Sunday, September 11, 2011

Symbols of the Turkoman Tribal Jewelry

The Turkoman jewelry by the period from 1850 to 1950 had settled into traditional patterns of expression for the Turkoman (Turko-Mongol) world view.  These patterns prevailed throughout the nations in which the Tukic people were either wandering or settled into cities or cultivated areas.  The Turkoman had spread through that region from about the 1200s, but museums do not have large collections of much earlier pieces made by these once nomadic people.

Let's begin our discussion of Turkoman jewelry by looking at a piece that carries so much obvious symbolism that it can be called an important expression of the totem or amuletic properties in the jewelry of that tribe's culture.
Turkoman gold-washed silver amulet with prayers inside

Before the discussion of symbols begins, let me acknowledge the work of Dieter and Reinhold Schletzer, Old Silver Jewellery of the Turkoman, 1983 as the source of much of the information I am able to provide on this blog.  

This amulet contains prayers of blessing and protection for the wearer.  They are written on paper and encased between the front panel and a silver backing.  They are still inside though this piece dates from around 1900-1930, made by a member of the Western Yomud tribe.  

The amulet is appropriately filled with ancestor symbols: the ram's horn.  You first see how they are symbolized by the attachments at the top of the amulet: the curved forms between the attachments of the medallion-decorated chain.  Then again the 5 rows of mirror-image ram's horns that divide the carnelian cabochon gemstones.  

Messrs. Schletzer write in the work noted above that "The two main features of Turkoman mythological consciousness until well into the 19th century were an undifferentiated, sacral belief in passive nature gods and the ancestor cult. "

The floral and ram's horns motifs on the piece in the photo reflect that spirituality, especially fitting for a container for prayers - an amulet.

The diagonal cross that divides the ram's horns on this piece is also a powerful symbol used over and over again in their jewelry as an expression of the seasonal cycle and mankind's life cycle.

The Western Yomud tribe had some gifted silversmiths and we will discuss the craft later, but for the moment, we will be discussing the symbolism and providing examples.

For more information on this particular piece, see
CraftsofthePast at

No comments:

Post a Comment