Cylinder vase

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A cylindrical vase with a wide flat base. The vessel narrows in the middle and widens, although to a lesser extent towards the upper opening. It has a flat thick everted lip. The veining on the surface of the vessel is of note, displaying different tones of ochre, yellow and orange. Clearly, the craftsman knew how to take advantage of the swirling bands of colour of the alabaster to give a sense of movement as a decorative element on the vessel.

The purpose of such a vase is not known. Pieces like this one came from burials and votive offerings. Along with others that make up the typology of stone vessels, together with the well-known column or circular idols, these are all characteristic of the Bactrian material culture.

Bactrian culture is the modern archaeological designation for the Bronze Age culture in Central Asia dating from approximately 2200 - 1700 BC. It was located in present-today Turkmenistan, northern Afghanistan, southern Uzbekistan and western Tajikistan. The Bactria-Margiana Archeological Complex was discovered and named by the Uzbek Viktor Sarianidi in 1976.

Bactria was the Greek name for the area of Bakhlo, the ancient name of a historical region, which today is in northern Afghanistan, and Margiana, which was the Greek name given to the Persian satrapy of Margu, the capital of which was Merv, located in today’s Turkmenistan.

It is defined as a proto-urban civilization. Its inhabited centres extended across the region of western Bactria in a series of agglomerations dominated by fortresses and with a complex almost city-like layout.

Its striking material culture included monumental architecture, bronze tools and pottery and jewellery of semi-precious stones. The Bactria-Margiana Archeological Complex shows many signs of civilization. Many carved seals were produced by this culture. Carved idols, either stylized (as cylinders or disks) or anthropomorphic, of which many variations have been found, are their most outstanding pieces of art. Their significance, particularly in the case of the geometric idols, is still unknown.

This was a civilization that still did not have the use of bronze. Their metallurgy was based on arsenical copper. They developed traditions previously elaborated by the nomad founders from Luristan with the Elamites in Trans-Elamite central Iran and in the western flank of the Iranian valley. Many examples of tools and weapons have been found, among which magnificent axes like this one have been found. Elamite texts, which have been discovered above all in Susa, explain the social function of pieces of this type, which were insignias of high dignitaries given by the king.

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