Massive Luristan Sword with Double Ear Pommel, 10th-9th Century BC
A magnificent, enormous bronze sword of the “double ear” pommel style, made using the lost wax casting technique by highly trained urban artisans for an elite member of a nomadic horse-riding clan. The blade was cast first, and then the handle was cast onto it – scans of similar swords have revealed tangs inside the handles. 4.75″ W x 35.25″ H (12.1 cm x 89.5 cm)
This well-balanced weapon has a slender, square hilt, with raised decorative elements on each of the four sides joining to a pommel that divides into two finely decorated semi-circular “ears” at right angles to the blade. A rectangular guard carefully designed with crescent-shaped horns extends down to firmly grip the upper end of the prominent midrib that tapers regularly with almost straight cutting edges to a point.
The “double ear” style of sword – with both bronze and iron blades – has been excavated from graves in southern Azerbaijan, the Talish and Dailaman regions of northwest Iran, and the urban sites of Geoy Tepe and Hasanlu, also in northwestern Iran. Another, with both bronze pommel and blade, was pulled from the Caspian Sea, where it may have been thrown as an offering. It seems that swords like this example were not just made to be used in battle, but instead to show status or as votive weapons.
There is a strong tradition in the ancient Near East of swords and other weapons being associated with the gods. For example, there is a rock carving dating to circa 1300 BC from this region that shows a scene of the gods of the Underworld, including one who is holding a sword similar to this one. Similarly, a golden bowl excavated at Hasanlu (northwestern Iran) shows three swords of similar form to this one that are associated with three deities from the Hittite pantheon. Whatever its original function, this would have been a spectacular weapon to behold, with a deep, shining surface when polished. Whoever commissioned this sword must have been an elite individual of high status, perhaps seeking to honor the gods by handling such a weapon.