Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ancient Eurasian Nomad Horse -saddle and bit

my sketches of the month of March seem to continue in the theme of the Eurasian nomads of old, I hope to your contentment as well. I have been reading various books on the early horse ridding and steppe horse-human interactions, and naturally I am drawn to the subject. When I'll have finished these books, then I will discuss some of the articles here - one has an an interesting ( two archaeologists and veterinarian co-authored it) critique of Saka/Scythian early saddles, and I must share my thoughts here, for I strongly disagree on what the conclusions they made. Please note that I am a strong partisan of Dr Anthony argument for early horse domestication on the Eurasian steppe, and I would like to critique some of the ideas of the opposing school - note my entry on this subject  here horse domestication dilema  But this will come some time this Spring, I hope.
Let us go back to the subject of ancient saddle and bit - well, our ancestors the Eurasian nomads used mostly snaffle bit - we do not know whether they also used a jakima/hackamore,  but they might have done that. But instead of snaffle rings they used 'psalia'- bronze, iron or wooden cheekpieces (solid round  or solid elongated pieces) that usually had three holes in it, one in the middle for the snaffle ends to pass, so reins will be attached to these ends, and two on both sides of the middle hole, where cheekstraps were attached, thus connecting the bit with the bridle.

The briddles  found in Pazyryk Kurgans in the Altai Mountains(Russia), in other kurgans of the Altai's Ukok Plateau in Russia, in the Tarim Basin (Uiguristan -China), on th Persian Apadana frieze, have not throatlatch, but a strap that runs from the middle of the cheekstrap under the lower part of mandible/jaw to the other side of the horse head.

The saddle was made of tho cushions (wool or horsehair stuffed leather 'rolls') held with wooden spacers along the horse's spine, with decorative leather or wooden frontelets/archers, thus creating a pommel and cantle-like part of the saddle( it may be worth noting that the current Argentine gaucho saddles have a type that is so very similar to this ancient nomad saddle).

Over the front, middle, and rear part of the cushions run leather straps, the middle one usually attached to the girth/cinch, but it could have been the front one two, as shown in some steppe art. The leather breastplate was attached to the girth, and secured with another leather strap coming across the withers, and usually the point of attachment of the breastplate and 'withers' strap was  covered with an adornment, later a metal disc, known by its Roman name 'Phalera.' The leather crouper was attached to the saddle's rear, the cantle, and at first had  adornments, but later also acquired its share of splendid artwork.

Tails were usually wrapped with leather and felt (felt was the textile of choice with these peoples) and forelock tied with some colorful ribbon, similar mystically or spiritually charged traits can be found in the horsemanship of the American Indians of the Great Plains. Ears were often notched (Pazyryk and other finds attest to this), perhaps a sign of ownership, and the  Sarmatians branded their horses with marks of ownership or tamgas. Saddles were then covered with a 'shabraque,' usually made out of felt, and the most famous and best preserved were found in the Altai - like in this drawing of mine  http://dariocaballeros.blogspot.com/2011/03/scythian-horse-sketch.html
 or could have a saddle pad underneath  the saddle like in this  drawing of mine http://dariocaballeros.blogspot.com/2009/09/nomad-sketch-update.html
 Well, it is getting late so  I shall finish for now, but rest assured that subject of ancient Eurasian saddlery will be continued in more installments...
My sketch is a ball pen drawing, with an acrylic wash over it, then GIMP and MyPaint.
Great German equine sculptor http://www.koblischek-art.net/englisch/index.htm

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Another Indo-Saka 'fantasia'

 continuing with the spirit of Nowruz, I sketched couple more Indo-Saka  archers, and here you can find a sketch that has been manipulated, colors changed etc.
My intention was to show an Indo-Saka horse archer  dressed in silk or cotton garments, that are rather see-through. The sketch is not finished as I must work on it more, eg. add a bridle with reins, and plenty of jewelry to this man's costume. The idea for the bow comes from  two famous and knowledgeable bowyers, Adam Karpowicz and Stephen Selby, work on the Scythian bows from Western China corresponding to the Saka/Scythian (and Tocharian) tribes of the eastern Eurasian steppe, Bactria and Gandhara - the article to be had :) Scythian bow atarn 2010

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Nowruz e Shoma Pirooz & 'Fantasia ' on the Indo-Scythian theme

I have been testing new brushes and 'upped' GIMP thanks to splendid work of monsieur David Revoy, one excellent French artist and open-source software developer, - his great website  http://www.davidrevoy.com/portfolio.html

Nowruz  or New Year - of the almost three thousand year old Iranian tradition - is approaching fast March 20-24 (even in Uiguristan or Tarim Basin, China) and my 'compadre' Dr Kaveh Farrokh, whose new book on the Qajar (Kadjar) and later Iranian military history  from Osprey will come out this summer,  has a very nice article on his website about the Nowruz tradition

