Summer’s Object Proposal

March 15th, 2016|0 Comments

Sogdian Objects

Textile Fragment with Pearl Roundels with a Flower

This silk textile Fragment was found during the excavations at Mount Mug in 1935.It will feature in my thematic essay about the movement of silk on the silk road and will highlight the trade of Sogdian made patterned silks for Chinese silks as well as be an opportunity to talk about Sogdian silk manufacture and the pearl roundel as a central Asian decorative motif.

Sims-Williams, Nicholas “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.

Bijl, Arnoud, and Birgit Boelens. Expedition Silk Road: journey to the West : treasures from the Hermitage. Amsterdam: Museumshop Hermitage Amsterdam,2014.

Fragment of Patterned Fabric

This band of canvas-weave silk also was discovered at Mount Mug during the 1935 excavations. It is identified in the Hermitage catalog as central Asian in origin. While it may not necessarily be Sogdian made it was part of the large number of textile fragments at Mount Mug, which include both local made silks (like the textile fragment with pearl roundels with a flower) and imported silks. I will use it in my thematic essay about Sogdians and silk on the “silk road”.

Bijl, Arnoud, and Birgit Boelens. Expedition Silk Road: journey to the West : treasures from the Hermitage. Amsterdam: Museumshop Hermitage Amsterdam,2014.

Untitled (Blue and gold textile in “cap” shape with pearl roundels)

This textile object appears to be a cap of some sort. It most closely resembles a male headdress designed in the shape of a helmet covered in Sogdian silk in the hermitage collection (K3-4576) from a 8th-9th century burial mound of the Adygo-Alanian tribes of the Caucasus mountains. If it is in fact a cap of some sort and of Sogdian origin it will feature in my Sogdian hat thematic essay about what the Sogdian hat looked like/meant and would illustrate the relationship between dress styles of the Sogdians to that their surrounding central asian neighbors.

The State Hermitage Museum. “Male Headdress Designed like a Helmet and Covered with Sogdian Silk.” https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/portal/hermitage/digital-collection/25.+Archaeological+Artifacts/339961/?lng=en

 

Hall of Amazons

 I would like to cover the golden goose fable portion of the Hall of amazons wall murals. In the panel the story moves from right to left with a prosperous merchant on the right and the foolish merchant on the left. When the merchant is prosperous he is depicted wearing a Phrygian cap and when foolish he is bear headed. This analysis would feature in my Sogdian hat thematic essay as the mural depiction equates Phrygian caps with merchants and wealth.

 Marshak, Boris. Legends, Tales and Fables in the Art of Sogdiana. New York: Bibliotheca Persica Press, 2002.

Bijl, Arnoud, and Birgit Boelens. Expedition Silk Road: journey to the West : treasures from the Hermitage. Amsterdam: Museumshop Hermitage Amsterdam,2014.

Non Sogdian Objects

Two Tomb Doors

Tang dynasty (618-906) c. 700

From Tomb M6 of He family cemetery at Yanchi

Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region

Stone

89 cm x 43 cm x 5 cm

Ningxia Provincial Museum, Yinchuan

Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China

Lerner, Monks, Merchants, and Nomads in Northwest China p.250-3

Judith Lerner identifies the two dancers on these tomb doors that once guarded the entrance to tomb M6 of the He family cemetery as central Asian dancers doing the huxuan wu ( the Sogdian swirl/whirl). The facial features and clothing of the figures mark them as central Asian and their posture and use of rugs identifies the dance they are doing as the Sogdian Swirl. These doors item will feature in my thematic essay about the Sogdian Swirl and Sogdians employed as dancers.

Juliano, Annette L., Judith A. Lerner, and Michael Alram. Monks and merchants: Silk Road treasures from Northwest China Gansu and Ningxia 4th-7th century. New York, N.Y.: Harry N. Abrams with the Asia Society, 2001.

