Works of applied art from Kushan Bactria

Jangar Ilyasov,

Magnificent jewelry and toreutics, carved bone, ceramics and coroplastics – these and other kinds of applied art of Bactria during Kushan epoch are known throughout the world mainly due to publications of such scientists as G.A. Pugachenkova, B.A. Litvinsky, V.I. Sarianidi, etc.
Since the publication of summarizing work by G.A. Pugachenkova about art of Kushan period (1) a lot of time has passed, and for this period mainly during archeological excavations previously unknown works of applied art expanding ideas of types and varieties of products have been found.
In this publication the author presents a number of artifacts found on the Kampyrtepa fortress in Muzrabad district of Surkhandarya region in the course of the works of the Tokharistan archaeological expedition of the Institute of Art Studies headed by E.V. Rtveladze.
As terracotta figurines and plaquettes as samples of mass product produced by replication using special forms could be widely disseminated, terracottas of the same type can be found on different ancient settlements of Surkhandarya region, which was the north-western part of ancient Bactria–Tokharistan. An example of such finds is a plaquette found in 2007 by participants of excavation of joint Uzbek-Japanese group as a part of Tokharistan archaeological expedition. From the Japanese part the group was headed by Mitsuru Haga (Tohoku University, Sendai), from the Uzbek part – the author of this article. The terracotta found in the north-eastern part of so-called citadel in a storage room with large ceramic tare vessels – khoums (No. 91) refers to a layer of the 1st century BC – 1st century AD, – that is to Yueh-chih period (fig. 1). Similar terracotta are already known due to accidental finds in Old Termez, in the Zartepa archaeological site located approximately in 14 km to the North from Kampyrtepa, in the Haitabadtepa archaeological site of Dzharkurgan district, as well as in Talashkantepa-2. They are interpreted as an image of Bodhisattva (2, p. 150, No. 197; 3, p. 165, 172, No. 31, pl. II: 4; 4, p. 59-63). Our sample is good preserved and allows to see practically all details of the image. A character, obviously female, sits on an eminence, cross-legged with the hands on the thighs. The woman is naked (or dressed in transparent attire), with a hat like a turban on the head, disk or spiral-shaped large double earrings fall on her shoulders, and she has a necklace made of “beads”. The terracotta’s sizes are 6,9?3,8?1,4 cm, it was made as an impression from a matrix, was cutted along the edge on both sides and is covered with red engobe, which is partially erased. The samples from Zartepa and Haitabadtepa are larger in size and have no feminine traits. It means that in production of this type of terracottas there were, at least, two lines or series – male and female. In the Buddhist art of Gandharan style, which had been spread in the Bactrian lands of Kushan, the images of Bodhisattva usually had no feminine characteristics. Therefore we still should think about interpretation of this image represented in male (Zartepa, Haitabadtepa, Old Termez) and female (Kampyrtepa) guises. T.K. Mkrtychev, who is also not sure that Zartepa sample should be interpreted as Bodhisattva, writes that these terracottas have the greatest similarity with not Gandharan and Mathuran sculpture, but with the art of the Satavakhans lands, the Central Indian dynasty of the 2nd century BC – 2nd century AD (5, p. 178). It is also necessary to correct dating of the considered group of terracottas which date them either to the II-IV, or to the II-III, or to the III-IV centuries (2, p. 150; 3, p. 165; 4, p. 61; 5, p. 177). Certainly, it must be shifted to the 1st century BC – 1st century AD, that is, to Yueh-chih period as evidenced by the Kampyrtepa finding.
The second object published here is unique terracotta known so far only in one copy (fig. 2). It was found among bricks in a masonry wall of Yueh-chih-Kushan period in the north-western part of so-called citadel (2007). Only the top half of the terracotta differing in high level of execution has preserved, which represents a couple of lovers in each other’s arms. Both characters are in the headdresses or bandages decorated with large flowers, both have earrings and bracelets. At first glance, it is difficult to determine who is a woman and who is a man. Young faces are equally beautiful, eyes are expressive, and cheeks are rounded. It seems that the man is on the right; he gently supports with the fingers of the left hand the beloved’s chin, putting his right hand on her nape. She, in turn, embraces his neck; her long hairs braided in two thick braids are thrown through her naked back and right shoulder. The iconography of the terracotta has pronounced syncretic character, combining the Indian and Hellenistic traits. In Buddhist and Hindu art such scenes are usually called “mithuna”. The prototype for this terracotta, perhaps, served a relief which was carved in stone or cast in metal. Dimensions of the terracotta are 5,4?4,4?1,8 cm, the impression in a matrix, cutting on the edge. It is covered with red engobe, which is partially erased. A research of this work on a very wide cultural and historical background was published in Japanese by the Professor Mitsuru Haga (6, p. 16–39). He concluded that the terracotta could represent “sacred marriage” of Dionysos and Ariadne. We hope that new finds of the Bactrian terracottas will help to specify this definition.
