Friday, 28 April 2017

Islamic silver coins In Viking burial in Norway

Viking Trading or Raiding?
Monday, April 06, 2015
Trenches Viking Sword
(Courtesy Åge Hojem/NTNU Museum of Natural History and Archaeology)
10-century Viking sword
Last year, the discovery of an ax head on a mountaintop overlooking Norway’s Trondheim Fjord led archaeologists to a tenth-century Viking grave. Though they found no remains, the team recovered a sword and a shield boss. The discovery seemed routine, until the boss was X-rayed. 
“We could see there was stuff in there,” says archaeologist Ingrid Ystgaard of the Norwegian University Science and Technology’s Museum of Natural History and Archaeology. 
It turned out to contain a leather purse holding Islamic silver coins that were minted in what is now Iraq, along with agates and a small lead weight. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Ystgaard. 
“It’s extremely rare to find coins in Viking burials, and so far as I know, none have ever been found in a shield boss.”  

Ystgaard points out that Vikings were known to travel as far as Constantinople, and the agates and coins could have been obtained through either trading or raiding. Extensive marks on the sword and shield boss show that they had been used in combat, but the lead weight secreted inside suggests the warrior may have at least occasionally played the role of merchant. “It’s a good reminder that they were not just raiders,” says Ystgaard. “This man was likely a classic trader-warrior of the Viking Age.”
Trenches Viking Shield Boss
(Courtesy Åge Hojem/NTNU Museum of Natural History and Archaeology)
Viking shield boss containing remains of a leather purse

Monday, 24 April 2017

The Silk Road Journal edited by Daniel Waugh vol. 14 is out

Please read the most wonderful magazine about the Silk Road in the world, edited by Daniel Waugh.
Go to

