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The Mountain Goat; Symbol of Rain in Iranian Pottery (Part 1)

iranian pottery

The designs drawn by the Iranians, especially the drawings of Iran’s national animal, the mountain goat, have been infused with the spirit of simplicity and precision. These designs are unique in all of Asia.

Iran’s Handicrafts

The prehistoric man lived in constant fear and anxiety. He feared the satanic force, and needed a stimulant to help him defend himself from this wicked force. That is the reason why he resorted to talismans, charms, and totems to the point of worshipping them. Studying prehistoric man’s creations helps us discover his interest in exhibiting what they considered as the manifestations of gods that they worshipped. For example, drawings of the Sun, and the animals related to the sun, such as the eagle, lion, cow, deer, and the mountain goat, can be seen on pottery dating back to the 4th millennium BC. People wore necklaces with pendants of mountain goats, especially among Cassy tribes in Lorestan.

These people needed a defender because they believed that since time immemorial, hurricanes, floods, wild animals, etc. had threatened man, his home, his livestock and his crops. Because they believed that since time immemorial, hurricanes, floods, wild animals, etc. had threatened man, his home, his livestock and his crops. Because they wanted to be safe, they began worshipping the gods and goddesses, or objects and animals which they presumed the gods and goddesses liked.

Sometimes, only one of the animal’s limbs or organs was drawn on pottery. For example, in the pottery made during the period between 3,000 to 4,000 BC, there are drawings of the horns of cows, deer and mountain goats, or the wings and claws of birds, together with geometrical designs.

Each ancient tribe considered the mountain goat to be the symbol of one of the natural beneficial elements. For example, in Lorestan, it symbolized the Sun. Sometimes, it symbolized the rain because in ancient times the moon was related to the rain, and the Sun was related to heat and dryness. There was also a relationship between the mountain goat’s twisted horns and the crescent-shaped moon. That is why it was believed that the mountain goat’s twisted horns could bring about rainfall.

In ancient Susa and Elam, the mountain goat was the symbol of prosperity and the god of vegetation. In Mesopotamia, the mountain goat symbolized the "Great God’s" bestial nature (The Great God appeared in the form of the god of plants, holding a tree branch in his hand, while the mountain goat ate its leaves).

Prehistoric men had an astonishing skill in making pottery. They made the best types of pottery by hand, and by using the potter’s wheel.

In these artifacts, they have demonstrated all aspects of their lives, such as their religion, morals and art. By studying these creations, we come to know the relationship between different civilizations.

These ancient people had a great skill in depicting horned animals. Maybe the transformation of gods into different drawings of animals is one of the reasons why animals were considered sacred, and why they became an interesting topic for the works of ancient artists and potters. Most of the prehistoric pottery was first designed with geometrical and decorative designs. Drawings of animals became common after some time, and after that, geometric shapes became widespread once again. This transformation is seen in most of the prehistoric Persian civilizations.

The mountain goat motif emerges in different historical periods. In excavations of many hills, archeologists have discovered vessels bearing the same motif. Here, we shall refer to some of these instances:

The Sialk Hill Civilization

The Sialk Hill Civilization, in Kashan, lasted from the fifth millennium to the first millennium BC. The hill has six ancient layers, each layer containing distinct types of pottery and other artifacts. Flowers and trees such as the sunflower, and the 'Tree of Life' (The Sacred Tree), drawn in between the goat’s horns, are very interesting. The sunflower symbolized the Sun, and was considered to be sacred.

Source: Mahjubah Magezine

Other links:

History of Tile in Iran

Different Stages in Development of Iranian Tile’s Works

Different Types of Tile’s Decoration in Different Period

History of Persian Calligraphy

Iranian Miniature History

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