Monday, March 18, 2013

Ancient Bactrian Seal with Elaborate Floral Pattern in White Stone

I am including the story of how I was introduced into the fascinating early history of Bactrian ornamental arts.  Contact me with questions or for invoice through the private message form at the top right of this page.

This ancient Bactrian seal has been in our collection for some years now, but it dates from long ago. It was made by a stone carver living in the Bactria of four thousand years before the present. 

The seal has been authenticated and published by Dr. Victor Sarianidi, the archeologist who has led excavations in different locations within the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex which encompasses a good part of Western Asia. 

My introduction to the ancient Central Asian pre-Alexander Bactrian culture happened on a sidewalk in Kabul, Afghanistan. My husband and I were strolling along the main shopping corridor of Shar-i-nau or The New City. We were using the day off from work to do some shopping for the household, as we were living in Kabul at the time. We turned the corner from the Chai Khana or Tea House and there on the sidewalk, a merchant from a village had opened his shop on a colorful scarf spread on the concrete walk. Fascinated by what we saw, we leaned over the ancient pieces spread before us. 

With gestures and the merchant's limited English and our limited Farsi, we understood that he had purchased the old previously buried pieces from people who had been plundering the ruins of old Bactria, the Afghan town called Balkh. We recognized the pieces as being from another age, but we knew nothing about their provenance nor what their age might be. We collected many such items such as vessels, seals and statuettes. Years later we came home and unpacked our treasures. Only much later we discovered that other people had come in contact with this merchant and others while they lived in Kabul and they had acquired more knowledge and more artifacts than we had done. 

Those collectors mentioned a Russian archeologist who had led excavations in Bactria and was still leading excavations in Turkmenistan into what he and other archeologists call the Bactria-Margiana Archeological Complex, a material culture that extended from Eastern Anatolia to the Indus Valley and from Turkmenistan to Baluchistan. These were ruined settlements that had been occupied by people who made many of the same images on their vessels and on their personal adornments.

This particular seal is notated and illustrated in Dr. Sarianidi's book Myths of Ancient Bactria-Margiana on Its Seals and Amulets, pages 238-9, figures 1270.1 and 1270.2.

It is identified as 'Seal, corrugated edges. White stone. D(iameter) 4.1 cm; 
H (thickness) - 1.9 cm. Nine-petal rosette. On the back side of the seal there are nine drilled cavities; the handle has three cut lines of decoration. One beam of the seal is broken.' 
Contact me with questions or for invoice through the private message form at the top right of this page.

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