January 11, 2013
What Figurines Tell About
The pottery items discovered by archeologists in Surkhondaryo, turned out to be the monuments of object writing.

In Samarqand, the local scholars managed to read the ‘records’, left by inhabitants of the prehistoric Bactria. These unique materials are the set of clay articles, discovered by workers of the department of Archeology and History of the Samarqand State University during the excavations at the necropolis of the prewriting period Buston VI that were conducted within 1990 – 2008. The studied artifacts permit to tell that on the territory of the Ancient East and Eurasian steppes is discovered the first monument of the object writing.

The studied materials are interesting with that they provide the opportunity to learn more about a little-known Sopolli ancient agriculture, whose history goes back to two thousand years BC. This culture was discovered forty years ago by the academician Ahmadali Askarov, who had conducted archaeological excavations on the territory of Surkhondaryo region of Uzbekistan. The culture received its name from the settlement of the Bronze Age epoch called Sopollitepa - the first monument of town-like civilization of the region.

Excavations Buston VI, located at Sherobod district of Surkhondaryo region on the territory of floodplain basin of the right bank of the dried out Bustonsoy river, as well as the deciphering of the materials found there – the monuments of ancient writing, was coordinated by Professor of Samarqand State University Nona Avanesova. She told UT on the works done.

“Buston VI is a multi-cultural and multi-ritual necropolis of the late Bronze Age. Its nature, where for the first time were allocated sacral areas for propitiatory, funeral and other rituals in which a substantial part of the cult went to fire, let us to suggest that it was not only the cemetery where they buried the dead, but also the important religious center for fire worshipers, close to the open-air ‘temple.’ This phenomenon is unusual for ancient agricultural and pastoral tribes. Hence, the innovation processes that took place here at the end of the second millennium BC, is the result of a complex synthesis of external pulses and internal development of the Sopolli culture as the search for new versions of the ritual with the arrival of the steppe population.

One of the most important indicators of those processes is a series of graves that differ from the rest with the presence in them of clay items: sculptures, altars, dishes (vessel and scoop), and cone-shaped ‘chips.’ Such a stable set and its location in the grave bears certain information. We are dealing with a monument of object writing.

In cultures of the period when there was no written language the information was read by objects that can play the role of individual symbols, arranged in a kind of ‘text message.’ It is possible to understand only being well-informed about the ancient sources and ethnographic materials. The discovered clay items as ‘material text’ are the source, comparable in importance to the Rigveda and the Avesta. For the people who created these products, they bore the sacred-mythological value. Finding the key to understand the meaning these figurines bore, helped the materials of the Vedic mythology. There is every reason to believe that the presented set symbolized the picture of the world, recreated within the Sopolli community.

In particular, the idea about the ritual-ceremonial nature of Buston people, reflecting the ideas of the world order, give vessels of cylindrical forms with conical removable lids and micro vessels inside, covered with red ocher. They are a miniature model of the universe. It should be noted that in the Rigveda the universe is compared with two bowls, where a lid is personified with the male, while a vessel itself with the women, giving birth and shelter to all living creatures. In the later Vedic sources, the vessel’s lid was correlated with the celestial sphere, while the main interior space with the Earth.

The main part of the semantic code of the clay items are the sculptures. In manufacturing the figurines was followed a certain image and was depicted only those attributes that were meant to this deity – the symbol. In the Vedic teachings the gods along with the people are particular personified powers, embodying the phenomena of nature, directly related to people’s lives.

For example, to the symbol of water could be related those figurines, which on one or both sides of the torso have parallel lines. The bronze rod in the shape of trident is the attribute, which is also associated with the water. The possibility to understand the meaning of these objects become real, only when they were identified with the celestial mythological characters from the Rigveda such as Varun, Sarasvati, and Indra that were related to the water and the underground kingdom. Apparently, the portraying of these symbolic characters had to be equated with magical effect of rainmaking.

Exploring the artifacts, we have come to the conclusion that the Buston residents through the simplest objects, created very complex mythological compositions by the language of symbols. The clay items reproduce real properties for the performance of rituals. Through them local residents tried to get answers to crucial questions.

Information derived from myths, beliefs convince us that the earliest urban society by available means tried to reflect a complex worldview and myth-making of the population of Bactria. (Source: Uzbekistan Today newspaper)


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