For the full pdf text of The Silk Road, Vol. 14 (2016), click here. Individual articles may be downloaded from the links below in the Table of Contents.Note that all pdf files are low resolution for optimal speed in downloading, but the complete volume file is large and may take a few minutes.
From the editor’s desktop: The Future of The Silk Road[iii]
Reconstruction of a Scythian Saddle from Pazyryk Barrow No. 31 + Plate I
Elena V. StepanovaDownload
The Pazyryk collection of excavated Scythian saddles in the Hermitage Museum provides abundant information about the details of their construction and has made possible the creation and testing of a replica which has revealed new insights into the horse harness of the early Eurasian steppes.
An Image of Nighttime Music and Dance in Tang Chang’an: Notes on the Lighting Devices in the Medicine Buddha Transformation Tableau in Mogao Cave 220, Dunhuang19 + Plates II, III
by Sha WutianDownload
The unusually detailed depiction of lighting devices in the Medicine Buddha tableau of Mogao Cave 220 reflects a knowledge of the popular nighttime entertainmsnts of the Tang Dynasty capital, Chang’an, as documented from a great many contemporary texts.
The Results of the Excavation of the Yihe-Nur Cemetery in Zhengxiangbai Banner (2012-2014)42 + Plates IV-VI
by Chen Yongzhi, Song Guodong, and Ma Yan Download
The Yihe-Nur Cemetery in Inner Mongolia is the northernmost one yet discovered for the Northern Wei period. Its excavation has yielded an array of interesting artifacts attesting to the multi-ethnic nature of the northern frontiers of China in the early centuries of the Common Era. 
Art and Religious Beliefs of Kangju: Evidence from an Anthropomorphic Image Found in the Ugam Valley (Southern Kazakhstan)58
by Aleksandr PodushkinDownload
A striking anthropomorphic image inscribed on a ceramic vessel excavated at Ushbastobe in southern Kazakhstan provides interesting evidence about possible ritual and religious beliefs of the local population in the Kangju period.
Observations on the Rock Reliefs at Taq-i Bustan: A Late Sasanian Monument along the “Silk Road”71
by Matteo ComparetiDownload
Analysis of the deer hunt scene in the large grotto at the Sasanian site of Taq-i Bustan in Iran offers new possibilities for explaining the history and dating of this otherwise well-known complex.
Sino-Iranian Textile Patterns in Trans-Himalayan Areas84
by Mariachiara Gasparini Download
An examination of silks from Qinghai and in the collections of the National Silk Museum in China, along with evidence from murals, documents the popularity and spread of textiles produced in Central Asia into the Trans-Himalayan regions in the second half of the first millennium CE. 
Some Notes on Dayuezhi, Daxia, Guishuang, and Dumi in Chinese Sources97
by Yang Juping Download
A close examination of the Chinese texts about Central Asia reveals new possibilities for understanding political organization in Bactria in the wake of the Yuezhi invasion. 
The Place Names of Euro-Africa in the Kangnido106 + Plate VII
by Nurlan KenzheakhmetDownload
The earliest Korean world map, the Kangnido, contains a rich store of geographic and cartographic data. This article is one of a series devoted to identifying all its place names for Central Asia, Africa and Europe.
Technology Transfer from Ancient Egypt to the Far East?126 + Plate VIII
by Alessandra R. Giumlía-MairDownload
A technically sophisticated patination technique developed first in ancient Egypt spread through the Middle East, and, as argued here, may well have influenced the adoption of similar technology in East and Southeast Asia.
Production of Bronze Wares among the Xiongnu147
by Sergei S. Miniaev, with a Preface by William Honeychurch Download
This classic study pioneered in the metallurgical analysis of Xiongnu and related bronze wares, opening new avenues to understanding the nature of the Xiongnu society and economy and its relationship to other cultures.
Orgoiton—A Xiongnu Cemetery in Transbaikalia166
by Nikolai N. Nikolaev and Sergei S. MiniaevDownload
A brief report on the results of a new excavation of an elite Xiongnu cemetery in Transbaikalia.
Newly Discovered Petroglyphs of Hurand County168
by Reza Salmanpoor, Zahra Abtahi, and Mina RanjbarDownload
Recent discoveries of petroglyphs in northewestern Iran, an area previously little studied for its rock art.
Museum Collections, I: A Gift of Steppe Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation to the Miami University Art Museum175
by Trudy S. Kawami, Daniel Prior, and Robert S. Wicks Download
A major gift of steppe bronzes from the Sackler Foundation to the Miami (O.) University Art Museum, in support of its teaching mission. 
Fastening the Buckle: A Strand of Xiongnu-Era Narrative in a Recent Kirghiz Epic Poem186
by Daniel PriorDownload
The intriguing connections between the scene depicted on a 2000-year-old buckle plaque and the events recorded in a 19th century in a Kirgiz oral epic.
Women’s Status in the Iron Age Based on Ethno-archaeological Studies of the West Central Zagros Nomads196 + Plate IX
by Ali NourallahiDownload
Iron Age burials in the West Central Zagros Mountains of Iran contain mute evidence about the roles of women in those societies. Recent ethnographic study of semi-nomads in the same region may shed some light on the status of women in that much earlier period.
Game Pieces of Knucklebones: Evidence about the Continuation of Local Games in Khorasan, Iran209
by Hadi Sabori, Hasan Basafa, Esmaeil Hejininezhad, Reza Bolandi, and Mina Norouzi KhorasaniDownload
Astragali, small leg bones from sheep, have been used through the centuries as game pieces and for divination. The game of “knucklebones” can still be documented in northeastern Iran today.
“Zandaniji Silks”: The Story of a Myth213
by Zvezdana DodeDownload
By tracing carefully how the myth of “Zandaniji” silks, allegedly produced by Sogdian weavers in Central Asia, came into being and spread, this essay suggests it is high time that the use of this classification be abandoned. Proper technical analysis of the silks in question remains to be done.
Museum Collections, II:Discoveries from the Sinan Shipwreck223
by Lee Myong OkDownload
The 14th-century Sinan Shipwreck, with its large cargo of Chinese ceramics and other items, is still one of the most significant finds from underwater archaeology and was the subject of a major exhibition in the National Museum of Korea in 2016.
The Silk Roads at the National Museum of Korea: A Visual Introduction226 + Plates X-XIV
by Daniel C. WaughDownload
One of the great museums in the world, the National Museum of Korea houses, inter alia, an interesting collection of artifacts from along the silk roads, many illustrated in this photo essay.
Book Reviews
DreyerAbenteuer Seidenstraße236
by Jan BemmannDownload
Jacobson-TepferThe Hunter, the Stag and the Mother of Animals237
by Bryan K. MillerDownload
Exhibitions in Retrospect: Meyer and Wandel., ShahnamaZhao, ed.Silks from the Silk RoadAgnew, Reed, and BallCave Temples of Dunhuang241
by Daniel C. WaughDownload
Short NoticesDownload all these book notices.247

