The Bactrian Gold I

The Bactrian Gold hoard is what fascinates most people, so I'll be posting images of it over the next week or two. As ever, all items are currently at the Guimet in the Rediscovered Treasures of Afghanistan show.

Small triangular plaques
Afghanistan, Tillia tepe, tomb I
1st century.
1.3 x 1.0 cm
Musée National d’Afghanistan – MK 04.40.323

Ring with a bezel depicting Athena and inscribed with her name
Afghanistan, Tillia tepe, tomb II
1st century
3.0 x 2.7 cm
Musée National d’Afghanistan – MK 04.40.116

Bracelets with antelope terminals
Afghanistan, Tillia tepe, tomb II
1st century
Gold, turquoise, carnelian
8.5 x 6.3 cm
Musée National d’Afghanistan – MK 04.40.114

All photographs © Thierry Ollivier / musée Guimet

This is what the Guimet says about Tillia tepe:
Tilla tepe
In 1978, Tillia tepe, the « golden hill », was to yield in the course of digs on a citadel dating back to the Iron Age, six tombs from around that time, in the north of Afghanistan, not far from Shebergan - six luxurious « barbarian » tombs, displaying unprecedented wealth. The tombs held five women and one man, and their bodies appeared dressed in clothes sewn with gold and encrusted with turquoise, garnet and lapis lazuli. If the clothes evoked Scythian gold from the banks of the Bosphoros and the Chersonnese, then the Chinese mirrors dating back to the Han epoch show a culture open to the whole of Eurasia, including the Far East.
Alongside these were classical intaglios showing Athena’s profile, and an ivory comb decorated with incisions whose style point directly to Begram or Dalverzine tepe. Crowned with flora, fragile and delicate, alluding to the Three Kingdoms of Korea (1st to 7th centuries), the Bactrian Aphrodite has the childish charm which evokes Sirkap and the Scytho-Parthian period. These objects are the echo of a nomadic society where luxury and refinement go hand in hand with tolerance, and curiosity about unknown cultures.
The artefacts are accompanied by pendants in which a king overcomes dragons; a belt decorated with horsemen leaping over fantastical creatures; a realistic ibex which derives directly from Achaemenid art. Who were these princesses and this princes buried on the Afghan border? Should we see them as the very first yuezhi, whom the Chinese envoy Zhang Qian saw camped to the north of the Bactrian towards 138 BCE; or should we simply view them as members of one of the saka clans, the cousins of the Scythians to the west, and who led a nomadic life between the Urals and the Altai mountains. If the mystery remains, it is no less than that of the piece of gold with the enigmatic theme, called «the man at the wheel», stamped on the triratna.
In tomb III, one of Tiberius’s coins (14-37 CE.) was found. This treasure shows that the nomadic world was master of the Golden Road which originates in the Altai. It also shows it to be at the centre of a vast trading network whose influence extended for long distances: jade from China and garnets from India; turquoise perhaps from Nichapur and eastern Iran; the lapis-lazuli, itself, from the Badakhshan mines (today Afghanistan).

1 comment:

  1. WOW!!!! It looks very nice. I wish to see
    this antique pieces............
    Thanks a lot for sharing this nice item...

    Smith ALan


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