Royal playthings or cult objects? A grinning lion and an alert hedgehog, both carved from limestone, adorn these 13th–12th century B.C. carts from Susa, the capital of Elam (in modern Iran). The miniature animals are about 1 inch high.
Eight depressions in the platform of the cart at right indicate that two other animals once tagged along behind the hedgehog; a hole in the front of the cart, made of bitumen compound, suggests that the object was intended to be pulled by a string.
Discovered buried outside a temple dedicated to Susa’s patron deity, Inshushinak, and not far from a buried hoard that includes gold and silver statuettes of a royal figure, the carts may have been part of an imperial funerary cult or may just have been expensive toys for the offspring of the wealthiest Elamites. Whether evidence of worship or leisure, the carts date to the floruit of Elamite civilization, when Elam’s leaders freed the region from Babylonian control and even brought back to Susa numerous Babylonian trophies, including the famous Code of Hammurabi, which was then placed in the Temple of Inshushinak.