A drinking vessel in the shape of an animal head is called a rhyton. This rhyton comes in the shape of a bull having a beaker between its horns. Dishes like these either had a ceremonial significance or served to underline their owner’s status.
This bull’s head is rendered in powerful, plastic lines. In perfect harmony the head changes into a small beaker, gripped by the flattened horns. The bull’s head has been rendered in a lively and naturalistic manner. There is a lot of attention to detail: the eyes, ears and muzzle have been carefully rendered. Fine lines indicate skin-folds and muscles. The nostrils are pierced; it is possible that they originally contained a ring.
The beaker itself is extremely simple, its only decoration consisting of the folded rim. This artefact is a beautiful example of kitchen utensils dating from the time of the house of the Achaemenides, a legendary Persian dynasty. The gold and silver beakers and jugs featuring ibexes or winged lions, hailing from the royal palaces of Hamadan and Persepolis, are very famous. In 539 B.C. the Persian king Cyrus the Great marched into Babylon. This was the beginning of an empire that eventually was to stretch from Egypt to Afghanistan, and that was to dominate the politics and culture of the Near and Middle East for two centuries.