• latw-54-10
    “Animal Style” chapes from Sardis (Nos. 54, 55). No 54: Bone inlay decorated with two birds' heads. (Photograph by Crawford H. Greenewalt, jr.)
  • latw-54-20
    “Animal Style” items from Sardis (Nos. 50,54,55 and M62.8:4180). (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Bone appliqué, decorated with curled animal

Ca. 650 BC, Lydian
Manisa, Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum, 4341
Inventory No.
Object Type
Bone and Ivory
Bone plaque of irregular round shape. The front side has an arcuated profile and shows a curled animal with round eye and ear that extend beyond the round outline. The eye has an inner incised circle and central dot; the ear has a triangular cut at its base and an inner incised contour. The head terminates in a slender proboscis (see comment, below) and has a round jowl. Foreleg, hind leg, and slender tail (or is it another hind leg?) terminate in volutes. A half-roundel between tail/second hind leg and proboscis might be hindquarters or filling ornament. Jowl, undersides of legs and body, and half roundel are bordered by single bands of incised squares; within the roundel is a criss-cross of incised lines. The back side is flat and without features. Diameter 0.043 m.
Recovered from an extramural occupation quarter at Sardis (excavation sector HoB) located ca. 30-70 m outside the western lower city defenses, on an occupation surface that “can be firmly dated near the middle of the seventh century” (Hanfmann 1966, 13). Curled form and abstract anatomical parts are distinctive features of the “nomadic animal style” practiced by peoples of South Russia and the Caucasus in the seventh and sixth centuries BC. Two of those peoples visited Sardis: the Cimmerians, who raided the city during the reign of Ardys, and the Scythians, who received asylum by Alyattes (respectively Herodotus 1.15-16 and 1.73-74; cf. Nos. 48, 49, 50, and 55). The forward part of the animal head seems to be a proboscis rather than a lower jaw below a now-missing snout. The item was identified by M. J. Mellink and E. Porada as a chape, the terminal ornament of a scabbard for a dagger or short sword. Association with the Kimmerians is endorsed by Ivantchik 2001, 75.

In addition to Nos. 54 and 55 (below), two other bone roundels decorated in a “nomadic animal style” were recovered from the same excavation sector at Sardis (Greenewalt et al. 1990, 166-167; Ivantchik 2001, 74-75). The larger of those, decorated with a curled animal, like No. 54, is probably a chape. Its back side and interior may be unfinished; unfinished workmanship would imply local production by a “nomadic animal style” artist, presumably a Cimmerian or a Scythian who visited Sardis. Production by the latter would be entirely consistent with the story of asylum at Sardis that Scythians received from Alyattes. Cimmerian production also is conceivable; Cimmerians captured by Lydians (like those sent to Assurbanipal of Assyria by Gyges; Cogan and Tadmor 1977, 76) also might have practiced their art at Sardis, and in other respects might have had a positive impact on Lydia, in addition to the negative one of historical record, possibly contributing to horsemanship skills for which the Lydian cavalry became renowned."

Dusinberre, “Ivories”; Greenewalt, “Introduction”
Hanfmann 1966, 13-14, fig. 9; Greenewalt 1973b, 33-34, fig. 11; Greenewalt et al. 1990, 166-167, figs. 34-37; Ivantchik 2001, 73-75.