From history of headwear in Uzbekistan

Issue #3-4 • 1911

At all times the people wanted to look attractive and to wear beautiful clothes. Numerous archeological, historical and ethnographic data prove that. Headwear always played an important role. “Headwear was considered a sacral top and so was decorated with solar symbols” (1). Many peoples thought Head was a sacred part of human body where the soul lived. Headwear was obligatory to all rituals (birth, death, wedding, etc.). Hairstyle and headwear corresponded to age, social and financial status of a person. In Central Asia the people still consider indecent to walk out hatless.

Bas-relief. Fragment. Airtam

At all times the people wanted to look attractive and to wear beautiful clothes. Numerous archeological, historical and ethnographic data prove that. Headwear always played an important role.

“Headwear was considered a sacral top and so was decorated with solar symbols” (1). Many peoples thought Head was a sacred part of human body where the soul lived. Headwear was obligatory to all rituals (birth, death, wedding, etc.). Hairstyle and headwear corresponded to age, social and financial status of a person. In Central Asia the people still consider indecent to walk out hatless.

In ancient and antique times one of popular headwear was diadem. It was a narrow, richly decorated headband. Kushan and Sogdian governors, priests and highborn women wore it. Simple diadems appeared in Bactria at the bronze age (II millennium B.C.) and won popularity in the antique period. Diadems were progressing in form. So, original diadem imitating leaves was found in the rich female tomb in Northern Bactria. It is analogous with the diadem of Shurab queen from Ancient Ur.

Earrings. Gold. Dalverzin-tepa

Leaves symbolized life and regeneration of the nature. Pictures and sculptures from Fayaz-tepa (Termez) expose sitting Buddha with nimbus and wreath from bodhi’s branches behind his head. Leaves frame the sculptural head from Airtam; ivy leaf decorates headwear of harp musician on the Airtam bas-relief. The plaque as a leaf was found at Kampir-tepa site. The similar ornament decorated the woman’s head from Tillya-tepa byrial ground in Southern Bactria. Pictures of sacral tree of life often decorated headwear as well. Their analogues existed in ancient Iranian traditions.

Tooth crown is another sort of ancient headwear. “Muralis Crown” is one its variants. Its form goes back to image of tower or fortification wall. The Hellinic period was marked by intensive city planning and this crown often decorated sculptures of goddesses Tuhae, Fortune and Cybele, which function was to protect the city and city walls.

Major materials for crowns were silver and gold, often combined with gems. Favourite gem of governors and aristocrats was pearl. It symbolized purity, wisdom and high social status. We know that in the 11th century Beruni wrote a special treatise about pearls. Grave clothes, footwear and headwear from Tillya-tepa burial ground were embroidered with pearls. Another popular gem in Central Asia was turquoise. It was believed to improve eyesight. Diadems and crowns decorated with pearls and turquoise were typical headwear of highborn women in antiquity and the early Middle Ages.

Crown. Gold. Tillya-tepa. Afghanistan

Pearls combined with cornelian were to improve teeth and gums. Emerald was a true mystical gem. Emerald drove away depression and protected from dangers. Crowns were also decorated with mysterious magnetit. It was popular among magicians and alchemists. Here is a fragment of the legend about Alexander the Great: “Having crossed the Indus, Alexander got in the monastery where monks carefully preserved the crown from ferrous metal. Rubies decorated the front of the crown. Side areas around temples had gold disks with some black stones in the center. The monks told that only son of the god could put on the crown. Alexander the Great thought he was. He put on the crown and lost memory and all plans of Indian campaign were forgotten. Black stones most likely were magnetits”.

The most popular head ornaments in the epoch of bronze and early iron (III-I millennia B.C.) were hairpins. They had a form of long sharpened stern with a decorative top at the opposite edge. Such hairpins were found in Bactria (Sapalli-tepa, Amudarya Hoard) and Khorezm (Dingildje). Antique hairpins were found in Surkhandarya region (Kampir-tepa and Dalverzin-tepa).

