Weight in the Form of Standing Bull

  • Bactria
  • Late 3rd - early 2nd millennium B.C.
  • Lead
  • H-26 W-32.4
Catalogue Entry

This very massive figure of a bull, with its head slightly lowered, is characterized by the unusual combination of strong modeling of the musculature of the body with surface patterning, which was added not only for texture but also to further delineate the animal's anatomy. The bull has short horns that curve inward, folded-back ears, large circular bulging eyes, round indentations for nostrils, and a slightly open mouth. The forelegs, belly, and hindlegs are differentiated by modeling. The skin of the dewlap hangs between the front legs, the sexual organs are modeled, and the tail with its furry tip hangs between the hind legs. Areas of the forehead, jaw, and chest, and a triangle extending from the top of the back to the belly are incised with a scalloped pattern, most likely to indicate body fur. There is a raised pendant triangle on the forehead, and raised bands with piriform ends probably indicate the muscles and tendons of the chest. A circle is incised over a section of the belly and rump. Similar images of bulls are found on Bactrian silver cups with agricultural and chariot scenes (see cat. no. 17).1

The rectilinear handle on the back, combined with the material and the heaviness of the object, helps to identify it as a weight. However, while the feet are quite worn, indicating use, the handle from which the weight would have been suspended is not deformed in any way.2 Other objects from Bronze Age Bactria that have been identified as weights are large disks made of lead or stone, some with decorative inlays,3 and chlorite "pocket books" with carved figural and geometric decoration.4 The bull is one of the largest surviving ancient Near Eastern works made of lead. Its surface is in surprisingly good condition, perhaps indicating that it remained in a dry environment.5 Based on estimates of its weight and size, the bull appears to have been cast over a core.

1. See Amiet 1988b, p. 136, fig. 9, p. 163, fig. 6.
2. This observation was made by Richard Stone, conservator in the Department of Objects Conservation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
3. See Pottier 1984, pp. 43-44.
4. See Muscarella 1993, pp. 143-54.
5. For the climate of the Bactria-Margiana region see Hiebert 1994b, pp. 6 ff.

Catalogue Entry(Bac#008)

Late 3rd‐early 2nd millennium B.C.
H. 26.0 cm, W. 32.4 cm
The depiction of this bull, with its hair expression on the forequarters, bowed down head, and hanging tail, is very close to these elements seen on the bulls in cat. No. 6. This bull has been extremely realistically depicted in lead, from its appropriately formed musculature to its relaxed throat. A rectangular handle is attached to his back, and we can imagine that it was originally used as a weight. There is another lead weight thought to be from the same period as this bull, but this weight is a round disk shape with a line incised image of the same form of ox on its center. Holes are cut above that bull for a rectangular handle, and surrounding it are crenellated patterns drawn in openwork carving. Conversely, here we have a superbly sculpted 3D form.
In the Iran/Bactrian areas which had long carried out basic materials trade with Mesopotamia, they used the decimal system which was simpler than the sexagesimal system used in Mesopotamia. The unit for this Bactrian weight system was approximately, 0.86 g and since this bull weighs 10,430 grams, then we can see that it was a 12,000 unit weight. There are weights of half this weight known from the Indus Valley region and Bactria.