Saturday, December 19, 2015

Bactrian Funerary Finding

Ancient Totem Amulet Charm from Bactria



Cicadas (Locusts) were found in the mouths of some burials in China, just over the mountain from Bactria.  Contact me with questions or for invoice through the private message form at the top right of this page.

Four Thousand Year Old Bactria Amulet Hand Carved Jade Totem

The ancient Bactrians lived on a trade route that dated from before 3000 B.C. and led from the Western shores of Asia to Northeastern China. The route had been active with trading activity long before the Bactrians settled there around 2500 B.C. However, the Bactrians added a lot of products and a great deal of exchange of cultural objects to the marketplaces of that enormous area.  


This particular amulet may have come from just over the Pamir mountains via the route that led from Bactria to Kashgar in what is now Northwestern China across the Taklamakan Desert to the Qijia culture settled on the upper reaches of the Yellow River. The jade colored stone cicada amulet fits the Qijia culture's use of the amulet and the stone is the color of Qijia jade pieces from China that I have seen in publications.

The cicada or locust insect has a life cycle that includes over a decade long period underground. Then when they rise from the underground stage, they fly over the land in loud and lively swarms eating all the vegetation in sight. It is this resurrection from under the earth that made the cicada the symbol of the resurrection into a lively existence once again. For this reason, the Neolithic cultures in Northeastern China placed an image carved much like the one in the photos above into the mouth of any deceased, in hope of the body's resurrection.

This is a fantastic addition to any collection. It is pierced and can be worn as a jewelry amulet. It measures 1 in x 0.25 in (2.5 cm x 0.7 cm)

Price: $250 U.S.  Contact me with questions or for invoice through the private message form at the top right of this page. 






More Info

International Buyers are welcome to my California based shop. Please browse, ask questions, discuss items, shipping, or guarantees. Please use the Contact Seller link, not the comment box. I am happy to respond quickly to any of your inquiries. I will consider shipping to other countries than are listed here, depending on the import regulations of the country.

Unless the customer requests and pays for an expedited method, domestic and international shipping is via United States Postal Service. The item will be wrapped carefully and packed in protective material in a postal service approved package. Delivery confirmation and insurance will be paid by me, the Seller.

On high value items, the shipping will be free. Otherwise, the shipping charge will be as noted at the Shipping tab of the item listed for sale.

I accept returned items if they are in the same condition as when shipped and if returned within a reasonable amount of time after receiving them. An item can be returned for any reason. I guarantee your satisfaction.

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Product Attributes

Primary Material: Jade stone
Size: 1 inch
Pattern: Cicada
Color: Green







Friday, August 28, 2015

Route to Bactria Pt 2: Tracing Archeological Findings

Part 2 of the proposed routes from the steppes to the Murghab-Amu Darya and Indus Valley regions.

This blog does not attempt to discuss the proposed routes traveled by every migratory culture that settled in this region, only the Bronze Age culture known as the Bactria-Margiana Archeological Complex.   The most detailed publications on the subject that I have read through the years are (1) Victor Sarianidi, Myths of Ancient Bactria-Margiana on Its Seals and Amulets; (2) J. P. Mallory, In Search of the Indo-Europeans; and (3) David W. Anthony, The Horse, the Wheel and Language.

Sarianidi is the foremost field archeologist and publisher of material on the Bactria-Margiana Archeological Complex.  Mallory is a historical anthropologist and wrote the afterword for another of Sarianidi's work, Margiana and Proto-Zorastrism.  Anthony is an anthropology professor at Hartwick College in New York where he also teaches courses in archeology.  For his work, The Horse, the Wheel and Language, he won the 2010 book award, Society for American Archeology.

This will be a short blog on the proposed routes of migration following the archeological evidence that reveal burial customs.

Burials
One of the most interesting finds in the tombs of the proto-Iranian people that constituted the Bactria-Margiana culture (generally dated 2500 - 1600 B.C.) is the presence of domesticated animal burials, sometimes alongside the deceased human's body.  Here is a photo of a buried horse, minus the head:

                                         p. 128 Necropolis of Gonur, Sarianidi

But before we gallop forth on our horses, let us see all the possible routes that are scattered with the burial remains of settlers with related burial practices.  J. P. Mallory considers the varied routes suggested by Marija Gimbutas as a possible solution to the origins of the cultures that this blog discusses:
Mallory, In Search of the Indo-Europeans

From left to right, the handwritten labels  show the geographic expansion of people with similar burial rituals and related grave goods; Medi (Mediterranean); Bos (Bosphorus); the Black Sea and below it, Anatolia and the Red Sea; the Caspian Sea and below it the Tigris and Euphrates rivers flowing into the Persian Gulf; then farther right are the Aral Sea and the Indus River Valley.  

