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Orlat Battle Plaque\'s Importance
#16
I fear I still haven't researched the development of these sword hilts as a means of dating the plaques. But we did field two Orlat style quivers last weekend. I was very pleased with the way they worked, worn on the right hand side. My only issue was when I got my kontos caught up with my quiver in a practice run. I used it with both a 3m spear and a 4m kontos and soon learned how not to get the weapons caught in it.


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John Conyard

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#17
Great photos, John!

I can see where you might have problems with the length & bulk of these Orlat-styled quiver/cases. You certainly had a more exciting weekend than I did at the traditional archery symposium.

Here is more stuff I can add to my theory that the Orlat plaque and the Chinese-styled swords found in the Ural-to-Don regions, and again in the Bosphorus, are all connected. Perhaps even pinpointed to the battle of 162BC in the Ili Valley. The conflict had the Wusun (aka Massagetae/Alans) with help from Laoshang's Xiongnu (Huns) fighting the Yuechi who were approaching from the east or right-hand side of the plaque. The Novosibum articles identify the armor as Massagetae, but all three tribes lived adjacent to one another. Here are some close-up pics of two swords:
[attachment=804]orlatswords002.JPG[/attachment]
[attachment=805]orlatswords004.JPG[/attachment]
The two swords have long two-handed grips, about 20 to 22cm, and the pommels show the a shape described today as "disc" or "diamond." The artist depicted the bows and bow-cases exactly correct in detail. So, then, he also showed accurate sword features.

Here are photos of Late Warring States and Han Chinese pommels, plus the one on my reproduction:
[attachment=806]orlatswords008.JPG[/attachment]
They are all early styles, and variants on the diamond or disc theme.

Here are the sword grips, showing pommels and the grip-guards, although the guards are not jade but brass (I can't afford jade):
[attachment=807]orlatswords012.JPG[/attachment]
These grips are 20 to 22cm long and the top two derive from the original swords now in museums. Top: Zhan Gao sword, late Warring States. Middle: Emperor Wudi sword, c. 150BC. And Bottom: my Wusun Cavalry sword.

These swords are similar to the early Sarmatian examples, especially the Aksai Kurgan 2 sword at the Volga-Don, "not earlier than 150BC" and with a 22cm grip. That's why I think the imperial Chinese swords, the Orlat swords, and the Volga-Don and Bosporus swords, all have a common root.


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Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
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#18
I too have long been fascinated by this plaque. Thanks to all for the information here. I just wanted to add my thoughts. First, I'm not entirely sure about the timeline re: the Yuezhi laid out here. Craig Benjamin* has a somewhat different timeline for the battles and movements of the Yuezhi, summarized here (all dates BCE):

176 - First raid of Xiongnu against Yuezhi in Gansu.
173 - Yuezhi defeat the Wusun in battle.
162 - Final defeat and expulsion of Yuezhi from Gansu. Part of the Yuezhi migrate to Ili valley and defeat/expel the local Sakas, who move south and eventually become known to us as the Indo-Scythians.
132 - Wusun attack Yuezhi and drive them from Ili valley.

Regardless of the exact dating, this gives us several battles to choose from if indeed the plaques show a battle from this period:

Xiongnu defeat Yuezhi
Yuezhi defeat Wusun
Yuezhi defeat Saka
Wusun defeat Yuezhi

Since the plaques were found near Samarkand, which is (I think) Yuezhi territory rather than that of the Wusun, I might guess that the plaques show a Yuezhi victory rather than defeat. If we are to date the plaques to this period and had to pick one of the battles listed above, I might choose the Yuezhi defeat of the Sakas. On the other hand, I imagine there are numerous other battles that could be depicted, or even fictional ones.

On another note, do we know that the artists who created these plaques always show west as left and east as right? This could affect the identification of the battle as well.

