Silver bowl with scenes in relief


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

This fragmentary silver bowl was discovered in a tomb at the end of the nineteenth century. The tomb had been looted, and its two chambers contained the broken fragments of fifteen sarcophagi. This bowl was found in a copper cauldron along with an iron dagger and the fragments of a shield. They may have been discarded as of little value - the bowl was heavily corroded and the silver only obvious after conservation. The bowl is decorated in low relief with Canaanite and Egyptian deities, couchant sphinxes wearing Egyptian headdresses, and a scene showing the siege of a city. The decoration shows clear Egyptian or Egyptianizing and Canaanite motifs, but such mixed influences are typical of Phoenician products. It is comparable to bowls found elsewhere, such as the bronze bowls from Nimrud, several of which are in The British Museum. The outer frieze, with the seige scene, may illustrate a forgotten episode from Phoenician or Syrian mythology. The use of similar artistic motifs over a wide area shows the extent of commercial contacts established by the Canaanites of the Levant coast (known as Phoenicians) in the first millennium BC. They grew rich by supplying luxury materials to Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Iran. Their natural harbours became major ports for handling international shipping.


  • Title: Silver bowl with scenes in relief
  • Date Created: -750/-600
  • Physical Dimensions: Diameter: 18.70cm; Height: 3.60cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: repouss
  • Subject: sphinx; deity; siege; tree/bush
  • Registration number: 1931,0819.1
  • Production place: Made in Phoenicia. Made in Cyprus
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Amathus
  • Period/culture: Phoenician; Cypro-Archaic I
  • Material: silver
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Previous owner/ex-collection Ruskin, John. Excavated by Cesnola, Luigi Palma di. Donated by Smith, Sidney. Previous owner/ex-collection Brown, Ralph A

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