One more unique find, a terracotta seal was made during excavations of residential areas in the northern part of Kampyrtepa in 2012. It was found on the floor of the room 16 in block “G” and is dated to the time of Kanishka I – the king of kings ruling the Kushan Empire in 127-150 AD (7, p. 128-132). We know other finds of bronze or stone seals of small size on the territory of Kushan sites, among them there are seal impressions mainly on khoums. There are also ceramic stamps and seals, including, for example, a conic terracotta seal from Barattepa with relief image of running antelope. The published object differs from those that were still known in both the sizes and the form. The seal represents a square tile of 7,5х7,5 cm in size and 1,2-1,4 cm thick. On its obverse there is a relief image impressed in a matrix (fig. 3), a massive round-elongated handle with a through hole is stuck to the reverse side. The seal’s height with the handle is 5 cm. Before firing it was cut off by a knife around the edges and on the back side. The seal is made of red clay, which surface was lightened during firing; rounded surface of the handle is sooty. On the seal a running (or jumping?) deer with branchy horns is depicted turned to the viewer by the left side. There are also two relief signs, one is between the horn and back of the animal, and the second is under the belly. The image is put into a frame from two parallel relief lines going on the edge of the seal. Under the image of the deer between these lines there are inclined relief strips, which were at least eight; above and to the right of the deer such strips can not be traced; the frame to the left of the deer is crumpled and smoothed down, representing not dual strip, but one wide.
Ceramic seals of the similar form, apparently, have not yet been met in the northern Bactria. It was used, most likely, for printing of images on some big surfaces, for example, on burned bricks or tiles applied in Kushan period generally as facing material. However, it is necessary to consider, that the prints, which are found on burned bricks have a convex relief, that is were put with seals with concave images. Our seal, on the contrary, has a convex relief, which gives concave image. So the question of its application remains open.
Now let us address to another section of the applied art – carving on bones. In Bactria the ivory delivered from the Indian estates of Persians, Greeks and Kushan was used for production of belt buckles, combs, hairpins, handles for mirrors and dice. For carving they also used bones of domestic and wild animals, as well as branchy antlers of local species of red deer – khangul and roe deers.
In 2007 on Kampyrtepa, an amulet in the form of a human figure, which was worn on a cord passed through a hole drilled on the back (fig. 4) was found in the layer of the 1st century BC – 1st century AD in the western part of the “citadel”. Simple cut-in lines, schematically, but at the same time expressively depict the image of a standing man dressed in a short caftan and wide trousers with the arms folded across the chest. His hair is combed parted in the middle and cut at the level of the chin; facial features are shown very generally. The amulet sizes are 3,65?1,2?1 cm. The similar object was already found on the surface of Kampyrtepa some years ago (8, p. 93). It means that they were probably produced here. Wearing of this amulet, perhaps, was connected with the cult of ancestors, and the primitive figure embodied, for example, an ancestor – a founder of the clan. Finds of ceramic vessels with various tamgha signs in the territory of Kampyrtepa show that tribal or clan division remained in Kushan society even in the period of Kanishka, which is natural for descendants of the recent nomads, namely Yueh-chih / Tokhars.
