Urartu, also known as the Kingdom of Van, was a kingdom centred in what is today the Highlands of Armenia. It rose to prominence around the middle of the ninth century BCE, and lasted until its conquest by the Iranian Medes in the early sixth century BCE. Situated to the north of the Assyrian Empire, it seems to have had many conflicts with its powerful neighbour, and at times is thought to have been a vassal of that country, with the Urartian king referring to the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal as his ‘father’.
Relatively little is known about Urartu, and particularly about the appearance of its military, so a set of figures such as this will inevitably rely to a large extent on guesswork and supposition. It is supposed that the people dressed like the neighbouring Medes, and that seems to be the case with these figures, although the Urartians also wore crested helmets in battle. The figures here wear a mixture of tunics and trousers or long robes – the latter perhaps less likely when actually in battle. There is no consistency of appearance, but several seem to wear caps or helmets, some with a crest, and a few also wear lamellar body armour. We also seem to see some with decorative discs on the chest. Five are empty-handed but there are two poses with a club and one each with a sword and a bow. Some circular shields are also being carried, and there are separate round shields (start of third row) so more can be given them. The set also includes many strands of plastic with which the customer is supposed to fashion their own spears for those figures with no weapon. As can be seen, these bear no actual resemblance to spears, but if used as such then the mix of weapons seems reasonable. As for the clothing, there is far too little evidence to be able to give a worthwhile opinion on what has been done here, although we see nothing that seems suspect.
The sculpting has to be described as pretty crude, with generally vague detail and some very poor proportions. Some of the faces are entirely missing, and it is often difficult to decide what is meant to be represented, so for example we could not decide if the bowman is wearing something on his torso or not, and the large disc device on the shoulders of the third figure in the top row had us scratching our heads to think of what it might be. The rear of the figures is far worse than the fronts, being generally very flat and sometimes simply engraved with some detail. As can be seen, many of the figures have no base, though we do not know why. Separate bases are provided, but the figures either lack pegs altogether or else have misshapen lumps which are supposed to fit into the depressions in the base – needless to say this is a terrible and insecure fit that must be glued. Should you acquire spears from some other source, or even use the strands here, there are no ring hands, nor any cupped hands worthy of the name, so you will have to drill and glue to get anything to fit together. Equally the two shields have no means of attachment, and one in particularly is extremely thick and looks pretty ridiculous.
There is virtually nothing going on here. The poses are mostly just standing still and holding their weapon, with only the first two pictured showing any sign of movement or action, so this is far from a set that you would use in battle. Weapons are mostly held straight out to the side, which looks silly for many of them, and particularly absurd for the archer. Quite what the last figure in the second row is doing is beyond us – we looks like he is boxing, and perhaps he is! Even if you add the strands and shields to some, the selection of poses is very weak and unnatural.
The samples we looked at varied greatly in quality, suggesting they were hand made, but all had many flat surfaces and quite a lot of flash or apparently excess material in places, mostly around the back. Even if they had not been as ugly as they are, however, the poses alone would have inspired no warmth in this reviewer, and as you can probably tell by now that is our overall reaction to all aspects of this set, which is only likely to appeal to someone with a very strong need for figures for this particular society.