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.