Happy Nowruz to all my Iranian, Kurdish and Turkish (from Europe to Tarim Basin) readers, and to all who would like to celebrate this ancient holiday!
As I am scratching my shaved head with my Wacom 'brush-pen'  I think I may still 'paint' something for the Nowruz - perhaps shahanshah Dārayavahuš and his neighing Nissean stallion :)
 the sketch above is a pure fantasy - but does have some elements of the Iranian (Median) horse tack from around VII century BC, Indo-Scythian attire from around I century AD, and Sarmatian and Parthian  short sword III-I century BC.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sketches novae II

some sketches and work in progress: from Scythia to early modern Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.... and as usual some horses.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sarmatian Warrior of Kosika Vessel

we, Polish people, used to call ourselves 'Sarmaci' (the Sarmatians) after the dragon-standard wielding equestrians who formed  tribal confederacies on the Eurasian steppe en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarmatians  (fine book on the Sarmatian warriors is messer Mielczarek's  The Sarmatians from Osprey), and in Roman-influenced Europe fought the Imperial Rome and her allies. They might have  given to the  Western Europe many of later equestrian culture elements, amongst others,  the basis for the Arthurian legends (famous book From Scythia to Camelot) eg  magtudin.org/Arthur%20part%201.htm and the mounted, lance wielding knight (Sasanid Persian learned from them too) sarmatian-gold
In the late Medieval Poland, then emerging powerful state in personal union with Duchy of Lithuania,  the idea of the Polish nation (i.e. nobles and gentry) descending from the Sarmatians was adopted wholeheartedly  and consequently elaborated and woven into our cultural and socio-political fabric, including our own model of democracy and election of kings (sadly they did not follow with the arts similar to Sarmatians, whose work was full of mythical creatures, eagles, horses etc  )
Anyone who has had the opportunity to peruse the book Land of the Winged Horsemen -can be had from Amazon.com  amazon.com/Land-Winged-Horsemen-Poland-1572-1764/dp/0300079184   - can see how serious our Polish nobles were in their pursuit of that mythological, cultural and to large extend a political theme theme.
Generally speaking we Slavic peoples had plenty of contacts with the Sarmatians, reflected in our pagan religious traditions and folk customs, vocabulary, love of horses and color red, and our Polish heraldry reflects the tamgas (property marks) used by the Sarmatians on their mounts and weapons etc, while the very Serbian and Croats (divided now by religion, alphabet, and by the  tragic 1990s wars) are thought to have originated as a direct mixture of Sarmatian warriors (both male and female) and Slavic tribal people.

The object shown above is one of the famous Kosika vessels, also shown here- www.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=7466337662455429678  the fragments of several silver vessels from the south Russian steppe in the Astrakhan region have been found and ever since  have given us plenty of fine images of mounted Sarmatian warriors. The second image comes from another Kosika vessel and  my 9 years old son Jasio's drawing comes from that other Kosika vessel showing a armored lancer.
Reading - some sugestions
A good book to read on the Sarmatians is the work of Tadeusz Sulimirski titled 'The Sarmatians' , on the Roman era Bosporan Kingdom  that Sarmatians ruled 'The Army of the Bosporan Kingdom' by already mentioned Polish scholar Mariusz Mielczarek  and much older chapter in the Cambridge Ancient History by Rostovtzeff ,  article about migrations by Vinogradov  http://www.pontos.dk/publications/books/bss-1-files/BSS1_18_Vinogradov.pdf , on Sarmatian art - the Golden Deer of Eurasia, and also  a part of a book on European Nomads, a joint work by various scholars, already linked several posts ago in this entry dariocaballeros.blogspot.com/2011/03/scythian-horse-sketch.html

Today's musings  shall not be the end of Sarmatian thread, I hope to write and illustrate  many more entries  devoted to the Sarmatian warriors (both female and male) and their equestrianism. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Daylight saving time - if only a horse could laugh

 in US of A. almost all the states will change to so called Daylight Saving Time tonight (well,  this night - from Saturday to Sunday). Two exceptions - Arizona and distant Hawaii, wise people I should say, for
Good time will return in November. This simplemindedness will also be followed in Europe, a week later or so I think - my horse commentary on it:
Scientists say this time change is harmful to us, humans http://www.falw.vu.nl/en/Images/merrow%20d_tcm24-30739.pdf
 while so much drummed up energy savings are at best... nominal...

God have mercy on the people of Japan, especially of the Northern Japanese Islands.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Scythian Horse sketch

Since I have not done any writing on the Scythians for a while, I am going to correct this a bit as it reflects my current reading and drawing.

