An appreciation of ethnic jewellery and adornment
In 1973, we did not have Wikipedia so I had to read about the Ghaznavid Empire from other sources, but we are now gifted with the internet. Here is what Wikipedia, that compendium of human knowledge writes about the empire whose seat was at now humble small-town Ghazni:
*The Ghaznavids ...were a ... dynasty of Turkic slave origin... which existed from 975 to 1187 and ruled much of Persia, Transoxeania and the northern parts of the Indian Subcontinent... The Ghaznavid state was centered in Ghazni, a city in modern-day Afghanistan. ....
The dynasty was founded by Sebutkin upon his succession to rule of territories centered around the city of Ghazni from his father-in-law, Alp Tigin, a break-away ex-general of the Samanid sultans. Sebuktigin's son...expanded the empire in the region that stretched from the Oxus River to the Indus Valley and the Indian Ocean; and in the west it reached Rey and Hamadan.
Under the reign of Mas'ud, the dynasty experienced major territorial losses, losing the western territories to the Seljuqs ... resulting in a restriction of its holdings to Balochistan, Punjab and modern-day Afghanistan. In 1151, Sultan Bahram Shah lost Ghazni to Ala'uddin Hussain of Ghor and the capital was moved to Lahore, India until its subsequent capture by the Ghurids in 1186. *
Our first finds in Ghazni were copper alloy utensils that were rather obviously old and made in a different manner and of a different metal than the modern output of the tinkers and copper mongers of modern Afghanistan. In Afghanistan the people were familiar with the many older items made in the past from what they called Aw-i-josh, or *7 metals.* They pronounce it more like ow-ee-joosh. The metal is cast like a cast iron skillet, thick and all in one piece. We still have one big pot with a piece of its handle missing. The handles are cast as part of the rim. It has a maker's mark? or religious symbol? or some other kind of marks in a series on one side of the rim.
In addition to the old pot, I found this item in the same antique shop:
It is a snake with its tail in its mouth. I had read a lot of mythology, so I recognized the symbol. On the off-chance that it really did have something to do with the Afghan past, I bought it. When my husband saw how taken I was by the find, he mentioned that he had seen a similar figure in Kabul in an antique shop.
Back in Kabul, on our next browsing of the antique shops, now that we knew real antiquities might be available, we found the carving that he had remembered.
Many years later, my interest in these alabaster amulets was vindicated. As I assisted in the editing of Dr. Victor Sarianidi's Myths of Ancient Bactria and Margiana, I learned much more of the history and cultural value of the items for which I thought I might have over-paid.
Thanks for the article, nice and interesting. I wondered what material it was, the amuletts you showed, but then I read it - Alabaster. Normally Alabaster is shining, isn' t it? so it must be very very old indeed! It is a pity that the articles are not read very often here, probably because everyone is so busy posting their photos on the page and then leaves it. Time has become so precious, we are all terribly busy, but reading is such a good thing. I will try to read some more... at least I take it as intention ! Kind regards, Eva
Thanks, Eva Lea. Sometimes the artifacts made of marble or other white stones fall into the category of alabaster for the antiquities dealers or even the archeologists. Since they are not gemologists or geologists, they don't classify the stones very scientifically. Their reports are written before all the material can be tested for content. So I simply used their term alabaster instead of saying 'unidentified white stone' which might have been more factual.
Thanks again for your kind comment.
@Thanks for your answer, Anna. I am no gemmologist either, I just happen to love minerals and precious stones, so sometimes I can tell a little. Alabaster I have seen often on very old Egyptian items like conopies, small statues, boxes, etc. and it has normally a shiny, almost translucent look (it is not translucent). Well, it does not really matter, I just wondered whether you were sure about it. It is in any case very very ancient and precious. I cannot tell what material it could be,, so we just leave it like that....
What a wonderful item this is of the 2 snakes!
Sardini's writings are very interesting and so are his archeological findings lost and found again!
Thank you for your kind comment, Harald. Victor is a good friend, too. He stayed with us a while during a couple of visits to the U. S. My husband visited the digs in Margiana on 7 different occasions and he and Victor came to love each other like brothers.
How interesting to know a person like Victor, I only know some of his writings and spectacular findings.
Are you and/or your husband archeologists? You must have traveled a lot.
We are just amateurs who are interested in the Middle East and Central Asia from pre-history to the present. We lived in Ankara, Kabul, Karachi, Amman and Yaounde, Cameroon. We traveled quite a bit from those places to others in the region. We learned a lot about the different cultures at present and we studied with archeologist friends and learned about the past ;) We had Dr. Jim Sauer and his colleagues in Amman and then Victor helped us understand Central Asia's past. We continue to study though we no longer travel. I am just finishing up a fascinating prize winning book by David Anthony, The Horse, the Wheel and Language. It is about the tremendous folk movements from the Pontus - Caspian region and the Siberian Steppes, into Western China, Central Asia and the Middle East.
A very adventurous life you had, living in so many places, and so much to research and learn. The book you reading seems fascinating! I will have a look at it.
We have been interesting in the archaeology of several countries like the near east like Saudi Arabia ( the exhibition Roads of Arabia might be in the USA now), Iran, Irak, Afganistan and a few more. But never lived in those countries.
It is obvious that we share some interests in common. I am happy to learn more about you.