Collection For six thousand years the cultural of Antiquity was shaped by Egypt and the Ancient Near East

The oldest objects in the Abegg Collection are from Egypt and the Ancient Near East. They date from the 6th millennium to the 3rd century BCE. Especially striking is the wealth of different forms of the finely crafted vessels and figures made of precious materials used in a cultic or ritual context.

Double-headed vessel

The late 7th millennium saw the emergence of a rich culture centred on the Neolithic settlement at Hacilar in south-western Anatolia. Its most important accomplishment was the creation of artfully designed objects made of fired clay. These mark the beginning of the Mediterranean pottery tradition. Painted anthropomorphic vessels were a peculiarity of Hacilar. The bulging belly of the vessel shown here embodies the hips and thighs; the handles are the arms and the necks the faces.
Anatolia, 5900–5600 BCE, earthenware, painted, h. 32 cm, inv. no. 3.113.72

Head of an idol

Agriculture, fishing and metalwork were the three mainstays of the culture that developed on the Cyclades Islands in the Aegean Sea in the course of the 3rd millennium BCE. Especially striking is the sophistication of the artefacts made of marble. Among the most characteristic products of Cycladic culture are idols with heavily stylised bodies, some of them almost life-size. They are thought to have been used as part of a grave cult.
Cyclades, 2700–2400 BCE, marble, h. 16 cm, inv. no. 10.58.66


The falcon is one of the most important sacred creatures in Egypt. It embodies both Horus, god of the sky, and the king as Horus’ representative on earth. The cultic veneration of the falcon became very important during the Late Period. The birds were mummified and interred inside burial chambers in special cemeteries, often with bronze statuettes like this one alongside them.
Egypt, 7th–4th century BCE, cast bronze, hollow, engraved, h. 19 cm, inv. no. 10.19.63

Stone Jar

The manufacture of vessels made of stone in Ancient Egypt reached its zenith in the 3rd millennium BCE. The artfully worked jars were for storing costly ointments and essences used for religious, medicinal and cosmetic purposes. Many of these vessels were furnished with inscriptions lending them further significance as mementos or gifts presented on special occasions. The small alabaster jar is inscribed with the name of King Pepi I and was donated on the first anniversary of his reign.
Egypt, ca. 2250 BCE, alabaster, h. 14 cm, inv. no. 6.31.68

Knobbed beaker

The art of metalworking developed as early as the 3rd millennium BCE in the ore-rich mountains of western and north-western Iran. The large-scale production of bronze and iron artefacts began in the early Iron Age, around 1300 BCE. Local workshops manufactured large quantities of metal goods in a wide range of styles and designs. Iranian knobbed beakers are an especially interesting case as their figural décor points to the influence of Assyrian and Babylonian courtly art.
Iran, 10th–9th century BCE, bronze, embossed, h. 12.5 cm, inv. no. 8.194.72

Gold wire band

This gold band is made of extremely fine gold wire, bent into double loops and linked together to form long chains. These chains were then laid alongside each other and interlinked with the aid of wire loops running across the grain. The band was probably part of a belt that was fastened using strips of cloth or leather.
North-western Iran (Ziwiyeh), 8th–7th century BCE, gold wire, granulation, l. 49.5 cm, w. 4.5 cm, inv. no. 8.121.65

Guardian spirit

This fragment is part of a relief from the palace of King Ashurnasirpal II (883–859 BCE) in Nimrud in northern Iraq. It shows the head of a guardian spirit like the ones found on depictions of the king performing ritual acts. The spirit has wings and his hair and beard are curled. He wears a horned helmet and a cylindrical earring and neck chain as jewellery. Almost all the palace interiors in Nimrud had alabaster cladding decorated with reliefs or paintings.
Assyrian Empire (Nimrud), 883–859 BCE, alabaster, h. 59 cm, w. 62 cm, inv. no. 12.2.63

Lapis Lazuli Rhyton

The vessels used at festive banquets or for libations before images of the deity in the Ancient Near East were often very fine indeed. Beakers shaped like animals or animal heads were especially popular. This lapis lazuli decanter is filled through the funnel at the top but has a smaller outlet at the front to allow the contents to be decanted into a bowl. The exquisite material and heavily stylised animal are characteristic of the highly developed courtly culture of the First Persian Empire under the Achaemenids.
Iran, 6th–5th century BCE, lapis lazuli, gold, h. 18 cm, inv. no. 6.7.63