Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Signet Seals of Pre-Literate Early Bactria-Margiana

No actual alphabetic messages have yet been found on any artifact excavated from or found on the surface of one of the sites of the Bactria-Margiana Archeological Complex. Geographically, the more or less agreed upon boundaries of BMAC  area would be Southern Turkmenistan, Eastern Iran and most of Afghanistan reaching over to the Indus Valley in what is now Pakistan. The time frame of the most meaningful cultural items produced by these mobile but not migrant farmers and animal domesticators that inhabited the oases and river plains was about 4,500 years ago to 3,600 years ago. They did not disappear after this time, but other cultures blended with theirs so thoroughly that the area congealed into a trade system that spread many of their products far and wide throughout the Middle East, often including parts of Europe, and almost always including North Africa and the Arabian Gulf.

But in the pre-literate period for the Bactria-Margiana culture -- 4,500 - 3,600 years ago -- the people used seals with cultic or at least mythical symbols. In the case of stone seals, the images were engraved; in the case of bronze, copper or occasionally silver seals, the images were cast. The seals were usually furnished with a device that would allow the owner to wear or carry the seal. In fact, so many of the seals were decorated with mythical images that Dr. Sarianidi, the excavator of much of the archeological material, calls them amulets, and after long field experience with the amulets, he has interpreted the meanings of the amulets. His work is published in Myths of Ancient Bactria-Margiana on its Seals and Amulets.

One of the more artistic of the published seals is the copper image of a wolf killing a goat. The device for hanging the seal on a cord is the loop in the center of the image that shows as a protrusion in that area.

The seal in the photo is a naturalistic one, and may not carry any mythical meaning. The more abstract seals that I hope to explore in later blogs will carry the proto-Zoroastian message that was later expressed in the old Indo-European language in their sagas.

This side is the side that would have been held by the loop while the opposite side was pressed into the clay or wax in order to seal a message or a possession, leaving an embossed expression in the sealing medium.

These seals were made beautiful because they were an adornment of the person, expressing the person's identity, status and in some cases, their religion, in a special amulet.

For photos, descriptions, prices, shipping policies  and Certificates of Authenticity for artifacts in my collection from Bactria,  CONTACT ME through the private message form above right.

No comments:

Post a Comment