Finally, in addition to the similarities of the Orlat armor to the armor depicted at Khalchyan (Yuezhi, most likely) and the Tashtyk people as has been mentioned, I also see similarities to the armor of the Indo-Scythians as seen on their coins of the 1st century BCE. I'm not sure how the armor affects the dating or cultural attribution of the plaques, though, as this armor style seems relatively widespread and long-lived in Central Asia.

*http://www.transoxiana.org/Eran/Articles/benjamin.html
-Michael
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#19
I read this thread when it was first posted a little while ago, but I haven't had time to post a comment until now.

The most recent comprehensive article on the Orlat plaques is J.Y. Ilyasov and D.V. Rusanov, "A Study on the Bone Plates from Orlat," in Silk Road Art and Archaeology 5 (1997/8), which surveys all the past literature on the plaques and then adds some new observations. As far as dating is concerned, Pugachenkova, who, as the plates' excavator, provided the earliest analysis, followed by Abdullaev, dated them to the 2nd-1st c. BC; Marshak to the 3rd-4th c. AD; Litvinsky to the 2nd-3rd c. AD; Brentjes to the late 2nd-early 3rd c. AD; Nikonorov to the 2nd-4th c. AD; and Azbelev to the 4th-5th c. AD. When dealing with the date of an object like the Orlat battle plaque in which individual features or objects depicted could have been used over a long time period, it is important to take any and all chronological markers into consideration and then establish the termini post quem for the object.

Some points:

1. The plates themselves have been shown conclusively by Ilyasov and Rusanov to be belt plaques. Similar belt plaques were in use among the Saka from the 5th c. BC onwards, but the only parallels for the specific shape, form, and size of the Orlat plaques comes from Gandharan art: a sculpture from Dalverzintepe, 3rd-4th c. AD shows very similar belt buckles being worn, while the famous statue of Kanishka from Mathura, 2nd c. AD, shows belt plaques similar in form, albeit smaller, being worn.

2. As far as the swords are concerned, this type of sword, like the scabbard slide, was in widespread use in China by 2nd c. BC, but we do not find it outside of China until later. Likewise, the scabbard slide is not found west of China before the 1st c. AD, so the plaque cannot date to earlier than that time period. Moreover, the actual sword found in barrow 2 with the plaques, which is of exactly the type shown on the plaques, is datable no earlier than the 1st c. AD.

3. The gorytus type depicted on these plaques, with two long tubes for holding arrows attached, is only found after the 1st c. AD.

The burial itself (Orlat Barrow no. 2) dates to the 1st c. AD at the earliest according to the most recent research, but that doesn’t indicate the date of the plaques as they very well could have been passed down through the generations. Pugachenkova, who was pretty much the only scholar to examine these plaques in some detail and date them to the centuries BC, did so primarily based on the chronology of the Orlat burial ground as a whole, believing that its burials could be dated to between the 2nd c. BC and 2nd c. AD; given recent research which shows that the barrow in which the plaques were found dates to the 1st c. AD, this view is untenable.

There are numerous other aspects that could be examined, but the bottom line is that the Orlat battle plaque and the other plaques found with it cannot date to before the 1st c. AD, and thus cannot represent Yuezhi, Xiongnu, or other such steppe tribes which were active in the 2nd c. BC.
Ruben

He had with him the selfsame rifle you see with him now, all mounted in german silver and the name that he\'d give it set with silver wire under the checkpiece in latin: Et In Arcadia Ego. Common enough for a man to name his gun. His is the first and only ever I seen with an inscription from the classics. - Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
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#20
Thanks for the imput, Lysimachos. Much appreciated.

Quote:I too have long been fascinated by this plaque. Thanks to all for the information here. I just wanted to add my thoughts. First, I'm not entirely sure about the timeline re: the Yuezhi laid out here. Craig Benjamin* has a somewhat different timeline for the battles and movements of the Yuezhi, summarized here (all dates BCE):

176 - First raid of Xiongnu against Yuezhi in Gansu.
173 - Yuezhi defeat the Wusun in battle.
162 - Final defeat and expulsion of Yuezhi from Gansu. Part of the Yuezhi migrate to Ili valley and defeat/expel the local Sakas, who move south and eventually become known to us as the Indo-Scythians.
132 - Wusun attack Yuezhi and drive them from Ili valley.

