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  Beak-spouted vessel
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Beak-spouted vessel

With its smooth, bulbous body, burnished gray surface, and long, beak-like spout, this vessel is typical of wares found in northwestern Iran, in the province of Gilan along the Caspian Sea. The body tapers to a flat base, and a number of parallel, incised lines mark the neck of the spout. A simple strap handle is located on the opposite side. Like other Iron Age vessels, it was thrown on a wheel and then fired at a relatively low temperature (900–1200 Celsius). Both the beak and the handle were added by hand. The surface was then burnished to a high luster to resemble metal. Such vessels probably served as less costly alternatives to contemporaneous metal prototypes (S1996.73).

Vessels of similar shape and technique often have been referred to as “Amlash” ware after a small town in Gilan, where some of them were found. Excavated in several other locations in northwestern Iran, the finds suggest the development of a highly sophisticated earthenware tradition from about 1400–800 BCE. Although the exact function of these vessels is still unknown, excavations at the site of Marlik in 1961 and, more recently, at Gohar Tappa in 2009 have offered a possible context. At both locations, related pots, ewers, and incense burners were found together with metal objects at burial sites. Based on these findings, it has been proposed that the vessels may have been part of special ceremonies and used to serve liquids, such as water or wine, at funerary feasts.


Beak-spouted vessel
Iran, Iron Age I, ca. 1350–800 BCE
Burnished earthenware
Bequest of Virginia Hall
S2014.1