These two ornaments are hammered from a bronze sheet and decorated with incisions; despite some formal differences, their very similar size indicates that they probably belonged to the same set. They were attached to a support, now lost, probably made out of wood or leather, with many rivets which are still visible: the use of the rings (two were fitted to their chest, the two others probably to the claws) is unclear, but it can be supposed that they belonged to a fastening system (for a belt or a piece of a horse harness).
The animals represented are probably birds of prey, but their legs and claws also resemble those of a feline: it is therefore possible that the carved figures were mythological animals whose anatomy is close to that of griffins (hybrid beings of Near Eastern origin composed of a lion's body with the head and wings of an eagle, imported by the Greeks in their iconographic repertory in the Orientalizing period, between the late 8th and the 7th century B.C.).
As often seen in the Urartian iconographic world, the incisions that cover the bodies of the animals allowed the sculptor to differentiate the parts of the bird's body (feathers of the wings, of the chest and tail, joints of the legs and claws, elements of the head, etc.), but have also been an excuse to richly and precisely decorate the smooth surface of the metal sheet, using simple geometric patterns.
The Urartu is a kingdom which has been built between the late 2nd and the early 1st millennium B.C. around Lake Van (modern day Eastern Turkey and neighboring regions, Armenia, north-western Iran, northern Syria, southern Georgia). The inhabitants of this state were called Biayi or Biainili, while the name Urartu comes from Assyrian written sources. Masters of the rich trade routes connecting Anatolia, the Iranian plateau and Mesopotamia, the kings of the Urartu Kingdom reached their military and political peak around the mid-eighth century B.C., before being defeated by the Assyrians (late 8th century); the region will be ruled later by the Medes (early 6th century).
In the field of architecture, the Urartians essentially distinguished themselves through their fortifications, whose rational distribution on the territory allowed them to efficiently control the country. Urartian artists gained fame through their ivory and wood works (the throne of Toprakkale, Altıntepe furniture, for example) and through their bronze sculptures, which are of great variety, despite their often small size (the most significant pieces have not survived the passage of time): statuettes of deities, sometimes gilded and inlaid, figures of monsters and hybrid beings, reliefs with sacred trees or plants and geometric motifs, appliques for pieces of weaponry (belts, handles of daggers, shields, horse harness, etc.) or for large vessels used at banquets, plaques with reliefs, etc.
All e-Tiquities have been searched in the Art Loss Register database.