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Not currently on display at the V&A

Armlet

500 - 330 BC (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This gold bracelet is part of the Oxus Treasure, the most important collection of gold and silver to have survived from the Achaemenid period. Apart from this bracelet, the remainder of the treasure belongs to the British Museum. The armlet is usually on loan to the British Museum but until 12 September 2021, on display at the V&A in South Kensington, as part of the exhibition "Epic Iran: 5000 Years of Culture".

The armlet was bought by Captain F.C. Burton when he rescued a group of merchants who had been captured by bandits on the road from Kabul to Peshawar. They were carrying with them the Oxus treasure, which Burton helped them to recover, and so they allowed him to buy this bracelet before going on to sell the remainder of the pieces in Rawalpindi. It was from the bazaars of India that other pieces of the Treasure emerged, reaching the British Museum by a circuitous route.

The bracelet is similar to objects being brought as tribute on reliefs at the Persian centre of Persepolis. The Greek writer Xenophon (born around 430 BC) tells us that armlets were among the items considered as gifts of honour at the Persian court. The hollow spaces would have contained inlays of glass or semi-precious stones. The bracelets are typical of the Achaemenid Persian court style of the fifth to fourth century BC.




object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Gold
Brief Description
Armlet, 'The Oxus Treasure Armlet', gold, Takht-i Kuwad, Tajikistan, 500 - 330 BC
Physical Description
This armlet made of massive gold has terminals in the form of winged griffins. Parts of the surface are hollowed out, and other parts fitted with clossons, which suggests that the piece would once have been inlaid with semi-precious stones such as turqoise, lapis lazuli and carnelian, and coloured glass and faence.
Dimensions
  • Height: 12.4cm
  • Width: 4 5/8in
  • Width: 11.7cm
Object history
This armlet was bought by Captain F.C. Burton in May 1880, when he rescued a group of merchants travelling from Bokhar, who had been captured by bandits on the road from Kabul to Peshawar. They were carrying with them the Oxus Treasure, which Burton helped them to recover, and so they allowed him to buy this bracelet before going on to sell the remainder of the pieces in Rawalpindi. It was from the bazaars of India that other pieces of the Treasure emerged, reaching the British Museum by a circuitous route. In 1884, Burton sold the armlet to the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) for the then considerable sum of £1000. The armlet forms a pair with another at the British Museum, to where the V&A piece is on loan.

Historical context
Gold armlets were among the gifts that were particularly valued at the Persian Court.
Summary
This gold bracelet is part of the Oxus Treasure, the most important collection of gold and silver to have survived from the Achaemenid period. Apart from this bracelet, the remainder of the treasure belongs to the British Museum. The armlet is usually on loan to the British Museum but until 12 September 2021, on display at the V&A in South Kensington, as part of the exhibition "Epic Iran: 5000 Years of Culture".



The armlet was bought by Captain F.C. Burton when he rescued a group of merchants who had been captured by bandits on the road from Kabul to Peshawar. They were carrying with them the Oxus treasure, which Burton helped them to recover, and so they allowed him to buy this bracelet before going on to sell the remainder of the pieces in Rawalpindi. It was from the bazaars of India that other pieces of the Treasure emerged, reaching the British Museum by a circuitous route.



The bracelet is similar to objects being brought as tribute on reliefs at the Persian centre of Persepolis. The Greek writer Xenophon (born around 430 BC) tells us that armlets were among the items considered as gifts of honour at the Persian court. The hollow spaces would have contained inlays of glass or semi-precious stones. The bracelets are typical of the Achaemenid Persian court style of the fifth to fourth century BC.





Bibliographic References
  • Curtis, John E. 'The Oxus Treasure in the British Museum', Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia 10 (2004), pp. 293-338
  • Curtis, John E. The Oxus Treasure, British Museum Objects in Focus. London: British Museum Press, 2012
  • Curtis, John E., Sarikhani Sandmann, Ina and Stanley, Tim. Epic Iran: 5000 Years of Culture. London, V&A, 2021, cat. no 61
Collection
Accession Number
442-1884

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record createdNovember 16, 2007
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