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HOME : Near Eastern Art : Bactria-Margiana Art : Bactria-Margiana Stone Head from an Idol
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Bactria-Margiana Stone Head from an Idol - SF.081
Origin: Central Asia
Circa: 2500 BC to 1500 BC
Dimensions: 2.50" (6.4cm) high x 1.6" (4.1cm) wide
Collection: Near Eastern
Medium: Stone


Location: Great Britain
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Description
This piece pertains to an ancient culture referred to both as the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex (BCAM) or as the Oxus Civilisation. The Bactria-Margiana culture spread across an area encompassing the modern nations of Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Northern Afghanistan. Flourishing between about 2100 and 1700 BC, it was contemporary with the European Bronze Age, and was characterised by monumental architecture, social complexity and extremely distinctive cultural artefacts that vanish from the record a few centuries after they first appear. Pictographs on seals have been argued to indicate an independently-developed writing system.

It was one of many economic and social entities in the vicinity, and was a powerful country due to the exceptional fertility and wealth of its agricultural lands. This in turn gave rise to a complex and multifaceted set of societies with specialist craftsmen who produced luxury materials such as this for the ruling and aristocratic elites. Trade appears to have been important, as Bactrian artefacts appear all over the Persian Gulf as well as in the Iranian Plateau and the Indus Valley. For this reason, the area was fought over from deep prehistory until the Mediaeval period, by the armies of Asia Minor, Greece (Macedonia), India and the Arab States, amongst others.

Religion may have been based around deities represented by pieces such as this. However, they are extremely rare. A 2003 inventory calculated that there were at least thirty-eight examples of such Bactrian idols known, and although the number of examples discovered since has increased, the total number of such Bactrian idols remains relatively small. Nine examples have been found in south-eastern Turkmenistan and two more in Pakistan. Their significance is unclear. Some scholars identify them as elite members of this early society, while others consider their compelling monumentality to signify that these female figures are depictions of one (or more) goddesses. - (SF.081)

 

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