Saturday, 9 January 2021

Bactrian camel

Among many weird and wonderful ancient Bactrian seals impressions dated to the 3rd mill BC, found in this great article: "Myths of ancient Bactria" by Sarianidi Victor, are these two seals with a man leading a Bactrian camel.

All the other Bactrian seals with animals turned out to be complex animal calendar markers based on reproductive cycles of depicted animals...

I talked about some of them in these articles: "Bactrian snakes and dragons", "Fluffy", "Eagle calendar marker"...

So I suspected that somehow these Bactrian camel seals were also "religious" (read calendar marker) images, somehow linked with the reproductive cycle of Bactrian camels...

The reason why I suspected this was because of this seal depicting, just like the other two seals, a man leading a Bactrian camel...Except this camel had Ibex (Bezoar) goat horns...

Now, as we all know 🙂, that Ibex (Bezoar) goat is The Goat of Rain and The Goat of Winter of Eurasia...You can find examples of the use of Ibex goats as symbols for winter from around Eurasia on this page which lists some of the examples of animal calendar markers...

Ibex (Bezoar) goat mating season starts at the end of Oct beginning of Nov, with Ibex males, which are normally solitary, gather to fight for females...And so the Ibex became the "Goat of rain", the calendar marker that marks the beginning of the wet season. Which is also the beginning of the rain season in Bactria

Which is why Bezoar (Ibex) became the calendar marker for Oct/Nov, the beginning of the winter and the rain season in Bactria...I talked about this in my post "Fluffy"

So, I suspected that this camel goat was a composite animal calendar marker too...

And I also suspected that it was also in some way linked to winter and the rain season...

But when I looked at Bactrian camels I was disappointed. "The Bactrian camel's breeding season takes place in March and April"...Middle of Spring...Meaningless from the point of view of "religious" calendar markers...

So I filed these into "I don't understand the meaning of these yet" box...Then recently I came across a mad article about wild bactrian camels living in a nuclear testing site in China...


BTW, doesn't this one look like Donald Sutherland from Kelly's Heroes?


Anyway, here is one of the funniest (I have a weird sense of humor) things I read in a looong time....

In 1964, China began testing nuclear weapons at Lop Nur, home to many of the wild Bactrian camels...

Because of this, their habitat became a restricted military zone where human activity was kept to a minimum. The camels experienced no apparent ill effects from the radiation and continued to breed naturally...They actually thrived...

After China signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996, human incursions into the area have caused a sharp drop in the camel population...Now, the camels are reclassified as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List...

See...FUNNY...

While I was reading this it suddenly dawned on me: wild Bactrian camels! Of course. I was looking at the domesticated camels, whose behavior was changed by humans...So I went and checked the wild Bactrian camel lifecycle. And sure enough: "they breed during winter with an overlap into the rainy season...

It turns out even "Aristotle reported that breeding time of camels is in November and December"...

And the contemporary data from Central Asia confirms that  "The dead-of-winter months, roughly from November to February, are when the male camels start their seasonal three-month-long rut"...

So...I was right...Bactrian camel on Bactrian seals from the 3rd millennium BC is a calendar marker for winter and the rain season. Interchangeable with Ibex (Bezoar goat). Hence camel with ibex horns...


PS: Check this beautiful object out 


Bronze badge depicting two fighting Bactrian camels. From Filippovka mound, Southern Ural region, dated to V -IV century BC. Currently in the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Institute of Ethnological Research named after R.G. Kuzeev, Ufa...

The mating of the wild Bactrian camels (Oct-Nov), which is characterised by vicious fights between males involving biting (!), coincides with the beginning of the rain season in the Bactrian camel range. A big deal in these semi desert lands... 

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