  • Shenkar, Intangible Spirits and Graven Images, by Matteo Compareti.

  • The following all written/compiled by Daniel Waugh:

  • Kolesnikov, Sasanidskii Iran. Istoriia i kul’tura.
  • P’iankov, Sredniaia Aziia i Evraziiskaia step’ v drevnosti.
  • Vedeler, Silk for the Vikings.
  • Wertmann, Sogdians in China.
  • Kuznetsov and Kuznetsov, Feodal’nyi gorod Severnogo Kavkaza (srednevekovyi Derbent v VI-XIII vv.).
  • Mys’kov, Kochevniki Volgo-Donskoi stepei v epokhu Zolotoi Ordy.
  • Teleki, Introduction to the Study of Urga’s Heritage.
  • Majer and Teleki, Reviving the Cam Dance Tradition in Mongolia.
  • Bulletin of the Asia Institute. N. S., Vol. 26 (2012) [2016].
  • Xiyu Wenshi. Literature and History of the Western Regions, Vol 9 (2015); Vol. 10 (2016).
  • List of Color Plates252
    Color Plates I-XIVfollowing p. 252

    For the full pdf text of The Silk Road, Vol. 14 (2016), click here.

    Sunday, 23 April 2017

    Exhibition in the MET: Stories in Chinese Painting

    Exhibition Overview

    In China, paintings that tell stories serve as powerful vehicles to promote political agendas, endorse cultural values, or express personal thoughts. With masterpieces dating from the fourth century, narrative is the earliest established genre in Chinese painting. This exhibition is the first at The Met to explore the various ways in which Chinese artists have gone beyond mere illustration to convey multiple layers of meaning. 
    Displaying works from the 12th century to the present, this exhibition introduces three distinct modes of pictorial storytelling: multipart illustrations presented in long handscrolls, often punctuated with passages of text; single iconic scenes that evoke an entire story; and generic landscapes or flower-and-bird paintings that acquire narrative significance through the artist's inscription. The exhibition is further organized by theme: historical events, seasonal progression, warfare, journeys, Buddhist and Confucian values, and family and friendship. One special gallery focuses on a grandiose military narrative—that of China's annexation of East Turkestan in the 1750s. The installation, a collaboration among three Museum departments, features a suite of European engravings alongside Chinese weaponry and a painting to show how an emperor exploited art for his own aggrandizement. 
    Contemporary Chinese artists have continued the narrative tradition with an expanded repertoire of subjects and approaches. The examples on display range from reflections on the creative process to critiques of modern technology and government policies. Together, the approximately 60 pictorial works and 30 decorative art objects, most from The Met collection, present a comprehensive view of the narrative genre, demonstrating its expressive versatility and continuing relevance.