Benjamin's timeline differs from others, but the gist is a full generational war that was finally won by the Wusun (aided by the Huns). I believe this final battle-- the most important-- is the one shown on the Orlat plaque.

Quote:Since the plaques were found near Samarkand, which is (I think) Yuezhi territory rather than that of the Wusun.... If we are to date the plaques to this period and had to pick one of the battles listed above, I might choose the Yuezhi defeat of the Sakas.

Whatever we call them, the Saka/Wusun/Sarmatians/Alans took over the Samarkand area in the mid-2nd century BC and held it until the 2nd century AD. There are Saka arrowheads in old Samarkand graneries, and not far from the city we have the famed Sarmatian burial of the "Koktepa Princess," buried in the 1st century AD with a Han Dynasty mirror. (see Grenet, Archaeology Odessey, Oct. 2003)

Quote:On another note, do we know that the artists who created these plaques always show west as left and east as right? This could affect the identification of the battle as well.

All steppe cultures used the sun for "navigation." The Saka and Sarmatians orientated graves north to south. We know how they viewed the sun's movement from the design of the oldest Indo-European symbol, the swastika-- (see attachment below) It's on a bronze ring dated to the exact time-period under discussion. The symbol represents the sun as a chariot wheel, and it "rolls" counterclockwise, right to left, or east to west, with an orientation facing north. This is the same orientation depicted on the plaque.

I believe the plaque commemorates the last and most important battle-- the end of the war. Without a viable argument that this plaque dates to the 3rd to 5th century AD, as some claim, I think the bow cases, the swords, and especially the long sword grips, fall between the 2nd century BC to the earl 2nd century AD.


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Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
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#21
Hello MeinPanzer,

Quote:I read this thread when it was first posted a little while ago, but I haven't had time to post a comment until now.
Some points:

2. As far as the swords are concerned, this type of sword, like the scabbard slide, was in widespread use in China by 2nd c. BC, but we do not find it outside of China until later. Likewise, the scabbard slide is not found west of China before the 1st c. AD, so the plaque cannot date to earlier than that time period. Moreover, the actual sword found in barrow 2 with the plaques, which is of exactly the type shown on the plaques, is datable no earlier than the 1st c. AD.

If the plaque was an heirloom, which seems the case, there is no reason that it cannot be older than the accompaning sword. And how much later do we find long-gripped Chinese-styled swords outside of China?

Please remember that the scabbard slide was developed north-west of China by the Saka themselves. It has steppe roots, probably adopted by the Chinese about two centuries after its 5th century BC invention in the Altai.

Quote:There are numerous other aspects that could be examined, but the bottom line is that the Orlat battle plaque and the other plaques found with it cannot date to before the 1st c. AD, and thus cannot represent Yuezhi, Xiongnu, or other such steppe tribes which were active in the 2nd c. BC.

In the post just above, we find the Wusun/Saka precisely in this geograpical area until the 2nd century AD. Other tribes mentioned-- especially the Xiongnu-- were neighboring this area during the time-period under discussion.

At the same time, we find all of these innovations-- the scabbard slide, the disc pommel, the bow case with two quivers-- on Bosporan stelae before the 2nd century AD. The Bosporus is somewhere around 2,000 km northeast and represents a cultural borrowing from the Sarmatians/Alans who migrated to that vicinity. We are talking about the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD but no later. It's certainly possible that this famous battle was finally recorded on the plaque years AFTER it was actually fought, but to pinpoint the participants as other than Wusun, Huns, or Yuezhi, is an impossibily with the migrational progression.
Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
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#22
Quote:If the plaque was an heirloom, which seems the case, there is no reason that it cannot be older than the accompaning sword. And how much later do we find long-gripped Chinese-styled swords outside of China?

