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Ziwiyeh [Pers. Zīviyya]locked

  • M. F. Charlesworth

Site in Iranian Kurdistan, 33 km east of Saqqiz, where a collection of gold, silver, ivory and other objects, probably mostly of the 8th century bc, was discovered in 1947. The first study of this ‘Ziwiyeh Treasure’ was published by André Godard in 1951, but for nearly 30 years Ziwiyeh was mostly left to the mercy of commercial diggers and antique dealers. The number of objects attributed to the treasure in collections around the world has gradually grown; in 1973 Roman Ghirshman listed 341 objects in the Tehran Archaeological Museum alone. Many objects are undoubtedly forgeries, and others, although genuine antiquities, were discovered elsewhere but attributed to Ziwiyeh in order to enhance their commercial value. This led to criticism (see Muscarella) of the uncritical acceptance by academics of objects attributed to Ziwiyeh.

Before 1976 Ziwiyeh was briefly surveyed and excavated by Robert Dyson, Cuyler Young and Stuart Swiny. During 1976–8 more detailed excavations were directed by N. Motamedi of the Iranian Centre for Archaeological Research, concentrating on the extensive Iron Age cemetery around the modern village of Ziwiyeh, and the fortress on the hill overlooking the village, the source of the original treasure. No residential settlement was found, although this may lie under the modern village. From the cemetery came a large quantity of grave goods, including pottery vessels, bronze objects such as pins, and a few weapons. The fortress is a substantial structure. The walls, built of large mud-bricks and faced with a thick white plaster, stand over 13 m high. Within them several rooms were excavated, including one complex of at least three storeys, tentatively identified as an armoury, containing several hundred iron arrowheads found in the ruins of the ground floor among the crushed remnants of the pots that must have held them. Other objects recovered included several ivories, shaped glazed tiles, worked stone and part of a splendid lapis lazuli or ‘Egyptian blue’ dish (Tehran, Archaeol. Mus.).

Those objects most likely to have come from Ziwiyeh exhibit a considerable variety of artistic styles and motifs, including those of the neighbouring empires of Urartu and Assyria ( see Urartian and Assyrian ), in addition to those labelled by scholars as Mannaean, Iranian and even Scythian. The overall style is best described as ‘Zagros art’, which flourished c. 1500–600 bc and is characterized by a free-flowing, somewhat zoomorphic style. The Luristan bronzes represent one facet of this art, Marlik another; and to these should be added Ziwiyeh and Hasanlu . Iconography depended largely on the materials used and on local traditions and tastes. Thus the ivory objects (e.g. in Tehran, Archaeol. Mus.) can be divided into three groups. Most are imperial Assyrian, including ritual, hunting and ceremonial scenes. A Urartian group includes ivories used for inlay (e.g. rosette panels). A third (local) group to some extent copies Assyrian and Urartian motifs but utilizes non-Assyrian and non-Urartian styles. Significantly, this local style bears no relationship to ‘Iranian’ (i.e. local) ivories found at Hasanlu. The metal objects from Ziwiyeh are even more eclectic. Sheet metal is easier to work than ivory, and motifs could therefore be more intricate and imaginative: Assyrian motifs include sacred trees, genii, bulls, lions and palmettes; Urartian motifs include animal processions; Animal style motifs include couchant animals and birds of prey with large beaks. It is not the individual motifs per se that characterize the art of Ziwiyeh but the admixture of these motifs. This sometimes occurs all on one object, as on the various gold pectorals and epaulettes (e.g. New York, Met.; Tehran, Archaeol. Mus.) that are said to come from the site.

See also Iran, ancient .


  • A. Godard: Les Trésors de Zewiyè, Kurdistan (Haarlem, 1950)
  • O. W. Muscarella: ‘“Ziwiye” and Ziwiye: The Forgery of a Provenence’, Journal of Field Archaeology, 4 (1977), pp. 197–219
  • R. Ghirshman: Tombe princière de Ziwiyé et le début de l’art animalier scythe (Paris, 1979)
  • M. F. Charlesworth: ‘An Ivory Plaque from Ziwiye’, Survey and Excavation, 3 (1980), pp. 31–2
  • R. Keykhosravi: Ganj-i Zaviya [The Ziwiyeh treasure] (Tehran, 1984)