    Show and Tell: Exploring Storytelling in Chinese Painting

    15th-century Chinese handscroll depicting a battle scene against a backdrop of snowy mountains
    Fig. 1. Unidentified artist after Song Academy painter. Eighteen Songs of a Nomad Flute: The Story of Lady Wenji (detail), early 15th century. Chinese, Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Handscroll; ink, color, and gold on silk, 11 1/4 in. x 39 ft. 3 in. (28.6 x 1196.3 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Gift of The Dillon Fund, 1973 (1973.120.3)
    The genre of narrative painting in China reached full maturity as early as the fourth century and continues to thrive today. The exhibition Show and Tell: Stories in Chinese Painting—on view at The Met Fifth Avenue through August 6, 2017—explores how Chinese painters have told stories that promote political and cultural agendas or communicate personal thoughts. Presenting more than 60 paintings and prints dated from the 12th century to the present, this exhibition demonstrates the continuing vitality and relevance of the genre.
    Show and Tell is organized into three sections, with each featuring a different type of narrative. The most familiar of these is the long handscroll format used to illustrate a story in multiple scenes. As each of the handscrolls unrolls section by section from right to left, either in a continuous landscape setting or in scenes punctuated by corresponding texts, the viewer is transported through time and space. Measuring more than 39 feet in length, Eighteen Songs of a Nomad Flute: The Story of Lady Wenji (fig. 1) depicts the traumatic experience of Lady Wenji (Cai Yan), who was abducted by Mongolian nomads in 195 A.D. and returned to China 12 years later. The recurring sight of south-flying geese alludes to her homesickness, while intimate scenes of Wenji with her chieftain husband and their children deepen the pathos of the farewell scene as she is forced to leave them behind. Although this work was created in the early 15th century, this historical story resonates deeply with the issues of ethnicity and displacement of our own time.
    Fig. 2. Zheng Zhong (Chinese, active ca. 1612–1648). Searching the Mountains for Demons (detail), first half of 17th century. Chinese, late Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Handscroll; ink and color on paper, 10 5/8 in. x 27 ft. 9 1/2 in. (27 x 847.1 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Bequest of Dorothy Graham Bennett, 1991 (1991.14)
    Without any explanatory texts, Searching the Mountains for Demons by Zheng Zhong (active ca. 1612–1648) (fig. 2) depicts a demigod and his ghostly entourage ridding the landscape of demonic creatures. The exorcist operation zigzags through a series of vignettes featuring demons in the form of wild beasts or charming women, whose true identities are revealed by their claws and tails. The dynamic composition conveys the frenzied pace of the hunt as disturbing images of violence are balanced by humorous encounters and the exertions of the hunters.
    Fig. 3. Liang Kai (Chinese, active early 13th century). Poet Strolling by a Marshy Bank, early 13th century. Chinese, Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279). Fan mounted as an album leaf; ink on silk, 9 x 9 9/16 in. (22.9 x 24.3 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of John M. Crawford Jr., 1988 (1989.363.14)
    The second type of narrative highlighted in the exhibition relies on a single iconic scene—usually the climax—to evoke an entire story in the viewer's mind. A painting by the monk-artist Liang Kai (active early 13th century) exemplifies this style. In Poet Strolling by a Marshy Bank(fig. 3), a lone figure lingers by a marshy bank under a massive, mist-enshrouded boulder. The work hauntingly depicts the final moments in the life of Qu Yuan (ca. 340–ca. 278 B.C.), a falsely slandered minister who took his own life by drowning in order to prove his devotion to the king, without showing any other biographical detail. The looming rock, a metaphor for the psychological weight sustained by the man below, is key to identifying the subject matter.
    Fig. 4. Hongli (Qianlong Emperor, 1711–1799; r. 1736–95). Deer Antlers, dated 1762. One of two handscrolls; ink and color on paper, 9 3/4 x 81 1/4 in. (24.8 x 206.4 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 1913 (13.220.127b)