Among finds from Kushan ancient settlements the important place is taken by hairpins with figured tops, which, in our opinion unsubstantially, are often called stylos. In recent years such objects decorated with anthropomorphic images were found on Kampyrtepa. One of them found in 2004 at excavation of block B in the northern part of shakhristan (9, p. 73, fig. 25), is topped with the figure of a naked person sitting on a figured seat with his right foot on a stand (fig. 5). The left hand of the character rests in the groin and the right is bent at the elbow and raised to shoulder. Total length of the hairpin is 12,6 cm, diameter of the core – 0,7?0,5 cm, the sizes of the top – 6,2?1,7?0,75 cm. Other hairpin imaging a nude sitting character with the right leg on the left was found in 2002 in “citadel” of Kampyrtepa in a pit of the period of Kanishka I (10, p. 116; 8, p. 151-152). Position of the hands similar to the previous object; the length is 11,5 cm and the height of figure is 5,2 cm. Figured top of one more hairpin was found at excavation in the north-eastern part of Kampyrtepa’s shakhristan, in so-called block 2 (8, p. 152-153). Unlike previous one, it images a standing figure which is completely draped in a folded cloak (fig. 6). Sizes of the top are 6?1,7?0,85 cm. All three characters, in addition to the facial similarity, share a common type of headdress. It is, apparently, a round flat hat like a beret, with a small hole at the top, through which long hair are passed, collected in a chignon and covered by a special net in order to give rounded shape. The net is shown by inclined incisions. The hat and chignon are flattened on the back side, especially at the character in a cloak, whose chignon is more schematized. The hairstyle with spherical top is usually associated with Parthia – a powerful neighbor of Kushan Empire, as it is often found in the Parthian fine arts. Thus, S.B. Bolelov notes that the type of hairstyle of his finding allows to relate the hairpin to the products of Parthian circle. However, we should note, that on Parthian objects, including carved bones, a chignon is usually combined with fluffy curls on both sides of the face. On the fragment of the bone rhyton, which was mysteriously found on the ancient settlement Shashtepa near Tashkent (11, II.1) and on the terracotta fragment from Merv (12, p. 108, fig. 10), due to their incomplete preservation it is impossible to discern whether the hairstyle is limited in the upper chignon, or hair curls fall also on the shoulders. A spherical chignon collected not on the top, but on the nape and gathered in a net can be seen on the images of a winged flutist and acrobat decorating details of the bone rhyton from Olbia, which is a Parthian product (13, p. 131, 132). However these images do not have flat hats. The only complete analogy to anthropomorphic tops from Kampyrtepa is found on the well-known ancient settlement Toprakkala in Khorezm. It is an image of a character in the same headdress as ours, draped in a dense cloak (14, p. 117, fig. 57). The difference is only in more rounded shape of the khorezmian find, which was a little bit injured with a fire, and that the cloak is shown not two – but three-parted. S.A. Trudnovskaya assumes that it is an image of a person growing from a tripartite lotus bud. We are not sure that it is quite so, but agree with her opinion that the hair are gathered in a net. S.A. Trudnovskaya considers the lower part either a roller of hair, or a diadem, and determines the date of the figure from Toprakkala by its hairstyle, known due to coins and other monuments of art of the period from late II to early IV centuries AD. Since all three hairpins from Kampyrtepa were found in the rooms and layers relating to the time of Kanishka I, they should be dated to the first half of the II century AD, and their place of production (till the real evidences of their production and relation to Parthia will be found) can be considered yet Kushan Bactria, and specifically – Kampyrtepa, where they are represented by a series of three objects. The Toprakkala find is an evidence of undoubted commercial and cultural ties of Bactria–Tokharistan and Khorezm united by a common waterway of Oxus–Amu Darya River. Bone pins with anthropomorphic tops of different type were also found in New Nisa and Merv, that is in the territory of the Parthian empire, as well as on the ancient settlement Akshakhankala in Khorezm (15, p. 272; 16, p. 124; 17, p. 23-29, fig. 1). The Kampyrtepa findings, again, differ in the originality and reflect, presumably, Kushan-Bactrian specifics. Finding from the ancient settlement Zartepa represents one more option – with a figure of a dressed woman sitting on a throne (18, p. 112, fig. 54: 7). Perhaps, it belongs to later, Kushan-Sasanian period (III-IV centuries AD).
One more original type of hairpins found on Kampyrtepa has the top in the form of a left hand holding with the thumb, forefinger and middle finger a fruit of pomegranate or a poppy. The hand is separated by a bracelet (?); its surface is carefully polished. Two pins were found. One of them was found on the lower floor in the room 21 of blocks No. 5 located to the east of the “citadel” (19, p. 38, fig. 5: 7) (fig. 7). Total length of the hairpin is 10,4 cm, diameter of the pin is 0,65?0,5 cm, the sizes of the top are 2,9?1,1?0,65 cm. The second hairpin was found during excavations of the room 10 of block No. 2 in 2006 (20, p. 98, fig. 4: 8). Its total length is 11,2 cm, diameter of the pin – 0,55?0,4 cm, and the sizes of the top – 2,5?1,1?0,75 cm. The upper part of the figure is decorated in the form of a four-petal rosette that indicates that in his hand is a fruit. It allows to disagree with the opinion stated by K.A. Sheyko, G.N. Nikitenko and V.V. Luneva that the hand of the first pin published here holds a vessel (21, p. 62, fig. 6: 2). We should note that pomegranate, as we know, since the very ancient times, was a symbol of fertility, and opium poppy played an important role in medicine.
Hairpins with tops in the form of a hand with a fruit, based on the stratigraphy given by the authors of the finds, can be dated to the late I – first half of the II century AD. Together with the hairpins with anthropomorphic tops, they can be considered local products, at least, until new discoveries in Bactria and the neighboring regions will be made.

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