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Enigmatic relationship of ancient Ural culture with SasaniAN dynasty


By: Svetlana Kameneva

Perm State University,

Perm, Russia


All ancient tribes of wanderers in Eurasia had similar traditions of art, which were given the nomenclature: Animal Style. Usually, Animal Style referred to the subjects of metallic artistic casting with images of animals, or man together with animals.

The Animal Style is based on a certain way of depicting animals and birds when some of their characteristic features - paws, fangs, claws, horns, etc.- are exaggerated. Most of such finds of the Animal Style in Russia were made in the Ural mountains and the area between the Volga and Kama rivers. This has allowed one to select a whole direction - Perm Animal Style. The Perm Animal Style had formed about the first millennium BC) under conditions of the relative isolation of the Northern Kama regions. Its main topics and the manner were determined by the surrounding nature, man’s activity and social structure of that time and remained unchanged up to the Russian colonization of this territory in the XVII century A.D.

One of the main riddles of Perm Animal Style, which hitherto had not been explained is: On the north of the Perm region were discovered more than sixty hidden treasures of Iranian, Byzantine and middle-Asian objects of silver.  This find bore witness to ancient trade and cultural relations of these people, divided by an enormous distance.

Archaeologists proved that the traditional Iranian silver saucers VI-VII centuries A.D. were used by the local population for different rites up to the XIX century. The Iranian saucer of Sasanian epoch (photo) was found in 1967 in the village Bolshaya Anikovskaya on the Vishera river in the Perm region. Earlier, in the same place were discovered seven Iranian saucers. The saucer in the photo is unique, by drawings done on both sides by the hand of shaman in the IX-X centuries. There are animals, fish, birds, sun and shamans in masks. In the small northern area of the Perm region, were found more than 200 Iranian silver saucers of the VI-VII centuries. Such a large accumulation of Iranian art has not been discovered in other parts of Russia.

So, the riddle remains: Why were objects with definite religious features, pertaining to Zoroastrian cults in Iran, and which are dated in one and the same period of fabrication – the Sasanian epoch, imported in such quantities into a country absolutely alien by culture? Maybe the culture of the local inhabitants was not alien to the Iranian culture, and in fact they too were Zoroastrians?

Some authors suggest quite fantastic hypotheses, in trying to explain the dating of the saucers. Sasanian dynasty was the last dynasty of Zoroastrian Iran. They consider, that during the Arab conquest of Iran, part of the Zarathushti population, trying to save their spiritual tradition, migrated not to the south and into India, but went north. They decided to seek asylum to the north in their Aryan motherland. But in that case, where is Ural Parsis? Regrettably, no written sources exist about local inhabitants of the Ural up to the X century, when these lands would have been visited by merchant expeditions from Novgorod. In the XII century, Ural or "country Visu", was visited by the well-known Arabic traveler Al Garnati Abu Hamid. He wrote more extensive records about the local inhabitants and too many unrealistic, mythology events. So, we have extremely scanty information about this land in the X-XII centuries, but know absolutely nothing about events, which occurred here in the VII century. The next unsolved question is: Why local shamans, for their own rituals, had chosen Iranian saucers, rather than Byzantine or Bulgar bowls and saucers, which too were from silver and even from silver with gilt?

One more amazing fact is that Iranian saucers of the Sasanian dynasty were found not only in Ural, but similar discoveries were made amongst tribes of horps in Tibet. In the end of the XIX century and beginning of the XX century, two Russian expeditions: First of General Kozlov and later the expedition of Nicholas Roerikh. Both found a few subjects of Animal Style in Tiber. Amongst the objects discovered by the expedition of General Kozlov in the Noin-Ul mountains, was a bronze buckle with relief, on which was expressed a bull with its head lowered and turned to the left. After publishing the report of expedition, Mr Persival Yets had written article about the amazing resemblance of this buckle with one of the finds of Perm Animal Style. The ornamentatin of this buckle was practically identical to the image on the Sasanian silver plate, which was found in the upper reaches of the Kama river. Regrettably, the text does not say whether the tibetian buckle was of Iranian origin or made by local inhabitants. One more aspect common to the cultures of the inhabitants of Ural and Tibet, is copper and bronze statuettes of animals in Animal Style, which were sewed onto leather bags for flints as decorations until XX century.

There are still so many questions which await research and explanation. We shall be grateful to all who will help us in our endeavors to solve these riddles.





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