Feasting Vessels


Ceramic and metal vessels represent some of the most striking artifacts from Ancient Iran. Many of these objects are decorated with themes to evoke peace and plenty - animals, harvest, wine - and in the cases of rhytons, are shaped to resemble various animals, both real and mythological.

Left: Bronze bull rhyton from the Achaemenid period, ca. 550-330 B.C, Louvre. Rhytons were used by attendants at banquets to pour wine for the guests.

Technological and artistic developments in Ancient Iran have left their mark on vessels for eating and drinking. Pottery, one of the most common archaeological finds, provided an inexpensive but durable means to store, transport, and serve food. Ceramics also served as an  important canvas for early artwork through painted and incised images. Metallurgy, used most often for cups, pitchers, and plates, yielded luxury vessels molded with remarkable precision, as illustrated in this British Museum mini-documentary on the making of Sasanian plates. Finally, beginning in the 4th century CE, Iranian artisans fine-tuned the production of glassware along entirely different lines than their Roman counterparts, preferring to cut the glass with dozens of small facets to sparkle in the light.

The carousel below contains examples of Iranian feasting vessels from as early as 3,200 B.C. until the end of the pre-Islamic period.