    The third type of storytelling is represented by landscapes, still lifes, and flower-and-bird paintings that contain no narrative imagery but tell stories in their appended inscriptions. A typical example is a painting of deer antlers (fig. 4) by Emperor Qianlong (r. 1736–95). An otherwise simple still life, the picture is followed by the emperor's long inscription that relates when and where the deer was hunted down by his grandfather, the Kangxi Emperor, and reflects upon Kangxi's prowess and the martial values in his Manchu tradition. This type of storytelling is an important and distinctively Chinese practice, one that has never been recognized in exhibitions exploring narrative subjects.
    Fig. 5. Wang Jun (Chinese, 1816–after 1883). The Shrine in Honor of Ruan Yuan, from the album Ten Sites Associated with Ruan Yuan, dated 1883. Chinese, Qing dynasty (1644–1911). One painting from an album of 10 paintings; ink and color on paper, each image: 11 in. x 13 1/4 in. (27.9 x 33.7 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Julia and John Curtis, 2015 (2015.784.10)
    Most of the objects in the exhibition are taken from The Met collection; some are new acquisitions on view for the first time, while others have not been seen for many years. A few works that had been shown in partial view in past shows now enjoy a complete display, such as Wang Jun's (1816–after 1883) album on select sites in Yangzhou and Hangzhou (fig. 5), which serves as a pictorial biography of the eminent scholar-official Ruan Yuan (1764–1849). This new display of all 10 pictures in the album, rearranged in chronological order, enables a comprehensive and evolving view of the man's life.
    Fig. 6. Jacques Philippe Le Bas (French, 1707–1783), after Giuseppe Castiglione (Italian, 1688–1766). The Lifting of the Siege at the Black River Camp (detail), plate seven from The Conquests of the Emperor of China (Les Conquêtes de l'Empereur de la Chine), 1771. Etching and engraving, Plate: 22 5/8 x 36 11/16 in. (57.5 x 93.2 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1945 (45.100.7)
    Further showcasing The Met's ability to draw on its own holdings for a multicultural exhibition is a gallery on military narrative, the objects of which represent the collaboration of three curatorial departments. The subject of the gallery is Emperor Qianlong's East Turkestan campaign from 1755 to 1759, which ended with the annexation of Xinjiang (New Territories). The centerpiece, from the Department of Drawings and Prints, is a suite of sixteen copperplate engravings that illustrate ten battles and six ceremonies (fig. 6). Designed in the Western naturalistic style by European missionary-artists at Qianlong's court, more than 200 sets of prints were produced at the imperial workshop of Louis XV (r. 1715–74) in Paris.
    Left: Fig. 7. Unidentified artist. Portrait of the Imperial Bodyguard Zhanyinbao, dated 1760. Chinese, Qing dynasty (1644–1911). Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk, Painting and inscription: 74 1/4 x 37 7/16 in. (188.6 x 95.1 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, The Dillon Fund, 1986 (1986.206). Right: Fig. 8. Helmet with feather crest, 17th–18th century. Chinese, Qing dynasty (1644–1911). Helmet: steel, gold, silk; Crest: eagle feathers, kingfisher feathers, paper, turquoise, coral, pearls, marten fur, silk, copper alloy, silver, Helmet: H. including nape defense: 20 3/4 in. (52.7 cm); H. excluding nape defense: 11 1/4 in. (28.6 cm); W. 9 in. (22.9 cm); D. 10 1/4 in. (26 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of George C. Stone, 1935 (36.25.2c–e, .7a)
    The large full-length portrait of a general (fig. 7), one of 100 commissioned by Qianlong for those who made significant contributions to the campaign, belongs to the Department of Asian Art. A dozen 18th-century Chinese weapons and horse fittings from the Department of Arms and Armor, selected by Curator Donald LaRocca, evoke a physical sense of warfare. It is notable how close some pieces look to those represented in the prints and the portrait. The helmet with a feather crest for a high-ranking military officer (fig. 8), for instance, is worn by the commander on horseback in the center foreground of the print hung on the opposite wall (fig. 6).
    In addition, there are works on view by contemporary artists addressing current issues raised by technological advancements and government land policy, or revealing personal creative processes—subjects not in the classical repertory. The exhibition presents a most comprehensive view of Chinese pictorial storytelling with many illuminating and engaging samples.