That's true, but the other features provide termini post quem for the 1st c. AD, and the sword just strengthens this identification. As for the use of this style of sword after the 1st c. AD outside of China, Ilyasov and Rusanov discuss several such swords found around Samarkand and Bukharan Sogd dating to the 2nd-3rd c. AD, along with numerous from late Sarmatian complexes of the 2nd-4th c. AD.

Quote:Please remember that the scabbard slide was developed north-west of China by the Saka themselves. It has steppe roots, probably adopted by the Chinese about two centuries after its 5th century BC invention in the Altai.

Trousdale posits that the scabbard slide emerged "in the seventh or sixth century B.C. in the region of the southern Ural mountains and adjacent steppe areas" (p.118), but based on the following line of reasoning: the earliest scabbard slides come from China and date to the late 5th c. BC, but Trousdale thinks that they must have originated from a steppe model; because long swords appeared in the region of the Urals and the steppe to the east two centuries earlier than in China, the long sword and scabbard slide must have been introduced eastwards from the Ural steppe to China.

But there are problems with this. Firstly, this assumption rides on the fact that the scabbard slide and long sword are inextricably linked, and thus one could not emerge without the other. But the evidence is fairly clear: many long swords have been found in steppe graves of the centuries BC without a single scabbard slide being found, while the scabbard slide was in use in China for centuries before the long sword was introduced. In neither case are we dealing with a dearth of evidence. But we know also from Cimmerian evidence that long swords were carried well before there is any evidence of scabbard slides being in existence. Secondly, the evidence of influence between the Urals and China in the centuries BC is overwhelmingly westward moving, which makes it much likelier that the scabbard slide moved from China to the west rather than vice versa.

So I do not think Trousdale has provided sufficient evidence to support the idea that the scabbard slide emerged outside of China.

Quote:At the same time, we find all of these innovations-- the scabbard slide, the disc pommel, the bow case with two quivers-- on Bosporan stelae before the 2nd century AD. The Bosporus is somewhere around 2,000 km northeast and represents a cultural borrowing from the Sarmatians/Alans who migrated to that vicinity. We are talking about the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD but no later.

These innovations had indeed reached the Bosporus (and in some cases even Bulgaria) by the 1st c. AD, but this only tells us that the movement of technology from east to west was extremely rapid during the 1st c. BC - 1st c. AD, as it had been since the late 4th c. BC. Again, local archaeology from Sogdia has shown that these items could not have appeared before the late 1st c. BC at the absolute earliest, and thus that the plaques could not have been made before that date either, but on balance it seems likely that it dates to the first couple of centuries AD.

Quote: In the post just above, we find the Wusun/Saka precisely in this geograpical area until the 2nd century AD. Other tribes mentioned-- especially the Xiongnu-- were neighboring this area during the time-period under discussion.

In fact, most scholars think that this plaque was created by the Kangju, who may have been descendants of a later movement of Saka, and not the Saka who invaded Bactria during the 2nd c. BC (Ilyasov and Rusanov p.131). The Kangju are associated with the fortified city of Kurgantepe, which overlooked the Orlat necropolis, and many features of the Orlat burials, such as flask shapes, are typically associated with the region in which the Kangju were said to have ruled during the last century BC and first centuries AD.

Quote:It's certainly possible that this famous battle was finally recorded on the plaque years AFTER it was actually fought, but to pinpoint the participants as other than Wusun, Huns, or Yuezhi, is an impossibily with the migrational progression.

