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On an Enigmatic Deity with a Dragon on a Chorasmian Silver Bowl from Dagestan

In: Iran and the Caucasus
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  • 1 University of Venice “Ca’ Foscari”, Venice, Italy
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At least five specimens constituting the small group of Chorasmian silver vessels present an image of the Mesopotamian goddess Nana who was very popular in pre-Islamic Central Asia. One silver bowl found in Dagestan at present kept in the State Hermitage Museum is embellished with the image of a deity sitting on a dragon whose identity is not clear. Scholars considered this deity to be a woman because of her clean-shaven face, long hair and garments. However, Kushan rulers had been representing on their coins one Zoroastrian god as a woman since the 2nd century A.D. He was Tir, the god of the planet Mercury who had connections to the Avestan rain god Tishtrya. Despite the problematic associations between Tir and Tishtrya, Central Asian peoples had superimposed this Zoroastrian god to Mesopotamian Nabu who was the patron of scribes and the original “husband” of Nana. Nabu’s symbolic animal was a dragon that is very similar to the one on the Chorasmian bowl from Dagestan. Most likely, Chorasmian artists kept reproducing on their metalwork iconographic elements that originated in Mesopotamia after adapting them to their own religious and cultural sphere.

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