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Book: Animal Iconography in the Archaeological Record

Chapter: Animals represented on gold sheets found in archaic Macedonia

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.38878


This article aims to present and discuss some of the animal representations found on gold sheets that decorated grave goods dated from VIth and Vth centuries B.C. in the ancient Macedonian region. Gold sheets are particularly interesting to study as they could bear a rich ornamentation. Furthermore, burials in this region contained numerous grave goods but gold sheets are one of the few types of objects that were locally produced, specifically for funerary purposes. Different figures were engraved or embossed onto the gold sheets that were then assembled on different items of clothing, shoes and armour (notably helmets, gloves and pectorals) equipping the deceased for their final voyage. Common decorative elements include radiant and geometrical shapes as well as animals reminiscent of near-eastern iconography. The omnipresence of lion figures is particularly important as it is characteristic of the region. Lions were often depicted in symmetrical
compositions, of which they occupied a central position, forming sometimes a heraldic figure. The variations in style observed could indicate the presence of different craftsmen in the region. Many aspects pertaining to the function and symbolism of these sheets are still to be explored, namely the way in which they could emphasize the social status of the deceased.

Chapter Contributors

  • Nathalie del Socorro ( - ndelsocorro) 'Universit√© Paris X Nanterre'