Ariel Chaffin

Ariel Chaffin 2018-01-07T14:25:04+00:00

Object Proposal

March 15th, 2016|0 Comments

  1. Senmurv Ewer (Item #173)

I am interested in looking at this piece through the thematic lens “who were the Sogdians socially?” There are other ewers that are plain but this one has so much detail. In the object notes it mentions the Zoroastrian mythological creature connection, but I want to further explore the relevance of the details of this piece and connect it to the Sogdian’s social life.

  1. Statuettes of Musicians (Item #392)

Currently there is no information on this (these) item(s). Given that the musicians are playing different instruments yet seem to have been made with the purpose of existing in this group together, is interesting. I want to look at these statuettes to gain insight on the Sogdian’s social life. What instruments are represented? What other instruments did they have? In what settings were they played? What percentage of the population played these instruments? Were they imported or made locally? Were they played solo or together?

  1. Hair Net (Item #319)

I fully recognize that this item may be difficult to gather information on but it is very intriguing. It is so different from the other types of items that we have. This item gives a great look into who the Sogdians were. Were hairnets common for all women? Were they always worn or only for specifics events? Was it more for functionality or fashion/expression? Did women only wear it? What was it made out of?

  1. Silver coin of Khunak the Bukhar Khuda (Item #152)

We learned about how the use of coins developed for the Sogidans, and with that, the evolution of the inscriptions found on the coins. I want to look at the use of silver coins in relation to silk. Who used which item in trade and why? What can we learn from this specific coin? Were all silver coins of the same value?

  1. Letter to Nanaidhat (Item #67)

This letter has been referenced in multiple readings, each with a different level of details. I want to explore this letter and what it tells us about Sogidan language and literacy. The wife in this letter is greatly affected by her husband’s abandonment but must use someone else to write the content of the letter. In one of the lectures, it was mentioned that her daughter wrote a small note on that same letter herself. Was there an increase in the literacy from one generation to the next? What would have enabled the daughter to learn to write, but yet not write her mother’s part of the letter? (This part ties in to who the Sogidans were socially as well.)

  1. Badamu document: mediators between Chinese and Turkish tribes

This document is interesting as it provides a record for the Sogdian’s ability to translate and mingle with other peoples. By exploring this item further, it will provide insight on the role of literacy and language in Sogidiana. Who exactly were the mediators? How did they get to be in this position between the Chinese and the Turkish tribes? Was this a common occurrence?



Valerie Hansen, The Silk Road: A New History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)

A.L. Juliano & J.A. Lerner, eds, Monks and Merchants: Silk Road Treasures from Northern China (New York: Abrams, 2002)

Sören Stark, “Luxurious Necessities: Some observations on foreign commodities and nomadic polities in 6th to 9th century Central Asia,” in Complexity of Interaction along the Eurasian Steppe Zone in the First Millennium AD, ed. J. Bemmann and M. Schmauder (Vor- und Frühgeschichtliche Archäologie, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, 2015)

Étienne de la Vaissière, Sogdian Traders: A History, trans. James Ward (Leiden: Brill, 2005)

Ariel’s Theme Proposal

March 1st, 2016|0 Comments

I Sogdians Socially

Yes, the Sogdians were merchants. However, we have learned that the Sogdians loved music, drinking, and dancing. I want to explore what their social traditions and rituals were. I doubt they drank purely because they liked to be drunk. What were their customs? Did they have specific rituals containing certain events at set times? Who were the Sogdians socially? The twirling dance is depicted in multiple funerary paintings. At what age did they learn this dance? Who taught it? What are the details surrounding this part of their lives?

II Silk and Silver

We know that they Sogdians used both silk and silver as currency. Given the name The Silk Road, we know that silk had an established presence among the route and that Chinese soldiers were paid in silk. While silk seems to be the more common currency, silver (especially in the form of coins) would be more convenient. I want to explore silk and silver as currency. What currency was used when, and by whom? What was the overlap of these two currencies? Who used which form of currency and did class position play into the currency used?

III Language and Literature

For my final theme, I want to explore the role language and literature for Sogdians. How did language and literature play into, and shape their social life? We know that merchants were translators and could also read. What about the rest of the Sogidan population? What was their literacy rate? Were they just as well “educated”? If so, how? If not, why not? We have the example of the wife’s angry letter to her husband saying that she would rather be a pig’s wife than his. Someone else had to write that letter for her. We later learned that her daughter had written on the letter as well. How did the daughter learn to write and why did she not write her mother’s part?

Another aspect of language and literature that I want to explore is how it influenced business and contracts. It seems to be a favorite quote to describe the Sogdians with honey on their tongues and palms, so as to be sweet talkers and successful in earning a profit. How did their literacy affect commerce and contracts? Were they known to be swindlers or were their honest in their business dealings? How did translation work in that time period for contracts? Were they the only ones who would be able to look at the two translations of a contract and read them?

Preliminary Bibliography

Albert Dien, “The Glories of Sogdiana,” The Silk Road Foundation

A.L. Juliano & J.A. Lerner, eds, Monks and Merchants: Silk Road Treasures from Northern China

Aleksandr Naymark, “Return to Varakhsha,” The Silk Road Foundation Newsletter, vol. 1, issue 2 (December, 2003).

Aleksandr Naymark. “Seleucid Coinage of Samarqand?” Journal of the Oriental Numismatic Society, no. 221 (2014): 16–20.

Nicholas Sims-Williams, “The Sogdian Merchants in China and India,” in Cina e Iran da Alessandro Magno alla dinastia Tang, ed. A. Cadonna & L. Lanciotti (Florence: Leo S. Olschki Editore, 1996), pp. 45-67.

Valerie Hansen, The Silk Road: A New History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)