Amlash Idol

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Amlash Idol

1st Millennium B.C
Ancient Iran
H: 34 cm



A stylised female figure crafted from variegated brown terracotta. The vertical extension of the tall upper body is emphasised through a grooved spine running up the back; the headdress on the rounded head further elongates the figure. The slender arms are folded into the chest so that the hands rest beneath the diminutive breasts. The hips and buttocks are highly exaggerated: they project dramatically from the body before tapering to narrow legs and feet. The large ears on either side of the head are double-pierced and may originally have been adorned with earrings. The fingers and toes are articulated with simple lines, adding characterful detail.

The Amlash ceramics of Iron-Age Iran are named after a small modern town in the northern province of Gilan, just south of the Caspian Sea. Although the town is in close vicinity to Mesopotamia, the objects found there have a distinct local style, perhaps due to the natural boundaries of the Elburz and Zagaros mountain ranges. Amlash finds have been passing through the small market town and entering the antiquities market in Iran, Europe, and the US since the 1930s. Subsequently, the Iranian government organised excavations in nearby areas, including the 1961 excavation of the Marlik tomb site on the Sefid Rud with renowned Iranian archaeologist Ezat Negahban.

The ceramic vessels and statuettes of both humans and animals from this region are by far the most important source we have on the Amlash culture of this period. Much of what has survived seems to have held spiritual or ritual functions, for example, votive idols and libation vessels. Human representations are generally found in burial sites, and may therefore represent deities or specific individuals. In the 1979 catalogue of the Ancient Orient Museum, Tokyo, this figure was described as an ‘Earth Mother’ statuette. The exaggerated hips and buttocks of this figurine suggests it was associated with fertility and may have possessed a religious or apotropaic purpose in line with this.


The Ancient Orient Museum, Tokyo, 1979, No. 266


Previously in a Private Collection, Osaka, Japan, from at least 1979.
Private Collection, UK and Switzerland, formed in the 1970s and 1980s.
Private Collection, Switzerland, acquired in August 2003.
London art market, 2014.
London art market, acquired from the above.
ALR: S00229105, with IADAA Certificate, this item has been checked against the Interpol database.