Note that Gimbutas provided a map that suggests an expansion of what she called the Kurgan culture from settlements in the steppe regions from the Black Sea to the East of the Aral Sea.  The Kurgan culture takes its name from the shape of the grave in which the deceased humans and sacrificial animals were placed.  A kurgan is a pit grave with a rock mound above it.  This type of burial was uncovered in the Russian steppes and dated to about 4,500 years B.C. 

Gimbutas shows arrows indicating that some of people of the Kurgan culture went West from the steppes north of the Caspian.  That would explain why the language of the people still living in parts of India and the people now living in Iceland speak a modern version of what we now classify as "Indo-European."

For our search it is important to note that the arrow pointing south from the Caspian region and the two arrows pointing south from the region of the steppes surrounding the Aral Sea show routes into the areas in which the later Bronze Age culture of Bactria and Margiana (ca. 2,500 - 1,600 B.C.) and the related Indus Valley were found by the archeologists.  

Anthony p 249

The pit graves often contained not only the human remains but also pottery and ritually buried animals such as horses, cows and sheep.  Above you see the location of a horse skull indicated by an arrow in the sketch of a disturbed burial.  This archeological finding is dated to 4200 - 3700 B.C.  

Below is a photo taken at an archeological site in Kazakhstan, in the steppe zone above the Caspian Sea.  The remains are dated about 3700 - 3000 B.C.  Many such excavated house pits yielded about 300,000 horse bones.  In addition the hunters of this region left remains of large bovids (bison?), elk, deer, boar, bears, beavers, saiga antelopes, and gazelles.


horse burial 3700-3000 Anthony p 217



burial with pots, horse, and  partial wheels Anthony p 398

The photos and drawings above show a "Chariot grave," in the kurgan style left by the Sintashta culture in the Russian steppes.  Pottery, weapon points, a partial horse skeleton, horseback riding equipment such as cheek pieces, and spoked wheel impressions from wheels that had been set into slots in the floor of the grave.  

The horse burials left a trail for archeologists to follow from the steppes to the oases along such rivers as the Amu Darya, the Murghab and the Indus.  In future blogs we will discuss the archeological, the historic and the linguistic "solutions" to identifying the origins and the migrations of the proto-Indo-Iranians.  

At some point in this series, I will post Anthony's proposed route of the people from Gimbutas' Kurgan Culture who went east from the zone of the Aral Sea. 







Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tracing the Route to Bactria Part One: Methods

There are at least three ways of tracing the ancient migration route of the people from the steppes to the oases they found and settled.  The three different methods are used by a variety of interested authors.  I find a great deal of information on the proposed origins of the ancient Bactrian people and their proposed routes to Bactria.  You will find illustrations and captions borrowed from two of my sources with acknowledgment. 

1. Archeological excavations lead archeologists to follow pot shards and burial customs.  Often the pot shards are found in the tomb with the deceased.  This photo shows this method of tracing a certain culture:


A male and a female burial from Tulkhar [in upper Central Asia].  The male was buried with a rectangular hearth and with bones of a sheep, a dagger, pot, bead-amulet and a flint arrowhead.  The female was buried with a round hearth, sheep bones and a pot.  -- from In Search of the Indo-Europeans by J.P. Mallory, 1989   -- See the hearths in the upper left of the tomb sketch.

The author from which I took the photo above is not an archeologist, but has written the important work mentioned in the previous paragraph in which he includes the various methods of identifying ancient cultures.  He is perhaps best known as a historian of anthropology; he seems to be entranced with the Indo-European language and the cultures in which the various branches of the Indo-European cultures developed.  

