My particular interest with the Sogdians is with their place along the greater “Silk Road” and the way in which they both interacted with their neighbors and the way they facilitated interaction between their neighbors. Specifically, I’m looking to highlight Sogdiana’s role as a crossroads between other societies, such as the Chinese, the people on the steppes, and the Indian Subcontinent. The objects I have chosen are all either Sogdian objects that have been found outside of Sogdiana or allude to Sogdian interaction with their neighbors.
- Rhyton: My interest in this particular rhyton stems from its location of discovery, Siberia. Through it I hope to investigate Sogdian interaction not just with the steppes but also with the areas that stretch even further beyond.
- Fragment of a Wall Painting with a scene from the Mahabharata: Beyond its fantastic aesthetic qualities, this piece demonstrates a great many things about Sogdian society. We see in one image the pluralism of Sogdian religious attitudes, the interest in stories originating from abroad, as well as evidence of interaction with the Indian subcontinent. A deal can still be investigated as to the possible importance of this painting. Was its significance religious, secular, or both?
- Cup with Arabic Inscription: While our focus on the Sogdians tapers off significantly after the Islamic conquests of the region, this object still gives us insight to Sogdian life under Arab rule.
- Badamu Document: This document gives us particular insight into not just how the Sogdians interacted with their neighbors but the general political climate of the region. This object in particular is interesting because while the subject matter of the document is not strictly Sogdian, it being written in the Sogdian language shows the important roles Sogdians played as diplomats in the region.
- Pendant in the form of Buddha Sakyamuni: The Sogdians are often credited as being important to the transmission of Buddhism in the region. Yet other sources suggest that Buddhism was not widely practiced in Sogdiana, and that at times Buddhists may have been persecuted. I hope to use this object to explore the complicated relationship the Sogdians had with the religion.
- Baba-ye Dihqan: While the figure of Baba-ye Dihqan himself is quite interesting, this wall painting in particular has a lot to unpack. As we have been told, not only is the painting unique in its portrayal of peasantry, but it also has some Christian elements as well. In this one painting we see links across physical space (with the Christian elements) and temporal space (with the continuing importance of the figure of Babe-ye Dihqan in the region), as well as an insight into Sogdian attitudes about the lower classes.
Valerie Hansen: The Silk Road: A New History
Boris Marshak: Legends, Tales, and Fables in the Art of Sogdiana
Sören Stark: “Luxurious Necessities: Some observations on foreign commodities and nomadic polities in 6th to 9th century Central Asia”
Expedition Silk Road: Journey to the West