    Related Links
    Show and Tell: Stories in Chinese Painting, on view at The Met Fifth Avenue through August 6, 2017
    82nd & Fifth: "Metaphorical" by Shi-yee Liu
    Liu, Shi-yee. "Containing the West in the Manchu Realm? Emperor Qianlong's Deer-Antler Scrolls." Orientations 46, no. 6 (September 2015): 58–69.
    Liu, Shi-yee. "'Show and Tell': The Art of Storytelling in Chinese Painting." Orientations 47, no. 8 (November/December 2016): 44–53.

    Friday, 21 April 2017

    New find 2.100 old miniature looms to weave patterns found in Chengdu, China

    LiveScience by Laura Geggel, april 19, 2017

    Tiny wooden figurines have stood upright "weaving" at appropriately sized looms for more than 2,100 years in a Chinese tomb containing the remains of a middle-age woman, a new study finds.

    The discovery of the miniature scene astonished archaeologists, who were surveying an area slated for subway construction in Chengdu, a city in China's southwestern Sichuan province, in 2013. The looms may be small — the largest is about the size of a child's toy piano — but they're the earliest evidence on record of looms that could be used to weave patterns, the researchers said.

    "We are very sure that the loom models from Chengdu are the earliest pattern looms around the world," said the study's lead researcher, Feng Zhao, the director of the China National Silk Museum in Hangzhou, China, and a professor at Donghua University in Shanghai. [See Images of the Model-Size Pattern Looms]
    It's unclear when and where the first looms were developed, but archaeologists have found ancient looms parts at a variety of sites. For instance, in China's eastern Zhejiang province archaeologists found an approximately 8,000-year-old loom from the Kuahuqiao archaeological site, and a roughly 7,000-year-old loom found at the Hemudu site, Zhao said. Other looms include pieces of Egyptian creations from about 4,000 and 3,400 years ago, respectively, and Greek looms illustrated on vases dating to about 2,400 years ago, the researchers said.
    However, unlike their predecessors, pattern looms are used to weave a "complex kind of textile," Zhao told Live Science in an email. Weavers used this type of loom to create patterns by stringing up the weft (the crosswise yarn on the loom) and weaving the warp (the longitudinal yarn that is passed over and under the weft) through it, he said.

    Except for cinnabar-colored red silk thread and a brown thread, there weren't any textiles found on the tiny looms. However, this re-creation shows what the loom would have looked like with fabric.
    Credit: Drawing by Bo Long and Yingchong Xia; Copyright Antiquity Publications Ltd. 
    Pattern looms likely inspired people to make the draw loom — a device that can weave even more complex patterns, the researchers said.
    "[The draw loom] was then introduced to the West — Persia, India and Europe — indicating that the Chinese silk pattern loom made a significant contribution to the subsequent development of world textile culture and weaving technology," Zhao said.
    The tomb chamber itself is spacious — about 24 feet long, 16 feet wide and 9 feet high (7 by 2.5 by 3 meters) — and contains one large room with four smaller compartments beneath it, the researchers said. The large room held the remains of an approximately 50-year-old woman whose name was Wan Dinu, according to a jade seal outside the coffin. (The seal was broken, suggesting that grave robbers had pilfered the grave's contents shortly after the burial, the researchers said.)
    One of the small compartments under the grave held the four model looms, each about one-sixth the size of a regular loom, the researchers said. Next to the looms were devices for warping, rewinding and weft winding, along with 15 painted wooden figurines (four male weavers and nine female weaving assistants), each with a name written on them, suggesting that they represented real-life weavers, the researchers wrote in the study.
    The 10-inch-tall (25 centimeters) weavers were carved "in the act of warping, weft winding and rewinding," Zhao said. [In Photos: 1,500-Year-Old Tomb of a Chinese Woman Named Farong]

    This drawing shows the tomb, which consists of one large room with four smaller compartments beneath it.
    Credit: Drawing by Yingchong Xia; Copyright Antiquity Publications Ltd. 
    By studying the style of the tomb and a Western Han Dynasty bronze coin found within the tomb, the researchers dated the chamber to the reigns of Emperors Jingdi (157 to 141 B.C.) and Wudi (141 to 88 B.C.), the researchers said.
    The model looms are "the missing technological link responsible for the renowned Han Dynasty Shu jin silks, which are frequently found along the Silk Road, and were traded across Eurasia," the researchers wrote in the study, which was published in the April issue of the journal Antiquity.
    Editor's Note: This story was updated to say that it is unclear when and where the first looms were developed. 
    Original article on Live Science.