Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cultural Influence on Turkmenia from Western Asia

We have seen how Mongolian late Neolithic culture and its successors in the Far East influenced the Mongolians who came down from the Altai mountains and established a Greater Turkmenia than the lands we now know as the 'stans of Central Asia, primarily are discussing the Turkmen who live in Turkmenistan and Afghanistan.

For today's topic let's consider the cultural influence from the West.  In fact, this culture was already there when the Turkmen began to move onto the desert oases in late antiquity, some time after 400 A.D.  There they found the remnants of the Greco-Persian kingdom of Bactria in Afghanistan and in Turkmenistan the Turkmen might have found a few people left from the ruins of the Indo-Iranian Margiana settlement that was closely related to the Bactrians.  Once the Turkoman herders settled in watered areas, they would have begun to find the ritual objects of the early Greek, Persian and Indian cultures.  In Bactria, there was still an Indo-Iranian-Buddhist culture that had reigned as the Kushans, or at least they would have found the huge amounts of cultural remains of it.  The monumental statues of Buddha in Bamiyan come to mind here.  But there was much, much more.  So much more that both archeologists and 'prospectors' are still finding the relics of that culture constantly.

But let's see what I mean when I say that the Bactria-Margiana culture that came from at least as far West as Anatolia (now Turkey, another home of the Turkmen).  But the Turks did not conquer as far West as Turkey until after 1200 A.D.   So when the first Mongol Turks came out of the Altai mountains in the Northern Steppes of Central Asia, they found the successor societies to Bactria and Margiana still steeped in much of the culture of the former residents.

Let us compare a cultural symbol of modern Afghan Turkomans, descended through the Kazakhs of Afghanistan.  It is inscribed on the back of a pendant made in the early part of the twentieth century, around 1930 or 40, I estimate.  Here is the photo and the link to the page that shows the front panel of the pendant:
More about this pendant HERE.

You will see that the figure is a circle of rhomboid shapes with a very faint circle in the middle.  The rhombus circle is so arranged that the eight shapes allow a straight line horizontally and vertically, making the + sign.  Then their arrangement allows one to make a diametrical X along the lines of the rhomboid shapes.  This suggests the symbols on the Bactrian stamp seals on which I find what I believe are meditation images that the Indo-Iranian, especially the Hindi culture, adopted as early as the Late Bronze Age, around 1,500 B. C. and evn earlier.  In the Hindi cultures, they are now called mandalas.   I have a collection of many of them.

Here is an example with just a slight difference in appearance, but a very important difference when understanding that the Mongol Turks never became much like Bactrians.  I believe they only assumed a few acculturations such as making certain images in wood, clay and metal.

Here is the photo and the link to more information on the Bactrian stamp seal
More information available HERE.

You will note that while the Turkoman inscribed design in the first photo above invites the line of sight to travel between the rhomboid shapes, the Bactrian casts the metal stamp seal so the eye follows the same distribution of lines -- horizontal, vertical and diametric -- but the eye begins at the point of the rhombuses and travels to the opposite rhombus tip, no matter whether the line is horizontal, vertical or diametric.  

We see the same distribution of eight shapes, shapes that are hauntingly similar, though the early molds for casting copper and bronze were not nearly as exact at making points as a stylus engraver can be in inscribing the silver pendant.  

I hope this proposition has been at least a bit entertaining, though not scientific.  I invite you to my online shop for the story behind many, many things in my rich collection that I am now selling.  You will find a warm welcome and a ready correspondent at