Prudence O. Harper, From Earth to Heaven: Speculations on the Significance of the Form of the Achaemenid Censer



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Incense burners on a royal audience relief of Darius and the crown prince Xerxes from the Treasury/Apadana, Persepolis. Tehran Museum.



The significance of the form of the censer as it appears on early Achaemenid reliefs at Persepolis and in other media is uncertain. It is proposed here that the details of this censer image can be interpreted as reflecting ancient Indo-Iranian concepts, adopted by early Zoroastrians, concerning the nature of the cosmos. Cosmic references continue to be present in the decoration of later, related censers from Gandhara (2nd c. A.D.) and Han Dynasty China (the boshanlu).