Akhmedov I.R. Some Remarks on the Genesis of One of the Images of Early Medieval Art

Ilia R. Akhmedov, Senior Researcher, Department of Eastern European And Siberian Archaeology, The State Hermitage Museum, Dvortsovaya Naberezhnaya, 38а, 191181 Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2314-3832

Abstract. The article focuses on the origin of the image of a dragon with a serpentine body known in the early medieval antiquities of Eastern European nomads. Researchers have long been discussing such images found on the sites of the Volga region and the Urals. According to the most recent hypothesis proposed by N.A. Lifanov, these dragon figures generally match the image of ancient κyτος which was adopted as a result of the acquaintance of the steppe inhabitants with works of late antique or early Byzantine art. The present study addresses a wide range of sources allowing us to construct an alternative version of the genesis of the dragon image. The group of images of fantastic creatures associated with early Buddhist art can be found in East Turkestan. They show immediate morphological and stylistic conformity with Eastern European images. They are also similar to the figures of Sogdian mural and plastic arts. East Turkestan’s images reproduce the well-known patterns of the Buddhist art of Gandhara. Gandhara figures originate from the images of κÞτεα and other widespread in Hellenistic art of Bactria sea monsters. KÞτεα which were companions of sea deities in classical mythology were seamlessly included in the decoration of headwear of Buddha sculptures, worship or relic veneration scenes. They are often found on the architectural details of stūpas. Some believe that κÞτεα evolved from the creation of sea into the creation of sea, air, and earth in the Indo-Greek tradition. They became mediators between worlds. Finally, they could exercise some sort of soteriological function. Apparently, Turkic peoples who were actively involved in all processes that took place in Central Asia and East Turkestan could comprehend these properties. So, the κÞτεα images could be reinterpreted and integrated into their imagery.
Key words: Early medieval art, zoomorphic images, cultural contacts, nomads of the Volga and Urals, Central Asia, East Turkestan.
Citation. Akhmedov I.R., 2019. Some Remarks on the Genesis of One of the Images of Early Medieval Art. The Lower Volga Archaeological Bulletin, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 25-46. (in Russian). DOI: https://doi.org/10.15688/nav.jvolsu.2019.2.2
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