29 • Glazed Limestone Owl

Ancient Bactria, 3rd millennium BC
Size: 23 cm high

The comparison between this Owl and the carved-stone Bear (previous pages) is very instructive, even though both remain shrouded in mystery. They come from the same general area, but it may be that millennia separated their manufacture. The contrast is striking, however, because while the Bear looks back to the most ancient tradition of sculpture, this Owl anticipates a new age.

Holes at the back of the head suggest it was once part of an incense-burner. The technique of glazing limestone to look like marble is occasionally encountered among ancient Bactrian sculptures, and the shine that remains at the top of the head shows how attractive this can be. Faience beads were similarly treated to resemble semi-precious stones.