Although earlier civilizations are known, the first archaelogical finds of artistic importance are the superb ceramics from Susa and Persepolis (c.3500 B.C.). On tall goblets and large bowls are symmetrical designs that cover the surfaces with stylized abstractions of animals, particularly water birds and ibex. The choice of subjects from nature, simplified into almost unrecognizable patterns, may be called the formative principle of Persian art. Much of 4th-millennium Iranian art is strongly influenced by that of Mesopotamia. The 3d-millennium art of Elam, found at Sialk and Susa, also follows Mesopotamian styles, and this trend is continued in the less well-known Elam and Urartu art of the 2d millennium.
The art that comes from mountainous Luristan has aroused a good deal of controversy. Probably dated 1200–700 B.C., the many small bronze objects are thought to be mostly weapons and horse trappings—bits, bridle ornaments, rein rings, and pole tops. The treasure of Ziwiye (Sakiz), a hoard containing gold, silver, and ivory objects, included a few Luristan pieces. These provide a definite link with the art of the Scythians known as the animal style. The Ziwiye Treasure is roughly divided into four styles: Assyrian, Scythian, proto-Achaemenid (with strong Greek influences), and native, or provincial. Dated c.700 B.C., this remarkable collection of objects illustrates the heterogeneity of types and sources in early Iranian art.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.