The religious significance of Wēś is a widely debated topic in the historical and numismatic study of Central Asia, including contributions from several scholars who claimed that the representation of Wēś in early Kushan coinage, particularly in the coins of Vima Kadphises (ca. ce 113–127), was an allusion to the conversion of the king to Shivaism. This paper contests the claim that the certain attributes depicted with Wēś should not be construed as belonging to the Indian god Śiva or the Greek god Heracles. The royal portrait on the obverse of the coinage of Vima Kadphises shows the king taking part in the Iranian practice of sacrificing at a fire altar, which further supports the claim that the depiction on the reverse is of the Iranian god Wēś. This paper also challenges recent studies, which suggest that the representation of Wēś may have served only as a royal cult or merely to announce the personal faith of the king. Therefore, this account seeks to remedy this misconception by pointing to the absence of other types of coins used for normal transactions by ordinary people which could have likewise represented their religious cults. Consequently, this article shows that Wēś was a religiously syncretic phenomenon that displays the religious practice of all levels of Kushan society including both the king and the locals who were mostly Bactrian-Iranian during the early Kushan period rather than Indian.
This second volume of the series offers a broad range of subject matter from an equally broad range of regions. Michael Shenkar compares a particular type of deity from the Parthian West (Palmyra, Hatra) with the colossal image of a divinity from Akchakhan-kala in ancient Choresmia (part of modern-day Uzbekistan). Careful iconographic analysis of a sealing showing the god Mithra, found at Kafir Qala near Samarkand, allows Fabrizio Sinisi to suggest a Kushan origin for the seal that made the impression. Several contributions on Sogdiana concern its archaeology and early history (Bi Bo on Kangju and Sogdiana); the iconography of one of the major wall painting cycles at Panjikent (Matteo Compareti) as well as the city’s temples and deities worshipped (Markus Mode). By drawing on archaeological, ethnological and historical data, Sören Stark offers an extensive discussion of mountain pastoralism and seasonal occupation in northern Tajikistan, north of the Zerafshan River in what were borderlands for Sogdiana. Rounding out the first part of this volume is Suzanne G. Valentine’s publication of a Bactrian camel clay sculpture, excavated in the Sui-Tang capital of Xi’an, its saddlebags decorated with an unusual motif. The second and last part is guest-edited by John Clarke, convener of a Buddhist conference in 2010. This section contains updated or new papers by some of the participants—Naman P. Ahuja on Buddhist imagery in Bengal; Amy Heller on the impact of Kashmiri art on Guge and Ladakh; Deborah Klimburg-Salter on Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Afghanistan; and Michael Willis on sculpture from Sarnath in the British Museum—along with that of Chiara Bellini on the restoration of the Alchi Sumtsek and the dating of the Ladakhi temple.
Table of Contents On Central Asian Art and Archaeology · Michael SHENKAR – “The Chorasmian Gad: On the “Colossal” Figure from Akchakhan-kala” · Fabrizio SINISI – “A Kushan Investiture Scene with Mithra on a Seal Impression from Kafir Qala, Samarkand” · BI Bo – “Recent Archaeological Discoveries Regarding Kangju and Sogdiana” · Matteo COMPARETI – “Simurgh or Farr? On the Representation of Fantastic Creatures in the Sogdian ‘Rustam Cycle’ at Panjikent” · Markus MODE – “In the Heart of the City: On Sogdian Temples and Deities at Panjikent”
On Buddhist Sculpture: Papers from a Symposium held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, November 8 and 9, 2010, and Papers Inspired by the Symposium · John CLARKE (Guest Editor) – “Introduction” · Naman P. AHUJA – “Rethinking the History of Buddhist Imagery in Bengal, circa 200 BCE – 700 CE” · Michael WILLIS – “Markham Kittoe and Sculpture from Sarnath in the British Museum” · Deborah KLIMBURG-SALTER – “Buddhist Pilgrimage to India: Bamiyan, Kapisa · -Kabul, and Mes Aynak” · Amy HELLER – “Tracing the Impact of Kashmiri Art in Guge and Ladakh, Eleventh to Thirteenth Centuries” · Chiara BELLINI – “Some Other Pieces of the Puzzle: The Restoration of the Alchi Sumtsek by Tashi Namgyal and Other Considerations on the Dating of the Ladakhi Temple”
On Far Eastern Art and Archaeology · Bonnie CHENG – “The Underground Silk Road – Pictorial Affinities in Fifth-century Cave Temples and Tombs” · Heather D. CLYDESDALE – “Buried Towers: Artistic Innovation on China’s Frontier” · Suzanne G. VALENSTEIN with Annette L. JULIANO and Judith A. LERNER – “Hellenism in Sui-Tang Chang’an: Dionysiac Imagery on Mortuary Camels” Young-pil KWON – “Note on Border Patterns Dividing the Earthly and Heavenly Realms in Goguryeo Tomb Paintings”
This paper sets out to examine the use of the term in the Chinese chronicles of the period of the Kushan xihou and in coin and stone inscriptions of Kujula Kadphises to illustrate the function of this title for him and interrogate the contextual evidence from these sources for the meaning of this title and its likely origins.
