the Hasanlu Iron weapons to reinforce their juncture between the grip and the blade. While the form of the crescent guard on the dagger of the bowl, has close tips giving them a more circular form. On the other hand, the similar examples of crescent guarded daggers along with bar-shaped examples are all made of bronze and so far. No iron or bimetal examples have been reported while the examples from the Hasanlu IVB context are made of iron.

Based on the archaeological evidence, both types of the dagger depicted on the Hasanlu bowl, with crescentic or bar-shaped guards have been found in graves or at least levels dating from the Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age, in Marlik, Shaharyeri, Khurvin, and Lenkoran and Veri in Azerbaijan Talish. Despite Vahdati and Piller who propose a different period for the two types of daggers, ca. 1200- mid 1100 BC for the daggers with bar-shaped guards and ca. 1100- 1000 BC for the crescentic guards daggers (2018, fig. 3), regarding the examples from archaeological excavations I believe that these two daggers were produced and used along together during a time span between 1200- 1000 BC. The period is correspond to the Hasanlu V, Iron Age I at Hasanlu.

Given the fact that, the iconographical features on the bowl, in one hand, demonstrate similarities with Trialeti or Anatolian region and on the other hand, the form of the bowl and the decorating elements on them are similar to those of Marlik and Kalar Dasht gold bowls. In this regard and taking into consideration the topic of the weaponry, I also think a region in the southwestern and western Caspian Sea region could be proposed for the origin of the production of the bowl.

This bowl is representative of cultural interactions of the Hasanlu society during Hasanlu V period, with the societies in the southwestern and western Caspian Sea region, during which the bowl was brought to Hasanlu and remained until Hasanlu IVb period. The relationship between these two regions, which probably was started during Hasanlu V, (ca. 1200- 1050 BC) continued and even, expanded during the next, Hasanlu IV, period. This is attested by archaeological finds from Iron Age II warrior tombs in Hasanlu level IVb (ca. 1050-800 BC), including Transcaucasian weapons, spiked mace heads (Danti, 2014: 81- 83, fig. 7), and Transcaucasian type belts. 


Azarnoush M., Helwing B. 2005. Recent Archaeological Research in Iran- Prehistory to Iron Age, AMIT 37: 189- 246.

Danti M.D., 2014. The Hasanlu (Iran) Gold Bowl on Context: all that glitters, Antiquity 88: 791- 804.

De Morgan J., 1905. Recherches au Talyche Persan en 1901, Nécropoles des Ages du Bronze et du Fer, Mémoires de la Délégation en Perse VIII: 251- 342.  

Dyson R. Jr., 1959. Digging in Iran: Hasanlu 1959, Expedition 1/3: 4-17.

Khalatbari M. 2005. Archaeological excavations in the ancient sites of Tul-I Gilan: Talish, Gilan Cultural Heritage organization, Tehran.

Kouzehgari Z. 2011. Studying Iron Age Arms in Iran (1500- 550 B.C.) and its Relation with the Formation of Semi-Centralized Powers, A thesis for Master Degree, Isfahan University of Art, Isfahan, Iran [unpublished].

Negahban E. O. 1995. Weapons from Marlik (Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran, Ergänzungsband 16). Berlin: Reimer.

Makhmudov F. 2008. Culture of southeastern Azerbaijan in the era of Bronze and Early Iron Age, Baku. (in Russian).

Piller, C. K.  2012. A Hakkari-Type Dagger from “Eastern Anatolia”. Notes on the so-called “Daggers with a Crescent Guard, ARAMAZD, Armenian Journal of near Eastern Studies, VII. 1: 35- 59.

Rafiei B. 2019, The biography of a dagger type. The diachronic transformation of the daggers with the crescent-shaped guard, In J.-W. Meyer, E. Vila, M. Mashkour, M. Casanova & R. Vallet, The Iranian Plateau during the Bronze Age. Development of urbanisation, production and trade

Archéologie(s) 1, MOM Éditions, Lyon, 313-331.

Vahdati A., Piller C.K. 2018. Marlik, Glory of the Iron Age Culture of Gilan, Iran national Museum, Tehran, Iran.

Van den Berghe L. 1964. La Nécropole de Khurvin, Nederland Historisch-Archaeologisch-Instituut in het Nabije Oosten, Leiden.

Winter I. J.1989. “The ‘Hasanlu Gold Bowl’: Thirty Years Later,” in R.H. Dyson, Jr. and M. M. Voigt (eds), East of Assyria: The Highland Settlement of Hasanlu, Expedition 31/2-3, 87-106.


Zahra Kouzehgari est assistant professeure en archéologie à l’Art and Architecture University de Pars, Teheran (Iran) depuis 2016, où elle enseigne les arts et l’archéologie des cultures l’âge du Bronze et de l’âge de Fer en Mesopotamie, Anatolie et Egypte. Elle est actuellement chercheur au Collegium de Lyon (année académique 2019-2020).

Pour citer ce billet : Zahra Kouzeghari. Weapons depicted on the Hasanlu Gold Bowl; Once More, ArchéOrient - Le Blog, 6 mars 2020, [En ligne] https://archeorient.hypotheses.org/14687

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