The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Ann & George Blumenthal Fund/Rogers Fund

Fantastic beings are arrayed on this eighth/seventh-century B.C.E. gold plaque, once attached to a nobleman’s shroud. Found near the village of Ziwiye in Iran, the plaque is embossed with ostrich- and scorpion-tailed lions, winged ibexes and sphinxes posed on either side of stylized trees bearing pomegranates, pine cones and lotus blossoms. The fruit and flowers represent rebirth and growth; the tree connects earth and sky; and the mythical creatures link this world with the other world—together an image of cosmic harmony, maintained in part by good kingship.