Following her bestselling Life Along the Silk Road, Susan Whitfield widens her exploration of the great cultural highway with a new captivating portrait focusing on material things. Silk, Slaves, and Stupas tells the stories of ten very different objects, considering their interaction with the peoples and cultures of the Silk Road—those who made them, carried them, received them, used them, sold them, worshipped them, and, in more recent times, bought them, conserved them, and curated them. From a delicate pair of earrings from a steppe tomb to a massive stupa deep in Central Asia, a hoard of Kushan coins stored in an Ethiopian monastery to a Hellenistic glass bowl from a southern Chinese tomb, and a fragment of Byzantine silk wrapping the bones of a French saint to a Bactrian ewer depicting episodes from the Trojan War, these objects show us something of the cultural diversity and interaction along these trading routes of Afro-Eurasia.
Susan Whitfield, author of Life Along the Silk Road, is a scholar, curator, writer, and traveler who has been exploring the history, art, religions, cultures, objects, exploration, and people of the Silk Road for the past three decades.
This article deals with the development of Kushan royal imagery as known from coins in the period between the 1st and the 3rd centuries AD, i.e. from the so-called Heraios series to the coins of Vasudeva. The aim is to challenge the traditional interpretative models which ascribed a crucial role to a Roman contribution, and to highlight instead first the role of the local numismatic tradition, which stretched back to the Graeco-Bactrians, and then the influx of patterns of royal imagery of western Iranian—namely Arsacid Parthian—origin, around the time when Vima Kadphises inaugurated a new imperial coinage.
Fabrizio Sinisi is a scholar of Iranian and numismatic studies at the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW), Vienna.
The Gandhara Connections project identifies chronology and dating as one of the key problems outstanding in the study of Gandharan art. Chronology is not only fundamental for establishing the nature of Gandharan art’s connections with the traditions of Greece and Rome, but also for any other systematic attempt to put it in context or explain its development.
The Limits of Empire in Afghanistan: Rule and Resistance in the Hindu Kush, circa 600 BCE-650 CE
In the first millennia BCE and CE, successive empires sought to incorporate the archipelago of territories in and around the Hindu Kush and to install their structures of rule. The Achaemenians, Seleucids, and Sasanians endeavored — and sometimes pretended — to rule regions of Afghanistan from their courts located in the Near Eastern core, upward of 2500 km distant. The Kushans, for their part, made Bactra and Begram the bases of an empire that extended far beyond into India and Central Asia. Apart from distance, these empires confronted a political geography in the Hindu Kush that was — like the Caucasus — uniquely unfavorable to imperial governance, as well as populations with disparate cultures, social structures, and political traditions. Afghanistan thus provides a test of the capacities of ancient imperial regimes to overcome distance, verticality, and difference to integrate territories into their trans-regional and trans-cultural orders. As even a passing familiarity with the history of the region suggests, efforts at empire failed at least as often as they succeeded in a geographical and cultural landscape highly conducive what James Scott calls the “art[s] of not being governed.” The conference aims to focus on the limits of empire in Afghanistan, as a means of better comprehending the workings of the regimes that laid claim to its territories and the responses of its populations.
The conference convenes archaeologists, art historians, historians, philologists, and numismatists to debate current research in the context of ongoing theoretical debates concerning the formation, endurance, and limits of imperial systems within a highland political ecology.
This volume contains 12 studies on political, social, economic, and religious aspects of the history of Central Asia and Iran in the period from the fourth century B.C.E. to the fifth century C.E. by leading specialists in the field. They interpret and reconstructing the region’s past based on various kinds of evidence, including literary, archaeological, linguistic, and numismatic. Some papers present the findings of recent archaeological excavations in Old Nisa and Uzbekistan for the first time.
Harry Falks “Kushan Histories“ discusses new research concerning the Kushan dynasty and is based on a Symposium held from December 5-7th, 2013 in Berlin.
The first part of the book introduces the literary sources. After naming the primary sources and translations a wide range of texts presented chronologically gives an overview of the Kushan history in its totality.
In the second part of “Kushan Histories” five papers deal with different religious, military and cultural aspects of the Kushan dynasty: How were the expansion of Buddhism and the dynasty linked to each other and which role did Zoroastrianism play among the Kushans? How can new geographical perspectives prove the former existence of a military camp of the Kushans north of the Bactra oasis? Which historical data regarding Kanishka’s conquest of India can be drawn from a Bactrian inscription and what did the female deity Nana mean to the Kushans?