Handle and chapes

Historical period(s)
Sasanian period, 7th century
H x W: 5 x 103.8 cm (1 15/16 x 40 7/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Sackler Gallery 21: Feast Your Eyes: A Taste for Luxury in Ancient Iran
Metalwork, Weapon and Armament

Handle and chapes

hammering, Iran, Sasanian period (ca. 224 - 651), WWII-era provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable

These fittings originally decorated the hilt and scabbard or sheath of a long sword probably made of iron, now missing. The handle is decorated with twisted wire and granulation to form a central braid surrounded by a scroll and vegetal pattern. These patterns are repeated on the metal trimming attached to the two P-shaped mounts. The lower shape is plain, with a rectangular tip.

Swords were an important royal emblem in Sasanian Iran, prominently displayed along with other royal equipment such as the crown.  Details of their forms were closely observed and reproduced in royal representations. Most Sasanian swords hung from a slide attached to the center of the scabbard or were attached to the belt by straps passing through loops on both sides. This example, together with a few other swords with gold or silver scabbards allegedly found in northwestern Iran, was suspended by means of the two P-shaped mounts along the scabbard. The P-shaped mounts were intended to keep the sword at an oblique angle, an important consideration for warriors on horseback. This form of sword suspension seems to have reached the Sasanians from the Central Asian Hephthalites, probably during the late fourth or early fifth century.

Published References
  • Massoume Price. Ancient Iran. Culture of Iran Youth Series, 1st Edition. .
  • et al. Asian Art in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery: The Inaugural Gift. Washington, 1987. cat. 26a, p. 56.
  • Ann C. Gunter, Paul Jett. Ancient Iranian Metalwork in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and Mainz, Germany, 1992. cat. 41, pp. 217-19.
Collection Area(s)
Ancient Near Eastern Art
Web Resources
Whistler's Neighborhood
Google Cultural Institute
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