2. Historians base their suppositions about pre-literate cultures on the archeological finds of ritual objects, personal adornment, utensils, tools, weapons and service animals.  For example, here are some early stories told in images.
Luristan [in Western Iran] bronze covering for a quiver dating to about the eighth or seventh century B.C....Georges Dum├ęzil has interpreted the figures as representatives of the three Indo-European 'functions'.  Three Registers are shown in detail: Sovereigns (figures enthroned between lions), warriors (figures dressed for battle with assistants holding weapons) and twins (two figures with ram's horns).  -- from Mallory, p. 134

3.  Linguists solve the problem of tracing ancient cultures through the language that is finally put into writing as the culture develops.  After identifying the language, they then trace backward through the methods of the archeologists and historians to a satisfactory -- and often debatable --conclusion.  Here is an example of how linguists trace backward from the present or recent language to their assumption of the original form of a certain language group.


Caption: A diagram of the sequence and approximate dates of splits in early Indo-European as proposed in this book, with the maximal window for Proto-Indo-European indicated th the dashed lines.  The dates of splits are determined by archaeological events.... -- from David W. Anthony, The Horse, the Wheel and Language, 2007.

In the chart you will notice that the Greek, Iranian and Indian language had split from the original proto-Indo-European root language used by the Greek speakers stemming from the Central Steppe regions as early as 2,500 B.C.  A dialect of Greek was certainly brought to the Iranian people in the Bactrian region by Alexander the Great (the 300s B.C.) in Bactria.

There is much more to be learned from the chart.  For example, the Germanic people from the West Steppe region  in 3,300 B.C. had developed a language that had also split from the proto-Indo-European mother tongue.  English is one of its great grandchildren.  

Through archeological findings and scientific examinations of the corpses and the grave goods in Bactria-Margiana tombs, the interpretation of the narrative images made in stone or metal, and finally the translation of the earliest writings by or about the Bactrians, the general scholarly conclusion is that the Bactrians were proto-Iranian people speaking what is now known as an Indo-European language, probably the old Persian that we could have heard if we were to visit the market places in Bactria of 1,800 B.C.

You are welcome to comment or inquire in the Comments section below this blog.
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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Bactrian Fascination with the Cross Symbol

One of the most common findings of compartmented copper seals in the ruins of Bactria is a circular form with a cruciform pattern at the center of the open work or solid metal seal.  For example, here is a photo of one of the most obvious cruciform interior pattern with open spaces defining the cross shape with beams extending to an ornate frame with a scalloped outside edge.

I would guess - and it is just my guess - that this common symbol had something to do with the Bactrian cultural understanding of the four directions that divided the Earth and their religious veneration of the four earthly elements: Fire, Water, Earth and Air.  What is your guess????  Use the comment section below to respond or inquire.  I answer promptly. 

Here is another example, with more decoration within the solid stamp seal: 

The photo below shows a compartmented cast copper seal with the cross defined by the open spaces which would leave a raised impression that outlined a cross when stamped into wax or clay: 

The next photo offers a more complex cruciform pattern, but it is still evident to the eye of a long time Bactria art buff: 
Cruciform Bactrian Seal with Four "Beams" reaching to the circular frame
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Reference: 
Victor Sarianidi, Myths of Ancient Bactria Margiana on Its Seals and Amulets

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Here is my offer to make your collecting easier on the budget: 
I offer a Reserve and Pay in Partial Payments over 3 months for all purchases of $300.00 or more.  If you are interested, please contact me and we can make an arrangement that suits your needs.  

Unless the customer requests and pays for an expedited method, domestic and international shipping is via United States Postal Service. The item will be wrapped carefully and packed in protective material in a postal service approved package. Delivery confirmation and insurance will be paid by me, the Seller.

On purchases amounting to $300 or more, the shipping will be free. Otherwise, the shipping charge will be shown before checking out. 

I accept returned items if they are in the same condition as when shipped and if returned within a reasonable amount of time after receiving them. An item can be returned for any reason. I guarantee your satisfaction. 

For international buyers, it is important to note: If you need to know what import or VAT taxes your country may charge, please consult your Postal Service or government Tax Office.






Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Principal Styles of the Bactrian Seals per S Winkelmann

In her close study of the seals and amulets of ancient Bactria in the great Ligabue collection, the results of which she published in her Seals of the Oasis, Syliva Winkelmann carefully classifies the Bactrian glyptic styles.  She also provides a proposed sequence and duration of Bactrian stamp seal styles.

Her categories are named and described as

Rough or Drilled Style: Simple motifs of unsmoothed borings, found mostly in Bactria, precursors found in Central Asia and the Indo-Iranian borderlands.

