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Breastplate fragment
ca. 800-500 B.C.E.

Iron Age III

Gold
H: 9.3 W: 18.1 D: 0.5 cm
Northwestern Iran, Northwestern Iran

Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn to the Smithsonian Institution S1986.496

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This is a fragment from the lower part of a much larger pectoral, or breastplate, made of sheet metal and embellished with figures and ornament arranged in horizontal bands.

A breastplate shielded the chest from arrows or other weapons. The decoration on this example consists of mythical guardian creatures, whose images were believed to provide magical protection for the wearer.

A pectoral made of thin sheet gold, like this one, would have been attached to a sturdier material, probably leather. Given the fragility and cost of the material and its intricate decoration, the pectoral may have been fashioned specifically for ceremonial use or burial equipment.

Other fragments of this breastplate are today in the Cincinnati Art Museum and in the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Fragments from a second gold breastplate are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in the National Museum in Teheran.