Caucasus region, modern day eastern Turkey (Anatolia) / Armenia, Urartu culture, ca. 9th to 7th century BCE. A stunning, incredibly rare complete Urartian belt - although hundreds of fragments are known, a complete example is much harder to find! The belt is made from hammered bronze and decorated in low relief/repousse with three bands of repeated motifs: lions, horses, winged sphinx-like creatures, bulls, and wheels, likely meant to evoke chariots. Each figure is delightfully portrayed, with fine detail, and all face in the same direction, giving the impression of a chase, a hunt, or a procession. A ring attached to one end serves as a clasp. At the end next to the ring is a larger, full length panel, containing a winged god standing atop a lion, surrounded by a border of wheels. The edges are repeatedly pierced, probably for the bronze to be sewn onto a leather backing. This belt was made for a larger person, with a 41" waist! Size: 41.25" W x 3.85" H (104.8 cm x 9.8 cm)
Bronze belts bearing repeated motifs of gods, hunting scenes, animals, and geometric and floral patterns are one of the most enduring remains of the Urartian Kingdom, which stretched from the Euphrates in the west to Iran in the East. This example shows some of each - with a focus on the mythological, especially the large winged figure standing atop the lion. The iconography is almost identical to a relief carved in stone and held by the Ankara Archaeological Museum (viewable here: https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/hittite-civilization-relief-portraying-high-res-stock-photography/103024463) - featuring Haldi (Khaldi), the chief god of the Urartu pantheon. In the mid-9th century, the king Ishpuini made Haldi the head of the gods - he was so important, in fact, that the Urartians were sometimes called the "children of Haldi". They conducted all wars in his name, asking for his blessing and reporting the results of battles to him. His temples, marked by distinctive square towers, were decorated with weapons. An Assyrian inscription from the reign of Sargon II (ca. 722 to 705 BCE) lists the inventory from one of these temples: "25,212 bronze shields, 1514 bronze javelins… and 305,412 swords… One large sword, a weapon worn at his waist… of gold; 96 silver javelins… silver bows and silver spears, inlaid with gold and mounted; 12 heavy shields… 33 silver chariots." This belt would have been dedicated to Haldi.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Frances Artuner collection, Belgium, acquired in the 1960s
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Repaired and restored from about six pieces, with overpaint along the restoration lines. Small tears at periphery and near the end opposite the ring. Nice preservation of motifs over much of the surface, especially the large panel near the ring.