My proposed example of this style in my personal collection:

Stone Amulet from Bactria, Authenticated and Published by V Sarianidi 
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Murghab Style: Canonized and stylized motifs with internal pattern made from flat cut lines and shallow and well-smoothed borings, found in both Bactria and Margiana (Murghab), made by indigenous crafters influenced by Iranian art.

My proposed example of this style in my personal collection:

Ancient Bactrian Carved Gypsum Seal Authenticated and Published

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Evolved Bactrian Style: Three dimensional and vigorous rendering in perspective drawings, Bactria findings, indigenous makers.

My proposed example of this style in my personal collection:

Bactrian Amulet, ca Four Thousand Yrs Old, Authenticated, Published
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Bactrian Smooth Style: Shallow cut motifs from well smoothed borings in softly formed outlines of nearly bag shaped bodies without internal markings, very thin cut legs, horns and tails.

My proposed example of this style in my personal collection:

Bactrian Stamp Seal White Stone Bird Image, Authentic, Published by Archeologist
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As for the beginning and end of the crafting of the various styles, this is the Winkelmann proposal:

Compartmented metal stamp seals: 2400 B.C. to 1700 B.C.
Drilled Style: 2500 B.C. to 1600 B.C.
Soft Murghab Style (Bactrian): 2300 B.C. to 1700 B.C.
Evolved Bactrian Style: 2000 B.C. to 1700 B.C.
Smooth Style: 2100 B.C. to 1600 B.C.

An addition to the time sequence of the styles, not described in the categories above:
Linear Murghab Style: 2100 B.C. to 1700 B.C.


Reference:
Seals of the Oasis, pp. 36, 37, Sylvia Winkelmann available at Amazon for about $12.00
The Ron Garner Collection.  I have a larger collection of items not posted at my website.  If you are interested, please leave a comment below by clicking on the COMMENTS tab and I will receive your message and respond promptly.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Bactrian Bronze Age Cast Metals and Engraved Stones

An example of the cruciform cast copper/bronze stamp seal, a major design in the Bactrian culture:

Ancient Bactrian Cruciform Compartmented Seal Dated, Published by Archeologist
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The time of production of copper compartmented stamp seals in Bactria is determined to be 2,500 B.C. to 1,600 B.C.   

This stamp seal is at least three thousand four hundred years old.   Described in Myths of Ancient Bactria-Margiana on Its Seals and Amulets by Dr. Victor Sarianidi, leader of the Russian excavation, on pages 106, 107, plate 301:  Seal, open work, corrugated edges.  Copper D - 5.4 cm  Cross 'patee' in the center of the seal. Ron Garner's (my own) collection  I would add that the center of the seal is in the form of a cross, a commonly found symbol in Bronze Age Bactrian compartmented stamp seals. The photo is published at plate 301. 

References: Victor Sarianidi, Necropolis of Gonur, Athens, 2007 Victor Sarianidi, Myths of Ancient Bactria and Margiana on its Seals and Amulets, 1998 Giancarlo Ligabue and Sandro Salvatori, Bactria, Venice, 198- 
Sylvia Winkelmann, Seals of the Oasis, Italy, 2004

Now for an example of and engraved stone in what Ms. Winkelmann names as the "smooth style" of making stone amulets: 

Ancient Stone Seal from Bactria Image of Horned Goat, Two Crescents  Contact me with questions or for invoice through the private message form at the top right of this page.

This is the image sheared from the stamp end of a pyramid shaped stamp seal or amulet. It is carved in brown stone. I would call it sandstone. 

It is photographed and published in the book Myths of Ancient Bactria-Margiana on Its Seals and Amulets, by Victor Sarianidi, the excavator of much of the Bactria-Margiana cultural ruins. Dr. Sarianidi, now deceased, visited us and photographed most of our Bactrian collection. Now most of the items we collected while we lived in Afghanistan, where Bactria is located, are published in Victor's works. 

This item is found on pages 256,257 of Myths of Ancient...., plate 1408.1 and 1408.2 as
'1408 Seal. Pyramidal stamp. Brown stone. 2.5 x 2.4 cm; h (thickness) 1.4 cm (corrected by owner to record the actual measurement of thickness as 4.3 mm)

This is a valuable addition to your collection of glyptics, whether from the Bactria Margiana Archeological Complex or from other related cultures.

