This paper analyses two objects of Hellenistic taste related to wine consumption unearthed during the archaeological excavations of Akchakhan-kala in Ancient Chorasmia: a fragmentary ivory rhyton and a terracotta mould in the shape of a satyr’s head used to decorate ceramics. These items are only the latest evidence regarding wine consumption and selective reception of Hellenistic culture in 1st century bc-2nd century ad Ancient Chorasmia. Although these two finds show a remarkable Hellenistic influence, it is assured that in Chorasmia wine consumption and vine cultivation were already widespread in the 5th century bc when the local elite used precious vessels of Achaemenid style for their tables and when the lesser strata of the population imitated these toreutics specimens and related practices. Once again the “isolated” Chorasmia shows its remarkable tendency to select foreign artistic/artisanal elements for its crafts and to adopt/import alien status symbols for concepts shared by the elites of the Hellenised east.
The archaeological exploration of the only mountain range of Karakalpakstan, the barren Sultan-uiz-dag/Sultan-uvais, resumed in 2017 after a hiatus of decades since its first archaeological valuation during Soviet times. This paper presents the preliminary results of the first fieldwork season, which focused on the south-eastern spur of the range. The presence of numerous ossuary burials on its summits reveals that the area was used as an extended burial ground for a prolonged period of time. Although most of the ossuaries recorded consist of scattered fragments that had lost their content, an intact cluster of such burials was discovered and excavated (Site 01). The archaeological and osteological evidence gathered from both the survey and the excavation of Site 01 seems to confirm what until now could only be assumed: the Chorasmians strictly followed the ritual and the funerary prescriptions contained in the Avestan Vendīdād (or Vidēvdād). Until the major discovery of the Akchakhan-kala’s Avestan gods, the capacity to archaeologically trace Zoroastrianism was questioned. With due caution, this paper tries to find an answer to the problem regarding the presence of resilient Zoroastrianism in Chorasmia, a polity which entered the “Avestan sphere” apparently in parallel to the Achaemenid conquest.
In this contribution, in view of the striking evidence from the site of Akchakhan-kala which is casting a completely new light on the archaeology of the Chorasmian polity and the Central Asian region, I explore relations between Ancient Chorasmia and its neighbouring regions to the south, in particular Bactriana. I will try to argue that the oft-referred to favoured political relations of Chorasmia with the Arsacid empire, considering all the evidence now at our disposal, have been misjudged. The material culture of Ancient Chorasmia, throughout the history of the region, clearly shows the existence of a privileged, albeit not exclusive, exchange route toward the region to its south. Chorasmia has always been, since its birth in the 6th century BC, a bridge from the sedentary world toward the steppes and a polity with a distinctive culture that the scarcity of written sources has often deprived of historical individuality and speciously relegated to the periphery of modern western historiography, in the shadow of the better-known superregional powers that established control over Asia and Iran.
This paper presents new and decisive evidence relative to the identification of one of the colossal depictions of deities discovered by the Karakalpak-Australian Expedition (KAE) at Akchakhan-kala with the Avestan yazata Sraosha. Besides the therianthropic Sraošāvarez, the explicit Zoroastrian symbol that decorates the tunic of this god, new iconographic details are seen. One is the sraošō.caranā, which is a whip, “the instrument of Srōsh”, held in the hands of one of these “bird-priests” instead of the customary barsom. The symbols are presented and discussed in their historical context.