Achaemenid Gold Jewelry

One of the greatest ancient civilizations was the Achaemenid Persian Empire, which was founded by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC, and encompassed Iran, Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt, Asia Minor, Central Asia, Caucasus, Thrace and some parts of India. The capital of the Empire and Cyrus the Great’s final resting place was Pasargadae (near modern day Shiraz, Iran), which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ancient accounts of the tomb written by the associates of Alexander the Great describe a golden sarcophagus, necklaces and gold gemstone earrings. It is in Pasargadae, in the garden of a royal palace where artifacts known as the Pasargadae Treasure were found in a ceramic container called an amphora. The Pasargadae Treasure includes gold and silver objects, jewelry and gemstones. A gold and silver beaded necklace was among the jewelry items. There was also a pair of exquisite gold bracelets with ibex head finials, along with a notable pair of intricate gold mesh earrings with lapis lazuli pendants. The lion is a popular motif of the Pasargadae Treasure. Curious drinking or pouring vessels called rhytons were among artifacts of the Achaemenid Empire. These are conical containers with animal-shaped bases which were fashioned from silver, gold and even carved lapis lazuli.

Another ancient capital city and center for the government of the Achaemenid Empire was Persepolis, also near Shiraz in Fars Province of Iran and an additional UNESCO World Heritage Site. This complex was built under Darius the Great; the third ruler of the Achaemenid Empire. The palaces of Persepolis and stone reliefs give historians important clues about Achaemenid society and show how some of the artifacts found were used. It is clear that this ancient civilization took inspiration from other cultures and art, such as that of ancient Egypt. Unfortunately, it is thought that a great deal of the treasure from this and other sites of the Achaemenid Empire was looted by Alexander the Great’s troops. Surviving items include a lapis lazuli and paste plaque displaying an eagle.