As it may be rather evident from this blog  the European or more precise Eurasian horsepeople of the late Bronze Age and Iron Age are one my fascinations and a reason for  this neverending  desire to read  and find out more about them.
In order to study them one needs to read Russian language publications  and German ones (I do not read German at the level that reading more than a picture caption is Herculean task) , and last 15 years the English language ones have been slowly becoming available, mostly because Russian language scholars have started to write in English. I have to say that in the  early XX the subject was studied in Europe and American but the Soviet Union and Communist China  nightmare across most of the Europe and Asia stopped contacts between the scholars and impeded research on the ancient Eurasian peoples.  War in Afghanistan - from Soviet invasion through civil war and Taliban rule to present Euro-American occupation - prevented research in that very important centre of ancient civilization of the Eurasian people, where perhaps one of the centers of the most ancient civilization originated - Bactria-Margiana Complex (BMC), and from BMC civilization area -Central Asia- the bronze tools, horses etc might have been spread by the Eurasian peoples to China, giving raise to Shang Chinese empire. In context of the XX century Western scholars working on the ancient Eurasian peoples we  should never forget the names of Mikhail Ivanovich Rostovtzeff, Tadeusz Sulimirski, Otto Meanchen-Helfen, or Rene Grousset - books they wrote are still great  journeys into the Eurasian horsepeoples past.

I have been reading several books on the Scythian-Saka horse tack and  riders - most of them in Russian (but there are some very interesting English ones too, written by Russian, European and American researchers  eg  this website dedicated tot he study of Eurasian nomads  under the aegis of Jeannine Davis-Kimball is a great research net library www.csen.org/Articles_Reivews/Bibliography.html  - you can download there this very important book  csen.org/Pubs_Sales_Reviews/Nomads/Nomad-188579-00-2.pdf   )  or in English  where they are evaluating Russian (and combined/joint Russian, Ukrainian and Euro-American research in the Eurasian plains and Caucasus foothills of Russia.
Generally fascinating topic, especially the big 'fight' between scholars regarding the time of horse's domestication in Eurasian plains (Anthony/Brown et al - their wonderful site is here   http://users.hartwick.edu/anthonyd/harnessing%20horsepower.html -  versus Marsha Levine et al, a very prolific researcher eg her article on Botai  http://faculty.ksu.edu.sa/archaeology/Publications/Neolithic/Botai%20and%20the%20Origins%20of%20Horse%20Domestication.pdf - here one of the projects this scholar  is involved the chariot horse in Shang Bronze Age Chine  http://www.arch.cam.ac.uk/~ml12/ChinPalaeoWebsite/introduction.htm )

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

XVI century pilgrims going to Jerusalem - German woodcut I

yesterday I presented this whole woodcut and today, as promissed, some more thoughts on the lance-armed riders of this German woodcut.

From what we can see they are armed with long lances – perhaps 2,5-3,5 meters long, in tradition of Syria, Palestine and Egypt made out of bamboo, adorned with some horse hair or cotton at the lance point.
We do not see if they carry swords (mode of sword arrangement and kind of sword -straight or curved, could have told us more about these riders) , and they do not carry bows and quivers set, in a Bedouin fashion.
The carry round shields, either slung from the shoulder or in hand, similar shields appear in drawings by Carpaccio. They were most likely wicker-silk construction, a metal Iranian Safavid make or perhaps a metal heirlooms of the not-so-distant Mamluk era.

They seem to have two styles of ridding, the closer rider rides with long stirrups and the second with a short stirrups . The both use very long shanked curb-bits (perhaps after the German fashionable imports) on their steeds and single set of reins, but I drew my sketch with a martingale or perhaps a third rein known as a jaquima (hackamore) after a Mamluk horseman in Reception of Venetian ambassadors in Damascus (school of Bellini, 1489-96). Sipahi horses have no tug or horse tail hanging from the bridle, similar to the Mamluk horsemen drawn by Carpaccio.
Both horses are caparisoned and their shabraque is fringed on one side. We see no saddles, but they were most likely the high pommel and cantle saddles of the Mamluk-Turkish make.
Their horses appear to be some sort of Arabian or South-eastern Asian horse (eg in XIV-XVI centuries the Mamluks imported their best horses from India), rather small but spirited demonstrated by the second horse prancing. They are well 'dressed' (via French Dresseur) and proud mounts, ridden with light hand, probably neck-reined. We do not know whether these are stallions/ geldings or mares, but contemporary Turks rode stallions and geldings , while Arab Bedouins rode also mares.

The riders are dressed in more fluid Arab style of clothing – long robe with wide sleeves or galabiyeh/djelaba, loose kameez? shirt underneath, pants, sleepers for footwear, and turbans, perhaps covering their helmets.
Until the next time, my friends..
I used several publications by dr David Nicolle to write this little entry, my 'best friend' when comes to Medieval and Early Modern Islamic warrior dress and appearance