This notion that the Orlat plaques can be identified with a single battle and the opposing sides with different tribes is unrealistic. The history of the tribes of western China and central Asia from the 3rd c. BC until the 1st c. AD or so is very murky and difficult to reconstruct, and connections between Chinese and western sources are notoriously contentious. We can say little more about the subjects depicted on these plaques (including the duel on foot and the hunting scene) than that they were created in the first few centuries AD by steppe nomads living in Sogdia, and there is no reason to tie this battle scene to any particular famous event.
Ruben

He had with him the selfsame rifle you see with him now, all mounted in german silver and the name that he\'d give it set with silver wire under the checkpiece in latin: Et In Arcadia Ego. Common enough for a man to name his gun. His is the first and only ever I seen with an inscription from the classics. - Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
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#23
Good posts gentlemen.
John Conyard

York

A member of Comitatus Late Roman
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#24
Back to MeinPanzer,

You are correct in critisizing Trousdale's statement based on his idea that the scabbard slide was intrigal with the introduction of the steppe longsword. However, we should not rule out his entire hypothesis; it's Herculean in research, and well done.

I disagree with Trousdale's idea that the slide originated in the Ural steppe. It's far more likely to have been first used in the Altai, exactly where the first illustrations of it show up. We know that the Altic Saka and later Sarmatian tribes used wooden scabbard slides, a material that simply disappears in the archaeological strata. Here is a perfect example:
[attachment=857]aorsigrave001.JPG[/attachment]
This is just one of many instances where the slide is no longer extant. Yet the Sarmatian warrior's sword (a bronze Warring States type of Chinese origin)was carried high, the pommel (missing because it too was mande of wood) almost reaching up to the man's armpit. This is exactly how I carry a sword with a scabbard slide. No other method of carry will bring the hilt so close to the shoulder.

For whatever reason, MeinPanzer asserts that the slide is of Chinese origin as oppposed to originating within neighboring Saka tribes. The slide shows up in the Spring and Autumn Period, exactly when the Chinese were borrowing steppe cavalry tactics and equipment from steppe tribes to the northeast. The Xiong-nu were yet to be a historical entity, and the closest highly-developed cavalrymen were the tribes of Tuva, spreading down from the Altai onto the Mongolian plains.

This period fostered west to east exchanges. Bronze technology went from the steppe tribes to the Chinese, as did cavalry technology. The Tuvinian culture carried battle plaques and buckles very similar to the Orlat example. Here is one of them:
[attachment=858]tuva-boneplaque003.JPG[/attachment]
The plaque is intricatly carved bone, large and rectangular.

Tuva was important in diseminating "style" into later Saka-Sarmatian cultures. The warrior-axe that we see at top-center on the Orlat plaque has a Tuvinian counterpart:
[attachment=859]tuva-boneplaque001.JPG[/attachment]

The later mirrored gryphon heads found on both the Filippovka akinakes and the Issyk Kul akinakes has an earlier introduction on a Tuva akinakes, pictured below:
[attachment=860]tuva-boneplaque004.JPG[/attachment]

All of these little stylistic innovations moved south into other cultures, and I would rather consider Tuva as introducing the scabbard slide into a non-riding farming culture like the Chinese-- NOT the other way around.

And last, I certainly believe that the Orlat plaque depicts a heroic battle within an epic war. The fighting between the Wusun, Yue-zhi, and Xion-gnu lasted for more than 35 years, no matter what dates we use. This is longer than World War 1, World War 2, and the Vietnam War combined! And to interject the Kangju into the tale, especially when it isn't mentioned by any historical source, and then attribute a plaque that has northern counterparts to this little-known tribe, seems poor logic.

Sorry for not getting back to you sooner, but I had a weekend of Legio III activity.


