The Portrait of a Hellenistic Ruler and Other Bronze Sculptures from Kal-e Chendar/Shami. Results of the 2015 and 2016 studies in the National Museum of Iran

Document Type : Original Article


Eurasia Department, German Archaeological Institute, Berlin, Germany


This article examines one of the largest find complexes of Hellenistic and Parthian sculpture in Iran, discovered around 1935 at Kal-e Chendar, arguably the most important sanctuary in the land of Elymais in the highlands of Khuzestan. The starting point is the bronze head of a Hellenistic ruler, already badly damaged and deformed in antiquity, whose former facial features are reconstructed with innovative 3D technology. The portrait is identified here as a king of the early Kamnaskirid dynasty and dated around 140 BC. Further fragments of the same statue enable the reconstruction of the entire figure, whose pose followed the most common format of Hellenistic royal figures. This ‘Hellenistic Ruler’ is now the first larger-than-life representation of a Hellenistic king known for the regions of Iran and further east. A second focus is comparative studies of casting technique and alloy of the further bronze statues of the find complex. They reveal that the stylistic division of the Kal-e Chendar bronzes into a ‘Greek’ and an ‘un-Greek’ group of sculptures is carried through to technical differences, indicating a significant change in the production of bronze sculptures from late Hellenistic to the Parthian period.
Overall, the studies presented here show the potential of research on the hitherto neglected cache of sculptures from Kal-e Chendar, a potential that will be fully exploited in a project begun in spring 2021.


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