Saturday, 23 October 2021

Combs from Tuva

Combs found in Tuvan burial ground Khemchik-Bom, Russia dated to 5th-4th centuries. BC. From this amazing resource (in Russian) "Язык звериных образов"

The right comb is one of the oldest examples of the so called Composite Animal Style...

The archaeologist who discovered the combs described the one on the right like this: it "...is a complex multi-figured composition, the central figure of which is a hoofed animal with the body of a mountain goat and the horns of a gazelle...

On the back of this animal lies the figure of a mountain goat, smaller in scale. The chest and part of the front leg of the central figure are inscribed in the outline of a rearing mountain goat...

In the composition, one can identify two more heads of mountain goats, one of which is inscribed in the contour of the head of a rearing goat, and the second in the croup of the central figure..."

The animals depicted on the combs are 

Siberian ibex (mountain goat)

Goitered gazelle (gazelle)

The mating season of both animals starts in November, at the beginning of winter, making them interchangeable animal calendar markers for beginning of winter and winter itself...This is what the composition on the right comb is trying to tell us...

In nature, ibex lives in the mountains and gazelle live in plains and steppe. So people who lived in the mountains or near mountains used Ibex as the winter calendar marker more. And people who lived in the plains and steppe used Gazelle as the winter calendar marker more...

But they are often found depicted together and in such a way as to point at their symbolic link. Like on this (I think Assyrian, but would love to know for sure) seal on which a winged goddess standing between two Bezoar goats and holding two Goitered gazelles...

These animal calendar markers originate in the Fertile Crescent. From there they spread with the first farmers all over the area where the climatic year was divided into dry and hot part (summer) and wet and cool part (winter)...

In all these areas, farmers used Ibex goats and Goitered gazelles as symbols not just for the beginning of winter, but for the beginning of the wet season, the most important event in the agricultural year...The marker for the beginning of the dry season being bull, cow & calf...

The reason why Ibex became calendar marker for the start of the wet season is because in East Anatolia, Levant, Cyprus, Crete, Naqada (Egypt), Arabia, Mesopotamia, Iran, Bactria...both the rain season and the mating season of Ibex goats and Goitered gazelles starts in Oct/Nov...


The rain season ends when Wild Eurasian cattle, Aurochs, start calving...In Apr/May, today known as Taurus, Bull, but originally marked with cow and calf...Like on this Mesopotamian seal showing two seasons: goat and bull (cow and calf) season...

In Tuva the climate is different. The main rain season is summer, not winter. 



Interestingly, we can see that snowfall and rainfall seasons are demarcated by Apr/May (Bull) and Oct/Nov (Goat). Because of the average temperature, which is above freezing during summer Bull-Goat and below freezing during winter Goat-Bull


I think this is the reason why Goat and Gazelle feature prominently on Tuvan artifacts. But I believe that the symbolism belongs to an imported ritual (belief) system, which came most likely from BMAC or Iran...

You can read about "The Goat of Rain" (Ibex) and its sidekick (Goitered Gazelle) in Bactria in my post "Fluffy"...

You can read about "The Goat of Rain" (Ibex) in Mesopotamia in my posts "Diadem of queen Puabi", "Pissing gazelles", "Larsa goat", "Assur", "Rain and flood"

You can read about "The Goat of Rain" (Ibex) and its sidekick (Goitered Gazelle) in Iran in my posts "Two headed dragon", "Goat petroglyphs from Iran", "Winged bull with ibex horns", "Strider", "A vessel from Tepe Hissar"

You can read more about "The Goat of Rain" (Ibex) in Crete in my posts "Goat riding thunder god", "Sanctuary rhyton", "Cornucopia"

You can read more about "The Goat of Rain" (Ibex) in Cyprus in my post "Goats and partridges"

You can read more about "The Goat of Rain" (Ibex and Markhor) in Egypt in my post "Markhor goat in Naqada"

You can read more about "The Goat of Rain" (Ibex and Markhor) in Levant in my post "Nahal Mishmar hoard"

You can read more about "The Goat of Rain" (Ibex) in Asia Minor in my post "Griffin killing lizard"

You can read more about "The Goat of Rain" (Ibex and Markhor) in Indus Valley in my posts "Seal with narrative scene", "Kharif and Rabi seasons"

Finally you can read more about "The Goat of Rain (Winter)" (Ibex) in Europe in my post "Goat in European culture" and the posts linked from this post...

No comments:

Post a Comment