A sampling shown here.   Contact me with questions or for invoice through the private message form at the top right of this page.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Mace in Ancient Times

Bactrian Mace Head White Stone Dating Third to Second Millenn BC


An ancient mace head, a  Bronze Age weapon  Contact me with questions or for invoice through the private message form at the top right of this page.

This heavy stone mace head was manufactured and might have been stored in the towers of the city walls where piles of similar weapons were found during the official excavation of the city. Or more likely it was carried with the warrior or the person who felt threatened and needed to carry a weapon.  This ancient mace head was found by an unauthorized excavation in recent times. He then sold it to a merchant who went out into the villages of Afghanistan to buy such antiquities to sell in Kabul, Afghanistan, the capital city. 

It is now in our collection along with many other Bactrian objects that I will be listing. These objects are identified and described in publications by the various archeologists who were involved in the official excavations in Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. 

You will see a photo labeled above as a similar mace head as published in Necropolis of Gonur, p. 109, plate 185, by Dr. Viktor Sarianidi, the leader of the Russian excavations in Bactria and Margiana. 

Measurements: 7.2 cm diameter; 6 cm high (2.8 in x 2.3 in)

I offer a Reserve and Pay in Partial Payments over 3 months for all purchases of $300.00 or more.  If you are interested, Contact me with questions or for invoice through the private message form at the top right of this page. 

A sample of the collection:



Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bactrian Seals and Amulets, an Introduction by Pierre Amiet

First, I might introduce my own interest in Bactria.  It began in the bazaars in Kabul, Afghanistan where my husband and I saw hundreds of obviously ancient artifacts, but we did not know where they came from, who made them, or how old they might be.  We only knew that they had lain in the earth a very long time and that they were different from the other arts we had seen in the Middle East.

We had lived in Ankara, Turkey for four years, then we made the overland trip on the map shown below, taking our time in Iran and then stopping in Kandahar before we reached Kabul, the city where merchants could sell the Bactrian artifacts that were found by unauthorized explorers of the ruins of Bactria and Margiana.  I have the region marked by the oval on the map and our journey is marked by the dark line from Ankara to Kabul, showing our stopping places.
Our journey from Ankara, Turkey to Kabul Afghanistan showing the Bactria-Margiana region in the oval

Now to explain how Victor Sarianidi, leader of the Russian excavations of Bactria and Margiana,  came to be one of my dear friends and how Pierre Amiet's writings on the Ancient History of Western Asia became interesting to me: 

After my family had put together quite a collection of various seals, amulets and grave goods from tombs, we met Victor through another collector who was in Afghanistan and Pakistan around the same time we lived there. We invited Victor to our home to see our collection and explain to us what it was, where it came from  and how the Bactrian people lived and behaved.  He was happy to do so.  My husband made clay impressions of our authenticated seals, photographed the seals and impressions and Victor examined each one, measured it and then wrote a short description and classification for publishing in his catalog: Myths of Ancient Bactria Margiana on Its Seals and Amulets.  

The introduction to the work is written by Pierre Amiet, Honorable General Inspector of the Museum of France.  The following is a synopsis of Monsieur Amiet's introduction to Victor Sarianidi's catalog of Bactria-Margiana archeological findings.  

Amiet's opening remarks concerning Victor Sarianidi's work: 
"Victor Sarianidi, excellent archeologist,...is known as an expert in field research.  Due to his excavations...we learn about astonishing fortresses of Bactria and Margiana situated on the border of the Iranian plateau and the steppes crossed by the Amu Darya river to [in-ed.] the north of of modern Afghanistan....Civilization of this "Outer Iran" formed a very original component in the immense network of the inter-Iranian exchange..."

Amiet points out that Bactria-Margiana,  this proto-Iranian (nascent) civilization, was rooted in their migration and mercantile exchanges as they came down from North of the Caspian Sea area and passed among the Elamites in the western part of Iran.  These previous connections between the Elamite and  the nearby Mesopotamian culture and the outer "colonies" of proto-Iranians probably happened before they settled in  Bactria and Margiana in the North and Quetta and Sibri [Sibi - ed.] in the South.  The latter mentioned cities are located in what is now the west central part of Pakistan.  This map may help show the locations of the  "Outer Iran" settlements of the mid-III millennium B.C.  The larger outlined area approximates the location of the northern proto-Iranian settlements and the smaller marked circle shows the southern location of other proto-Iranians. 