 

Dancing Central Asian

Tang dynasty (618-906), seventh century

Bronze figure with possibly gilded bronze base

13.7 cm x 8 cm

Shandan municipal Museum, on loan to the Gansu Provinicial Museum, Lanzhou

Lerner, Monks, Merchants, and Nomads in Northwest China p.254-255

Lerner identifies the figure as doing the Sogdian swirl by his posture and that he is Sogdian from his facial features and dress. The most important dress feature that marks his as Sogdian is his peaked hat with a turned up brim. Lerner identifies this cap as a Phrygian cap and as a variation on the brimless Phrygian caps. I will use this figure in my thematic essay about the Sogdian hat an in my essay about the Sogdian Swirl and Sogdians employed as dancers.

Juliano, Annette L., Judith A. Lerner, and Michael Alram. Monks and merchants: Silk Road treasures from Northwest China Gansu and Ningxia 4th-7th century. New York, N.Y.: Harry N. Abrams with the Asia Society, 2001.

 

Theme Essay Proposal

March 1st, 2016|0 Comments

 

1.Silk on the “Silk Road”

Sogdians moved silk  as a trade good across the territories connected by the trade routes known as the silk road. Many types of silk circulated and not just east to west as might usually be assumed. Nicholas Sims-Williams, in “The Sogdian Merchants in China and India”, makes the point that the Sogdians exported Sogdian woven figured silks from Sogdiana and imported Chinese painted silk scrolls. One of the main ways that silk seems to have moved across Eurasia is in the form of the bolts of silk used as payment for Chinese soldiers either as trade currency or as tribute/booty taken by nomadic peoples like the powerful Türkic nomads. This then brings to light another alternative profession that the Sogdians had in addition to being traders : as vassals in the courts of the Kagans who dealt with the silk bolts the Kagans amassed. I would like to explore the role of silk as currency and the different ways in which the Sogdians had a hand in directing the trade of silk.

2. Musicians and Dancers

In addition to being identified as sticky fingered/honey tongued traders the Sogdians are identified with scenes of wine, women, song, and dance. Groups of Sogdian musicians and dancers, apparently, enjoyed considerable popularity. The Sogdian Swirl captivated audiences across Eurasia and groups of Sogdian Musicians and Dancers traveled across the territories connected by the silk roads. What can the ways in which the Sogdian dancers are depicted tell us about what the Sogdian Swirl must have looked like? What contemporary dance traditions might be analogous to this medieval dance type? This theme also offers an opportunity to explore the influence that the cultural practices of the Sogdians had on the material culture of their trading partners/neighbors (i.e depictions of Sogdian musicians/dancers in tomb art in China).

3.The Sogdian Hat

Of the techniques which scholars have presented as ways to identify Sogdians in tomb paintings/wall paintings and tomb figures I have been most intrigued by the notion of the Sogdian hat. These hats take several forms including the Phrygian cap and the winged crown/cap. What might the possible underlying cultural significance of the hat types have been for the Sogdians? For example, the winged crown is a hat type associated with Scythian rulers and the wings on the cap a symbol associated with Zoroastrianism. Why choose these hat types as cultural markers? Could everyone on the silk road be identified by clothing markers in a similar fashion? I would also like to explore how hat usage differs in scenes of self portrayal ( i.e.wall paintings at Pendjikent ) versus scenes of characters understood as Sogdian in Chinese tomb art.

Bibliography

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

Hansen, Valerie. 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).

Lerner, Judith .“Central Asians in sixth-century China: A Zoroastrian funerary rite,” Iranica Antiqua 30 (1995): 179-90

Lerner, Judith. “Zoroastrian Funerary Beliefs and Practices Known from the Sino-Sogdian Tombs in China,” in The Silk Road 9 (2011)

Marshak, Boris. Legends, Tales and Fables in the Art of Sogdiana. New York: Bibliotheca Persica Press, 2002.

Sims-Williams, Nicholas “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.

Stark, Sören. “Luxurious Necessities: Some observations on foreign commodities and nomadic polities in 6th to 9th century Central Asia,” in J. Bemmann and M. Schmauder eds., Complexity of Interaction along the Eurasian Steppe Zone in the First Millennium AD: pp. 463-502. Vor- und Frühgeschichtliche Archäologie, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, 2015.