Persian-Sassanid art patterns

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Shaft-hole Axe Head with Bird-Headed Demon, a Boar, and a Dragon figurine. From Central Asia (Bactria-Margiana), late 3rd - early 2nd millennium BC.
Flying elk with a griffin, from a burial mound at Issyk (5th-4th centuries BC), Kazakhstan

Persian-Sassanide art patterns have similarities with the art of the Bulgars, Khazars, and Saka-Scythians, and have recurred in Asia. They predominantly feature motifs of fighting animals. Gold was frequently used as a base for their art creations.


The characteristic patterns of Persian-Sassanide art exhibit similarities to the art of the Bulgars,[1] Khazars, and Saka-Scythian, and have recurred at different locations in the Central Asia region. A "griffin fighting an elk" motif from the Treasure of Nagyszentmiklós, found in 1799 in what is today Romania, bears similarities with another griffin & elk motif discovered in the tombs of Hsiung-nu[2] (early Huns, also Xiongnu) during Colonel Pyotr Kuzmich Kozlov[3][4] expedition (1907–09) near Urga (Outer Mongolia).[5][6][7]

A gold symbolization of "animals-in-fight" has been also found in the vicinity of the city of Turpan,[8] the principal crossroad of the northern Silk Road. Golden "animals-in-fight" have also been identified as 3rd – 2nd century B.C. Mongolia (or southern Siberia), being characteristic of Hsiung-nu or Xiongnu.

The Art of the Nomads[edit]

The early history of the Nomads is not well recorded, which changed after their contact with cultures possessing written history. Nomadic people of the vast steppes of Asia were a major force in history.[9] Their power was not in the empires they built, but rather the turmoil they created among ancient civilizations such as China or Persia, impacting their historical development substantially.[10] It is believed that the nomads ranged widely, forever moving on for sake of richer grazing for their horses and sheep.[citation needed] Migrations were often seasonal. Their skill at extracting gold was unprecedented.[citation needed] In summer, during the tribe's seasonal migration, a fleece would be weighted on a riverbed to collect particles of alluvial gold. Upon the tribes' return, the fleece would be sheared, burned, and a gold ingot the size of a horse's hoof would result.[citation needed] The tay tayak (the horse's hoof) was a unit of gold for a long period, which was used as a measure of an amount of golden metal rather than money, since gold was not fabricated as currency.[citation needed] Using gold was a spiritual practice, as emblems of priestly office, prizes for physical prowess in ritual sport, or as adornment of the sacral ceremony of marriage.[11]

Art Recursion[edit]

Barthes discusses the art patterns as narratives of cultural coexistence (for details see: Introduction to structural analysis of narratives).[12] However, Spivey summarizes that cultural coexistence is not the single reason to explain the phenomenon of art being recursive.[13] Chomsky at al. argued that the core property of human communication (in a "narrow" sense, including language) is recursion.[14] According to Chomsky at al. recursion is attributed to limited syntax in the conception, with a finite set of elements to yield a potentially infinite array of discrete expressions. Thomas explains the art recursion (in a "broad" sense) with implosion of archetypal structures existing beyond the faculty of human communication.[15] Studying Persian-Sassanide art patterns and possibly their early Nomadic conceptions is uncovering their symbols (symbolism)[16] and creative imagination.[17][18]


  1. ^ Bulgarian's Treasures from the past by Ivan Venedikov, Sava Boyadjiev and Dimiter Kartalev, Foreign Languages Press Sofia 1965, pp. 345-55
  2. ^ The Empire of the Steppes, a History of Central Asia by Rene Grousset (transl. by Naomi Walford), Rutgers University Press, 2005, p.25
  3. ^ Buddha: Radiant Awakening by Jackie Menzies, Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2001
  4. ^ Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe by George B. Schaller, University Of Chicago Press, 2000, p.11
  5. ^ Discoveries of the Kozlov Expedition by W. Perceval Yetts, he Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 48, No. 277 (Apr., 1926), pp. 168-185
  6. ^ The Pazirik Burial of Altai by Eugene A. Golomshtok, M. P. Griaznov in American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1933), pp. 30-45
  7. ^ Recent Russian Archaeological Exploration by W. E. D. Allen in The Geographical Journal, Vol. 69, No. 3 (Mar., 1927), pp. 262-264
  8. ^ The Old Silk Road - From Xi'an to Pamir, Chapter XIII: A Tour of Turpan by Bi Yading, Chinese Intercontinental Press (CIP) 2003, p.121 (ISBN 7-5032-2125-9)
  9. ^ The Perilous Frontier by Thomas J. Barfield, lackwell Publishers, 1989
  10. ^ Warriors of the Steppe by Erik Hildinger, De Capo Press, 1997, pp. 57-92
  11. ^ Kazakhstan, Coming of Age by Michael Fergus and Janar Jandosova, Stacey International 2003, p.106 (ISBN 1-900988-615)
  12. ^ A Barthes Reader by Roland Barthes, Hill & Wang, 1983, p.251
  13. ^ How Art Made the World, A Journey to the Origins of Human Creativity by Nigel Spivey, Bbasic Books 2005, p.89
  14. ^ The Faculty of Language: What is it, Who has it, and How did it evolve? by Marc D. Hauser, Noam Chomsky,W. Tecumseh Fitch in Science (2002), 298, pp.1569-79
  15. ^ Depth Psychology of Art by Shaun McNiff, Charles C. Thomas Publisher, 1989, p.33
  16. ^ Philosophy of Analogy and Symbolism by S. T. Cargill, Kessinger Publishing, 1997, p.13
  17. ^ New Essays on the Psychology of Art by Rudolf Arnheim, University of California Press, 1986, p.31
  18. ^ The Afghan Amulet: Travels from the Hindu Kush by Sheila Paine, Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 2006, p.249

See also[edit]