The people of the Bactria-Margiana culture did not produce any written documents; at least nothing with "writing" on it has been found yet.  Monsieur Amiet acknowledges the work of Victor Sarianidi in the final statement in his introduction to V. Sarianidi's book in Myths of Ancient Bactria Margiana on Its Seals and Amulets
"Victor Sarianidi approaches this mystery with courage and knowledge which is due to his understanding ...."

Dr. Sarianidi taught me a great deal about his interpretation of the images on Bactria-Margiana seals and amulets.  Contact me with questions or for invoice through the private message form at the top right of this page.








Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Festival at the Margiana Digs

Dr. Victor Sarianidi, his guest and his team of workers at the Gonur Depe excavations are in the picture below.  They are sitting on carpets spread on the Kara Kum Desert floor.  The brush piles protect them a bit from the sand and wind.  They are waiting for the nearby clay oven to bake the bread and for the steaming pot of meat stew for the festival.

Victor is the white-haired, white-bearded man; my husband, his guest, is seated to the right of Victor; to the right of my husband sits a Russian assistant; the Turkmen males, the woman cook and the child are seated on each side of the the three non-Turkmen males.


My husband, the adventurer and ardent explorer into the ancient Bactrian culture, visited the site seven times and came to know most of the people who worked with Victor Sarianidi, the leader of the Russian excavation team. Victor was also our teacher on the subject of Bactria.

I fondly recall his stories of what he had discovered about the religious practices, the burial customs and the myths portrayed on the seals and amulets of Bactria and Margiana.  One evening, as he sat in our easy chair, I perched myself on the raised hearth in our living room while he told his entrancing stories of lambs or horses given a burial beside the master who had died.  He explained that small dishes, the amulets or beads that the deceased had worn during life, and sometimes an animal would also be placed in the tomb shaped like a room in which to spend the after life.

Victor had found in the religious practices and the funeral customs the precursors of the Zoroastrian religion of later Persia and India.  As he "read" the images engraved on stones and cast in metal in ancient Bactria and Margiana, Victor saw their strong relationship to the legends written out much later in the Zoroastrian literature, the Avesta for the Persians and the Rig Veda for the Zoroastrians in India.

Since I had a background in linguistics and had done a bit of amateur archeology before I met Victor, I began to study seriously the history of the Bactria-Margiana Archeological Complex.  We had long before built up our collection of artifacts bought from Afghan merchants and from other collectors.  I am still studying the pieces and trying to interpret the images through Victor's eyes.

Victor died several months ago, but one of his last acts was to send us the last book he published.  I am therefore able to continue learning from him.


Saturday, July 4, 2015

Where is the Bactria-Margiana Archeological Complex?

The responder to this question sometimes shows a region so large that it encompasses much more territory than the name would imply, since Margiana lies in the Kara Kum Desert and Bactria sits in the Northeastern reaches of what is now Afghanistan.

This map shows these areas:

Outlined border of the ruins excavated in the Murghab region of Turkmenistan and the Balkh province in Afghanistan showing the location of the ancient Bactrian ruins.

Use your zoom function to find the Murghab River in Turkmenistan, the location of Gonur North, Gonur Depe and other ruined settlements of the Margiana civilization.  The region of Balkh along the Amu Darya is the location of the ancient ruins of Bactrian settlements.

Other archeologists or experts in Bronze Age glyptics will usually offer a map much like this one:


Victor Sarianidi shows this map in his interpretive catalog of Bactria-Margiana Archeological Complex artifacts in his work Myths of Ancient Bactria Margiana on Its Seals and Amulets.  The motifs, styles and shapes of the glyptics are found to be similar among the findings by archeologists from  Crete through Anatolia and Northern Syria, across Iran and Afghanistan from the mouth of the Persian gulf to Bactria-Margiana and Baluchistan, then over the Khyber Pass and on to the Indus Valley.

Traders, travelers and imitative artisans could be the explanation for the wide distribution of similar stone and metal beads, seals and amulets.  The distinctive attribute of the Bactria-Margiana culture located in Turkmenistan and in Bactria passed on a religious legacy in the people that continued to inhabit Persia and India: the Zoroastrians.  For example, in my own collection of Bactrian stamp seals, I see in the ancient motif the suggestion of a modern mandala design:

Ancient Copper/Bronze Seal from Bactria


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Contact me if you are a collector.  I offer a RESERVE plan that allows you to make partial payments on your schedule for purchases of $300. 00 or more.  


