Friday, March 22, 2013

Bactrian Amulet Depicts Scorpions, Snakes, Bare Foot

Ancient Bactrian Clay Amulet Authenticated, Published by Archeologist 
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This thirty-five hundred year old Bactrian amulet was scribed into an oval shaped clump of clay. The clay appears that it was never glazed. The amulet is double sided, bearing an image of a scorpion on one side. On the opposite side of the scorpion image there is a drawing of a human foot stepping on a serpent. The sole of the foot appears to have a puncture wound. The amulet was perhaps made to protect the wearer from stepping on snakes and scorpions and being stung or bitten. The Karakum desert is still well populated with poisonous snakes and scorpions; it is therefore no wonder that the people of Bactria and Margiana needed protection from the creatures. 

So many of the seals and amulets of the Bactria-Margiana culture tell a story and reveal a facet of the everyday lives or the religious beliefs of that civilization. As Dr. Victor Sarianidi writes in his work on Myths of Ancient Bactria-Margiana on Its Seals and Amulets:

'As scorpions, like snakes, are typical representatives of the fauna of the arid regions of Central Asia, there is no wonder that they were so popular in glyptics and apparently in myths of the ancient Bactrian tribes. Scorpions were frequently depicted in the centre of Bactrian seals and amulets....' (Sarianidi, op. cit., p. 45)

Opposite side of amulet:

Dr. Sarianidi took photographs of our Bactrian collection when he came to visit the United States several years ago. In writing the work cited above, he included this particular seal/amulet on pages 256-57, figures 1417.1 and 1417.2. He notated the clay amulet as 'Amulet, pierced near the edge. Ceramics, 5.1 x 3.9 cm, [thickness] 0.9 cm.... Scorpion // human footprint over a snake'

This artifact was collected in Afghanistan, which is the present name of the region in which ancient Bactria's ruins are located. 

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  1. So fascinating!!! And to think it's 3500+ years olf. People used to carry all manner of jaspers to protect themselves agains snake, spider and scorpion bites. This amulet looks like it would have stronger mojo (: Just pinned and wanelo-ed this beauty before seeing you post come through.

  2. Thank you ever so much, Catherine. It actually could be a thousand years older than I estimated. I placed it in a medium - late period of the existence of the ancient Bactrian culture. It has earmarks of being older or at least more primitive work than most of the artifacts from there. Its art is more realistic, not so abstract as it became later. The clay amulet shows no trace of a glaze, and it is made of clay rather than carved stone, shell or cast copper/bronze. Thank you for promoting the artifact. I truly appreciate your support.