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Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

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Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
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#25
There are a lot if of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ among the dates proposed here.
Quote:2. As far as the swords are concerned, this type of sword, like the scabbard slide, was in widespread use in China by 2nd c. BC, but we do not find it outside of China until later. Likewise, the scabbard slide is not found west of China before the 1st c. AD, so the plaque cannot date to earlier than that time period.
This sounds a lot like the chicken and the egg. Of course the Orlat plaque could be proof that shows that these swords and scabbard slide occurred west of China before the 1st century, but reasoning like that is equally impossible as the opposite. The Orlat plaque cannot be used to prove an earlier date for the spread of sword and slide, nor can the hypothesis about this spread be used to date the plaque.
Robert Vermaat
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THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
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#26
Quote:Back to MeinPanzer,

You are correct in critisizing Trousdale's statement based on his idea that the scabbard slide was intrigal with the introduction of the steppe longsword. However, we should not rule out his entire hypothesis; it's Herculean in research, and well done.

I disagree with Trousdale's idea that the slide originated in the Ural steppe. It's far more likely to have been first used in the Altai, exactly where the first illustrations of it show up. We know that the Altic Saka and later Sarmatian tribes used wooden scabbard slides, a material that simply disappears in the archaeological strata. Here is a perfect example:

This is just one of many instances where the slide is no longer extant. Yet the Sarmatian warrior's sword (a bronze Warring States type of Chinese origin)was carried high, the pommel (missing because it too was mande of wood) almost reaching up to the man's armpit. This is exactly how I carry a sword with a scabbard slide. No other method of carry will bring the hilt so close to the shoulder.

Firstly, what are those first illustrations of the scabbard slide from the Altai? Secondly, the hypothesis that the scabbard slide was used in the Altai (or anywhere else outside of China) before its first appearance in the Chinese archaeological record cannot be proved one way or the other. The positioning of long swords within graves cannot indicate one way or the other whether a scabbard slide was used; by that logic, the 7th-6th c. BC long swords from the Tagisken burial ground in Kazakhstan are proof that perishable scabbard slides were in use there as well, because they, too, were found in such a position at the deceased's side. Until solid proof is found of scabbard slides outside of China before its introduction there in the 5th c. BC, therefore, any discussion of scabbard slides is useless to the matter at hand, which is the Orlat plaque.

Quote:For whatever reason, MeinPanzer asserts that the slide is of Chinese origin as oppposed to originating within neighboring Saka tribes. The slide shows up in the Spring and Autumn Period, exactly when the Chinese were borrowing steppe cavalry tactics and equipment from steppe tribes to the northeast.

In the Spring and Autumn Period the Chinese were not yet in direct contact with the steppe tribes to the north and northeast, but rather with the intermediate semi-nomadic and sedentary peoples such as the Rong. The introduction of steppe cavalry tactics into Chinese warfare, and indeed the use of cavalry full stop, did not take place until direct contact was established between the Chinese and proper steppe nomads in the later Warring States period after the assimilation or conquest of these "buffer" neighbours.

Quote:The Xiong-nu were yet to be a historical entity, and the closest highly-developed cavalrymen were the tribes of Tuva, spreading down from the Altai onto the Mongolian plains. This period fostered west to east exchanges. Bronze technology went from the steppe tribes to the Chinese, as did cavalry technology.

Other than the postulated transmission of the scabbard slide from this population to the Chinese, what cavalry technology was adapted by the Chinese prior to the later Warring States period?

Quote:The Tuvinian culture carried battle plaques and buckles very similar to the Orlat example. Here is one of them:

The plaque is intricatly carved bone, large and rectangular.

Tuva was important in diseminating "style" into later Saka-Sarmatian cultures. The warrior-axe that we see at top-center on the Orlat plaque has a Tuvinian counterpart:

The later mirrored gryphon heads found on both the Filippovka akinakes and the Issyk Kul akinakes has an earlier introduction on a Tuva akinakes, pictured below:

All of these little stylistic innovations moved south into other cultures, and I would rather consider Tuva as introducing the scabbard slide into a non-riding farming culture like the Chinese-- NOT the other way around.

