Funerary Figure of a Zebu Cow, ca. 1500-1000 BCE
Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age
Iran, Northwestern or Caspian Sea region
4 3/8 × 2 ¼ × 5 ½ in. (11.1 × 5.7 × 14 cm)
3-D Object/Sculpture
V 9067

Photo: Paul Hester
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This terracotta figurine represents a stylized depiction of a species of cattle known as the zebu (Bos indicus). Zebu cows have a large distinctive hump over the shoulders and large dewlap, or loose skin on the neck. The species were domesticated in the Indus Valley, possibly around the seventh millennium BCE, and spread westward with trade during the Bronze Age. During the second millennium BCE, representations of these humped cattle were common in terracotta, stone, and metal objects in northwestern Iran, particularly around the Caspian Sea where these types of cattle are still raised. Primarily known from funerary contexts, the figurines are sometimes found in pairs with model plows, and in the form of vessels. Examples are known from excavations in Iran at the site of Marlik, in Gilan province, and Gohar Tappe, in Mazandaran province. Many such figurines were once labeled as belonging to the “Amlash culture,” which is not a reference to an ancient cultural group but rather a modern village where many similar figurines were sold on the art market. Now the figurines are more commonly referred to as “Marlik-type” because of the vast quantities exposed during excavations at that site.