Head pendant. Gold. Tillya-tepa

Female burials in Southern Bactria give evidence for that “women styled hair on the nap with gold hairpins decorated with pearls and pendent gold leaves”. Another tomb showed hairpins fixing a scarf on temples. “Hair styled under tiara and fixed by such pins with dangling disks and crescents looked very effective” (3, p. 30). They were made of iron, bone, bronze, gold and pearls as well. Tops could have various forms: hand, life scene, tree of life, spiral, pomegranate, figurines of argali, horse, cock or any other bird. Such attention to head ornaments was caused by the idea of magic force given to hair – they were connected with cult of fertility, etc.

Numerous class includes hairpins of nonferrous metals with spherical tops. Especially interesting is a pin gilt with thin foil from Kampir-tepa. Obviously, that was done not only for aesthetics, but also for promotion of its magic force. So, ancient Greeks inserted gold “magic” nails into silver rings, accounting them strong amulets. They believed that gold could prolong life and improve health of the young and old.

Circle and sphere in Central Asia, as well as generally in the Ancient East, meant the sun and combined with different solar and astral signs, more often with rhombus or flower rosettes. For example, unique hairpins from Southern Bactria (Tillya-tepa) had silver sterns and gold tops cast as big 12-petal rosette. Hairpins with rosette-shaped tops were known from the epoch of bronze downward. Staffs’ tops as seven or eight-petal rosettes were found in II Layer of Guissar and II Layer of Shah-tepa in Tadjikistan. All these facts show that rosettes were popular throughout Near East, including Anau (period of Namazga VI) in Turkmenistan.

Bas-relief. Fragment. Airtam

Hairpins from bone with tops in a form of pomegranate existed in ancient Uzbekistan from the epoch of bronze (Sapalli-tepa) downward. Symbolics of pomegranate has been well surveyed in scientific literature. Pomegranate symbolizes fertility and relates to many agricultural cults and customs. Goddess of fertility Anahita was supplied with a branch of pomegranate in her hand. D. Fahretdinova thinks that “orbed beads in ornaments reminded buds or grains and symbolized blossoming nature, regeneration of life as well as astral motifs of the sun and stars having fructifying forces”.

The Chinese greatly esteemed pomegranate. It was one of male reproduction symbols (many grains – many children, sons; grains and children have the same hieroglyph – tszy) (5, p. 232). Obligatory accessory of Chinese bride was a hairpin with a top imitating pomegranate. In Central Asia, pomegranate was a symbol of happy marriage. Symbolical homogeny was caused by intensive cultural and ethnic contacts on Great Silk Road in the antique time. Taking into account that pomegranate came to China in Middle Ages, we can presume that this custom was borrowed from Central Asia.

Hand is one of the most ancient symbols in jewelry art. Obviously, hand symbolized capacity for work. Muslim female burials often expose this symbol. Amulet in a form of hand was titled a “Maria’s hand “ in Christian tradition, “Fatima’s hand” in the Muslim, “Ishtar’s hand” in the Babylonian and “Isida’s hand” in Egyptian. Genetically, all these personages relate to the Great Neolithic goddess.

Hairpins with tops in the form of birds and cock (Zar-tepa, Kampir-tepa) were spread in Uzbekistan at the antique time. Birds were sacred and “solar” characters symbolizing fertility. In pre-Islamic time bird feathers and claws often decorated female frontlet and temporal ornaments and had magic properties. “It should be noted that feathers decorated only headwear or its ornaments. The most magnificent ornaments had feathers. Probably, that realized aspiration to imitate birds bearing the most ancient religious ideas”.

Besides practical and aesthetic functions, headwear played a role of protection. Plait-cases had to prevent whammy and promote fertility. Pendants and pins decorated hair of brides. Married women wore plait-imitators with decorative bands. They were decorated with glass, stone, metal beads, amulets, tumoras, bells and coins jingling and driving away all evil angles. Obligatory female accessory were combs, also playing magic role. They were made from wood and bone, could be one-sided or bilaterial, male or female. Subject ornaments decorated combs to protect its owner. For example, the ivory comb from Dalverzin-tepa (the 3rd century) is decorated with female figurines. Beads, bracelets and anklets characterize Indian ornaments and prove contacts with India. Unique is the ivory comb (Kampir-tepa) having a picture of woman on one side and cock on the other.

Thus, both headwear and ornaments for hair found in Uzbekistan have traditional character and prove international cultural contacts.

Valentina Luneva

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