Identification and Creation
Object Number
Rectangular Jar with Lid
Work Type
c. 800-700 BCE
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran
Iron Age
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
12.4 x 9.6 x 9.3 cm (4 7/8 x 3 3/4 x 3 11/16 in.)
Dimensions of container without lid: 11 cm (4 5/16 in.)
Dimensions of lid: 1.4 x 8.4 x 9.2 cm (9/16 x 3 5/16 x 3 5/8 in.)
Maximum wall thickness of lid: 1.1 cm (7/16 in.)
Maximum wall thickness of container: 1.1 cm (7/16 in.)
[Hadji Baba Rabbi House of Antiquities, Teheran, 1973], sold; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, Massachusetts, (1973-2002), gift; to the Harvard Art Museums, 2002.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Rectangular container with two lug handles and four stumpy feet; rectangular lid slightly domed on top and concave underneath. Whereas the lid's dimensions are similar to those of the container, its appearance is different and it does not fit well, suggesting that it might not belong.

The container is decorated with a zigzag pattern in turquoise glaze. Each side has a standing triangle raising from its base; these triangles are white with black dots. A yellow hanging triangle with turquoise dots extends over each corner. The rim and handles are covered in turquoise glaze, which also extends part of the way down on the interior of the container. The pierced handles are slim and rounded. In its current state, the container is composed of numerous fragments; break lines and losses are filled and inpainted. Fills are especially extensive on the upper rim and corners; one of the handles is modern, as well.

The decoration on the lid consists of an hourglass and two triangles outlined in turquoise glaze on a white ground. The rim is lined in turquoise and each segment of the pattern contains turquoise dots. The lid is cracked and chipped.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
1, 2

Rectangular jar with lid
Northwest Iran, 9th–7th century BCE
Faience with turquoise (copper), yellow (lead antimonate), purplish black (manganese), and colorless alkali glazes
12.4 × 9.6 × 9.3 cm (4 7⁄8 × 3 ¾ × 3 11⁄16 in.)

Cylindrical jar with lid
Northwest Iran, 9th–7th century BCE
Faience with turquoise (copper), yellow (lead antimonate), and colorless alkali glazes
9.7 × 8 cm (3 13⁄16 × 3 1⁄8 in.)

In ancient as in later Iran, colorful glazes embellished ceramic vessels and wall decoration. The glaze colors (including turquoise, yellow, white, and black) as well as the animal and plant motifs depicted on these objects largely followed Mesopotamian models. From the destruction level at Hasanlu, in northwest Iran, dated to circa 800 BCE, come glazed tiles and vessels, among these a beaker painted with an unusually loose, abstract pattern consisting of triangles and dots.[1] The two jars discussed here bear patterns similar to those of the Hasanlu beaker and several other vessels reportedly from the site or surroundings of Ziwiye, an Iron Age citadel southeast of Hasanlu.[2]

The 1947 find at Ziwiye of a rich assemblage of artifacts, the so-called Ziwiye Treasure, led to further clandestine excavations and established the site as an antiquities-market label, which also attracted forgeries.[3] Although documented excavations in the area appear not to have provided exact parallels for the lidded “Ziwiye-type” containers, they have revealed glazed vessels and tiles.[4] Decorated with floral patterns as well as ibexes, sphinxes, and other mythological creatures, these finds attest that Mannea, as the region was called in the ninth to seventh centuries BCE, produced, or at least had access to, skillfully made glazed artifacts. The two Calderwood jars were perhaps intended for cosmetics. The rectangular example (cat. 1) has two pierced lug handles and four stumpy feet; the appearance and ill fit of its slightly domed lid suggest that it may not belong to the jar. Turquoise glaze lines frame the edges and divide the top of the lid into four triangles, which are filled with dots in the same color. The four sides of the vessel are decorated in a turquoise zigzag pattern. The standing triangle at the center of each side is white with black dots; the hanging triangle extending over each corner is yellow with turquoise dots. Rim and handles are covered in turquoise glaze, which also extends partway down on the interior. The jar is composed of numerous fragments, with some fills and inpainting.

The cylindrical jar (cat. 2) has pierced lug handles and a dome-shaped lid that is pierced at the center. The vessel bears a battlement pattern outlined in turquoise and filled with yellow glaze. Spikes project above and below, and dots punctuate both the pattern itself and the spaces between the spikes. The lid features a cross-shaped motif outlined in turquoise and filled with yellow in two of the quadrants. There are turquoise dots in each of the segments. Much of the glaze is worn off and partly restored in modern paint. Thermoluminesence analysis has confirmed the authenticity of the two Calderwood jars.[5] They are made not of clay but of faience, a quartz-based material. Scientific examination has shown that the glaze is a soda-lime glass derived from plant ash, as is common for this period. The glazes are colored by lead antimonate with various quantities of iron oxide for the yellow (Naples yellow), by copper for the turquoise, and by manganese for the purplish black.[6] The same colorants were used for glazed bricks from Achaemenid Persian Susa.[7]

Susanne Ebbinghaus

[1] Dyson 1968, 90,101, fig. xxxix; Dyson 1989, 9, fig. 10b; Fukai 1981, 8-9, figs. 9-10.
[2] Fukai 1981, 8–21, compare especially pls. 15, 20, 25–27, 33–37, 44.
[3] Godard 1950; Muscarella 1977; Muscarella 2000, 76–81.
[4] See V. Curtis and St. J. Simpson 1998, 193–94, fig. 8: 4–6; Hassanzadeh 2006; Rezvani and Rustaei 2007, 146–47, 150, pls. 12–13, and pl. 26, figs. 12–13; Hassanzadeh and Mollasalehi 2011. Somewhat smaller, once-lidded containers were found at Hasanlu: see Dyson 1968, ill. on 90; Metropolitan Museum of Art (63.109.16 and 65.163.68).
[5] Thermoluminescence analysis carried out by Oxford Authentication Ltd. in 2011 indicated that one jar (2000.50.96) was last fired between 1800 and 2800 years ago and the other (2000.50.97) between 1600 and 2800 years ago. Samples were taken from the bases of the jars, so the authenticity of the lids is not assured.
[6] The colorless alkali glaze appears “milky” due to bubbles. X-ray florescence (XRF), scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive microanalysis (SEM-EDS), and Raman spectroscopy were carried out by Katherine Eremin at the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, Harvard Art Museums.
[7] Compare Fukai 1981, 20–21; Moorey 1994, 180– 86; Razmjou et al. 2004; Tite and Shortland 2008, 93–103, 187–98, with further references.

Publication History

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), pp. 170-171, cat. 1, ill.

Exhibition History

In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2013 - 06/01/2013

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at