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Shapes and Styles of Ancient Bactrian Seals

This amulet bead makes a seal impression when the wearer wished to mark a possession, but probably served also as a bearer of religious symbols.  Dr. Victor Sarianidi interpreted thousands of seals yielded from the excavations of the Bactria-Margiana Archeological Complex, where he led the Russian teams for forty years.  His work Myths of Ancient Bactria Margiana on Its Seals and Amulets explores his discovery that the Bactria-Margiana culture was the precursor to the Zoroastrian religion of the later Indo-Iranians.

Many of the mythical images on the bead seals/amulets were drilled dots to create abstract "dot figures" of creatures from nature both wild and domestic, and humans in conflict with lions, tigers and dragons.  Here is an example of a three sided prism with a drilled dot image on each side.  

Bactrian three sided bead seal/amulet authenticated and published by Sarianidi
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The prism shaped beads are just one of the traditional styles created by the craftsmen of Bactria and Margiana.  Sylvia Winkelmann is a specialist in this field and her recent book on Seals of the Oasis based on the Ligabue collection describes the various shapes: 

- Button shaped seals with pierced lug
- Discs, round bifacial seals, longitudinally perforated
- Rectangular bifacial plate, longitudinally perforated
- Square bifacial seal with longitudinal perforation
- Lanceolate forms with truncated ends, longitudinally perforated
- Rhomboid bifacial seal (stepped-cross seal) with longitudinal perforation of two holes in opposite corners of the rhombus.
- Prisms with longitudinal perforation (note: the one pictured above is three sided)

The categories of "bead seals" or amulets listed here are not the only shapes we will discuss.  But since I am showing an example only of the three sided prism bead/amulet, I will not add the several other shapes we will encounter as I show in other blog posts these ancient stamp seals/amulet beads from my collection.  

The compartmented cast metal stamp seals is another distinctive product of the Bactria-Margiana culture, as are the rarer cylinder seals from the Bactrian part of the widespread Bactria-Margiana Archeological Culture (BMAC).  

Speaking of which, I will add simplified maps of the region here, first showing the location of Bactria: 
U.S. Army map ca. 2001 - the oval shows the Balkh or Bactrian province of Afghanistan

The whole BMAC region is now understood to have symbolic art similar to the archeological findings in Anatolia and in the Southwest of Iran and the Northern tip of Syria.   The yellow marked area below emphasizes the ancient settlements whose archeological findings substantiate a relationship to the findings at the digs at Altyn Depe.   








Thursday, June 25, 2015

Discovering Bronze Age Bactria

Stamp Seal from our Collection of Bactrian Artifacts
published on title page of Necropolis of Gonur by
Dr. Victor Sarianidi, leader of Russian excavations
in the Amu Darya and Murghab regions of the 
Bactria-Margiana Archeological Complex.

In the mid-1970s, my husband and I had the great good fortune to live in Afghanistan for two years.  As we browsed the bazaars of Kabul, we began to find mysterious and obviously ancient carved, drilled, engraved and cast amulets and seals, in addition to miniature carvings of animals and human feet, hands and other parts.  We did not know where they came from, their age, or the civilization that must have produced them.  When we asked the merchants, they said the artifacts were from Balkh, but they did not offer more than that.  Most of our collection came out of the ruins in the province of Bactria, now located in Northeastern Afghanistan.

The ruins of Bactria had been discovered first by the residents of the towns and villages along the Amu Darya.  The artifacts may have been washed out of the ancient ruins by the occasional rains that sent water rushing down the mountain sides.  The old burial sites were then revealed and the casual explorer found interesting objects that he could take to market.  As the merchants in Kabul bought them and displayed them, only a few Westerners interested in ancient arts and culture were buying them.  We only know two other American collectors of such items; that is to say only two other collectors who lived or visited there.

I want to make clear that though I will be speaking often of my family's association with Dr. Victor Sarianidi, the leader of the Russian excavation of ancient Bactria and Margiana, Dr. Sarianidi was not a source of artifacts for us.  All his findings went to museums, not to private collectors.

