Palette of the ancient artist

Issue #1 • 1094

For thirteen years, the joint Uzbek-French expedition headed by F. Grene and M. Kh. Isamiddinov has been working at the settlement of Afrasiab. For that period have been done many discoveries giving rich archaeological materials. The palette of some ancient artist found at excavation № 1 (excavation of F. Grene), inside the construction ditch dated from the last period (1212) is of great interest. The palette presents a triangular plate of 20.7×14.5×0.7 cm in size made of dense packsand (tracelogical analysis by G. F. Korobkova, director of the Experimental Tracelogical Laboratory at IIMK RAN). One side surface of the plate has fragments of pink paint along the left edge and in the middle forming all – over zone of paint cover. The paint solu-tion filled up all grooves in grainy surface of the plate and remained fractionally on convex parts. Along the right edge of the palette the paint doesn’t form all – over spot. The opposite surface of the plate was used for preparation of a blue paint, which remained a small spot with fragmental traces on the left side of the plate.

It’s interesting that at the same excavation were revealed fragments of a small ceramic cuvette with thickened bottom. Its surface is fully covered with pinkish paint powder. Concentric linear traces left by circular rotary motion of a pestle are revealed on the walls inside. Probably, the cuvette was used as a small mortal for grinding of small paint pieces. It should be noted that at Afrasiab was revealed a full set of tools applied for paint processing. Among them, there are stone mauls for breaking of big paint pieces, paint grinders (more often corn grinders were used for this purpose), pestles and palettes. Five palettes of different forms were found at excavation № 2 (excavation of P. Bernard). They were made of sandstone and round pebbles of diobaz. The palettes have traces of red, orange, yellow and black colours.

Probably, the artists used similar palettes working with wall – painting. We should note that in Sogd at the Early Middle Ages the monumental painting decorated palaces, temples and dwelling houses. These are famous murals in the palace of Varhuman, a ruler of Samarkand, re – vealed in 1965 at the settlement of Afrasiab; wall – painting in ancient Pendjikent and Varahsha. Subjects of wall-painting are various – sometimes they reflect real events (the reception of am – bassadors by the ruler of Samarkand, Varhuman), sometimes they present mythological scenes.

Stone tools for paint grinding came into use from the Neolithic period (1, p. 236 – 240). Paint-grinders were found in Chyust, Fergana (2, p.70, 72). At Dinghildj in Khorezm were used 19 stone tools for paint crushing and grinding (3, p. 182). Some tools for paint grinding were also used in ceramic production. They were found in pottery shops. Thus, at excavation №23 at Afrasiab, on the territory of potters’ quarter dated from the 9th – 10th centuries was excavated a special premise for paint processing where were found bark – shaped paint grinder and pestle and pieces of red ochre scattered over the floor (4, p. 88). Congeries of red and white paints and a pestle for their grinding as well as a millstone were found at the same site in the premise 3, eco – nomic block 2. Stone tools for paint grinding are known from ethnographic data as well (5, p.172).

The paint was used not only in the ceramic production. It was applied in the leather pro – duction for painting of footwear and other leather articles. At Afrasiab were found glazers for leather with fragments of red paint on. Similar glazers for leather were also revealed at the set – tlement of Koktepa. The paint was used in construction works. Walls were painted with special stone trowels. Premises with red walls were excavated at Afrasiab, at the excavations № 23 and 9 (4, p.93; 6, p.124).

The stone palette from the settlement of Afrasiab has opened another new page in the his – tory of monumental painting of medieval Uzbekistan.

Author: Nadezhda Almazova

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