That first bone plaque is indeed from Aimyrlyg in Tuva, but it dates to between the 5th and 3rd c. BC, not the early phase of Arzhan. Tuva was certainly the origin of "Scythian" culture in Asia, but that tells us nothing about the origin of the scabbard slide. And again, your final argument - that the scabbard slide must have originated on the steppes - is flawed, because you assume that the scabbard slide could not have been developed by non-cavalrymen. We shouldn't forget that Celtic swords, primarily used on foot, were carried by a system similar to the method of the early use of the scabbard slide in China.

Quote:And last, I certainly believe that the Orlat plaque depicts a heroic battle within an epic war. The fighting between the Wusun, Yue-zhi, and Xion-gnu lasted for more than 35 years, no matter what dates we use. This is longer than World War 1, World War 2, and the Vietnam War combined!

How many depictions of historical battle scenes do we have from Classical and Hellenistic Greek art? Imagine picking one at random. Then condense all of Greek history from the Persian Wars down to the Roman conquest to a handful of paragraphs. Now take those two pieces of evidence and try to match the battle scene to the historical record. I think given that example that we would agree that it would be absurd to claim to be able to identify any battle scene with any historical battle given the limitations of the evidence. So why do you expect that with a smattering of comments in Chinese sources and only a handful of battle scenes found throughout the entire steppe across hundreds of years that it is possible to identify a scene such as the Orlat plaque with a single conflict?

And characterising the series of conflicts which we today associate with the late 3rd-2nd c. BC migrations of the Saka, Wusun, Yuezhi, and Xiongnu as a single conflict is absurd - they were just a series of rolling steppe battles between different tribes, like those which were constantly being fought throughout the history of the steppe nomads, only in this case they happened to affect sedentary populations at a time when they were somewhat aware of what was going on beyond their borders, and were thus recorded for posterity.

Quote:And to interject the Kangju into the tale, especially when it isn't mentioned by any historical source, and then attribute a plaque that has northern counterparts to this little-known tribe, seems poor logic.

On the contrary, the plaques were found in a burial in Kangju territory at a time when the Kangju were known to be powerful; the plaques themselves indicate a date of creation during the time when the Kangju were in power; and the objects found in the burial match those depicted on the battle plaque. It is poor logic to assume that they have any origin other than Kangju!

Quote:This sounds a lot like the chicken and the egg. Of course the Orlat plaque could be proof that shows that these swords and scabbard slide occurred west of China before the 1st century, but reasoning like that is equally impossible as the opposite. The Orlat plaque cannot be used to prove an earlier date for the spread of sword and slide, nor can the hypothesis about this spread be used to date the plaque.

That is true, but nonetheless the balance of evidence pertaining to the scabbard slide shows that scabbard slides made of non-perishable materials - and Orlat barrow no. 2 included a nephrite scabbard slide - were not found outside of China until after the 1st c. BC. Regardless, the scabbard slide can be forgotten and the other objects depicted on the plaque still indicate a date for its production no earlier than the 1st c. AD.
Ruben

He had with him the selfsame rifle you see with him now, all mounted in german silver and the name that he\'d give it set with silver wire under the checkpiece in latin: Et In Arcadia Ego. Common enough for a man to name his gun. His is the first and only ever I seen with an inscription from the classics. - Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
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#27
Quote:Firstly, what are those first illustrations of the scabbard slide from the Altai? Secondly, the hypothesis that the scabbard slide was used in the Altai (or anywhere else outside of China) before its first appearance in the Chinese archaeological record cannot be proved one way or the other... Until solid proof is found of scabbard slides outside of China before its introduction there in the 5th c. BC, therefore, any discussion of scabbard slides is useless to the matter at hand, which is the Orlat plaque.

What we have is the scabbard slide showing up in both Chinese and Altai cultures at the same time. Here is an Altai plaque showing the slide:
[attachment=885]orlofbeltplaque003.JPG[/attachment]
It's the companion piece to the more famous "tree of life" plaque. Rudenko attributed it to the 6th century BC. (see Rudenko, pp. 29, 36, 43; and Jettmar, pp. 209-213) Alekseev and Barkova give a date of 5th to 4th century BC. (see Golden Deer, pp. 290-290) So the date is either arguable or can be taken on average at the 5th century BC.