Victor taught us what he had discovered about the Bactrian civilization and invited us to his excavations in the Murghab region in Turkmenistan.  Margiana, situated along the Murghab, is a part of the widespread proto-Iranian culture, closely related to the Bactrian culture.  My husband visited the digs in the Kara Kum desert on many occasions.

Here Victor leans on a section of the walls of the palace at Gonur Depe North:


The goal of this blog is to share bits of the information on Bactria and Turkmenistan that we learned from Victor's visits at our home and from his valuable publications.  I will also rely on the books based on the Ligabue collection and the recent work of Ms. Sylvia Winkelmann.

I am gratified to see that Ms. Winkelmann has given due notice to the drilled stone images that make up a large part of my family's collection.  For example:


Stone Amulet from Bactria, authenticated and published by Victor Sarianidi
Contact me with questions or for invoice through the private message form at the top right of this page.

I am now in the process of downsizing our collection and will be posting many of the seals and amulets for sale.  Click on the links below the photos to see a more detailed description, price and payment arrangements that I offer.  

Both copper/bronze compartmented seals and engraved amulets in stone or faience such as these are pictured below: 

Cast copper/bronze: 
  
Ancient Bactrian Cruciform Compartmented Seal Authenticated and Published by Sarianidi  
Contact me with questions or for invoice through the private message form at the top right of this page.


Engraved in white stone:     
Bactrian Stamp Seal Bird Image   Published by Sarianidi 

All the linked photographs on this page show artifacts that have been authenticated and published, most of them in V. Sarianidi's book on Myths of Ancient Bactria Margiana on Its Seals and Amulets.

  Contact me with questions or for invoice through the private message form at the top right of this page.





Monday, April 27, 2015

Ancient Bactrian Wheel Shaped Copper Seal Authenticated and Published

This ancient Bactrian artifact from my personal collection is available for sale.  Contact me with questions or for invoice through the private message form at the top right of this page.


Ancient Bactrian Copper Seal Wheel Shaped, ca Four Thousand Years Old
Contact me with questions or for invoice through the private message form at the top right of this page.


This ancient compartmented bronze seal from Bactria is in our collection which was visited by the archeologist who dug up a lot of Bactria and Margiana. This stamp seal is published in his work Myths of Ancient Bactria-Margiana on Its Seals and Amulets, pp. 154-155, plate 783.  

The work is by Dr. Viktor Sarianidi and contains a great number of the seals and amulets in our personal collection that was assembled before we knew Dr. Sarianidi or the Russian excavations that he led.  

This is his description of the published stamp seal: 

Seal. Copper. D - 4.1 cm. Whorl rosette with a circle in the center. 
I might add here that the seal has a bar that divides the central 'hub.' 


The view below shows the top or back part of the seal with the handle for the user.

Contact me with questions or for invoice through the private message form at the top right of this page.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Ancient Carved Steatite Vessel Bactria Approx Four Thousand Yrs Old



A carefully carved ancient steatite bowl probably used in life by the owner and taken to the grave with the deceased.  
Ancient Carved Steatite Vessel Bactria Approx Four Thousand Yrs Old
Contact me with questions or for invoice through the private message form at the top right of this page.


An ancient Bactrian beautiful steatite dish carved into a kidney shape The olive green sets off the striations in the rhomboid motifs to good effect. The line decoration lightens the geometric shapes into a more lyrical over all design. But the piece is in excellent condition for an object that has been weathered either in the earth or exposed to the elements for at least 3,500 years and very possibly as long as 5,000 years.  


The dish is decorated all around. The culture that produced this dish is located in what is now the country of Afghanistan in the North part, in the high desert of Central Asia, nestled into the lower part of the Hindu Kush range of the Himalayas.  


The civilization that began to develop in ancient Bactria some 5,000 years ago was replaced by later inhabitants that have also been replaced, or at least their culture has developed in a new direction. But in the third millennium B.C., some 5,000 years ago, the myths that informed the culture were expressed in designs on stone amulets, seals, and vessels of various kinds. The myths were acted out in monumental temples.


This dish was probably buried along with the owner as part of his grave goods, though it might have been simply left in a room of a temple that fell to ruin due to invasion or abandonment. 


Since the Bactrians of this period did not record history in writing, we have no way of knowing how the dish was used.  

Size: 7.2 cm x 5 cm x 1.7 cm (2.8 in x 1.9 in x 0.7 in)  Contact me with questions or for invoice through the private message form at the top right of this page.