Now we need an illustration and accurate dating of the Chinese find, including sources.


I'd rather not believe the Chinese lived in a non-horse-riding void until the Warring States period. They had actual-physical contact with northwestern steppe tribes early on. Mencius tells us that Zhou Wen (1152-1056BC and founder of the Western Zhou Dynasty) was a "man of the Western Yi," a steppe tribe. Then we have the famous "Chinese bride" chariot found at Pazyryk. The chariot has a steppe origin but was obviously used by a neighboring culture. By 800BC we have Chinese metallic items depicting riders hunting, including people who looked like Saka-- "Images featured bearded Europoids with prominent long noses, thin lips, and rounded eyes." (Kelekna, p.138)

But none of this has relevance to the Orlat plaque. It simply points out that no society lived as an island. Vortigern Studies has mentionedd the futility of assigning dates that are unassignable. :mrgreen:

What we know or conjecture of the Orlat plaque will always be arguable. I feel no reason to post again on this subject. But I'm certainly awaiting the illustrated and reference-dated Chinese scabbard slide in MeinPanzer's upcoming post. :-)


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Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

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"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
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#28
Quote:What we have is the scabbard slide showing up in both Chinese and Altai cultures at the same time. Here is an Altai plaque showing the slide:

It's the companion piece to the more famous "tree of life" plaque. Rudenko attributed it to the 6th century BC. (see Rudenko, pp. 29, 36, 43; and Jettmar, pp. 209-213) Alekseev and Barkova give a date of 5th to 4th century BC. (see Golden Deer, pp. 290-290) So the date is either arguable or can be taken on average at the 5th century BC.

This plaque, like all the objects in the Siberian Collection, were collected across a large area of eastern Asia. It and its mirror plaque are associated with the tree plaques only because they are similar in shape, are gold, and were assembled in the same collection. The general features of such belt plaques, however, were shared by nomads around a huge area of northeastern Asia for centuries. The tree of life plaque is certainly from the Altai or that region, as it matches 5th-4th c. BC Pazyryk stylistically and in costume, hairstyle, and equipment.

This plaque, however, has been examined more closely in recent years and has been determined to be a 3rd-1st c. BC product of Northern China, and the Ordos region in particular (Wu En, "On the Origin of Bronze Belt Plaques of Ancient Nomads in Northern China," in Chinese Archaeology 3 (2003): 186-92; Emma C. Bunker, “Significant Changes in Iconography and Technology among Ancient China’s Northwestern Pastoral Neighbors from the Fourth to the First Century B.C.," in Bulletin of the Asia Institute 6 (1992): 109-111). Firstly, the stylistic treatment of the foliage and figures depicted matches that of numerous Ordos plaques, and the depiction of the horse's hooves in an upward position, the so-called "flying gallop" motif, parallels depictions in China from the Qin and Western Han periods. Secondly, the details of costume and equipment match exactly other depictions on Ordos belt plaques: namely, looser, puffier trousers worn with short boots, rather than the more slender, high boots depicted in anthropomorphic representations from the Altai; long hair tied back in a knot rather than shorter, bushier hair; and the decoration of horse equipment with tassles. That this was produced in northern China is all the more probable because almost exact copies of other buckles from the Siberian collection have been found in the Ordos region in 3rd-1st c. BC contexts.

Therefore, there is no evidence for the use of the scabbard slide in the Altai prior to the earliest examples.

Quote:Now we need an illustration and accurate dating of the Chinese find, including sources.

To give just a couple of examples, there is the scabbard slide from Tomb 2717, Chungzhoulu, Hunan province, dating mid 5th to early 4th c. BC, and the slide from the same period from Tomb 25, Yangtianhu, Hunan province. Trousdale enumerates several other examples on pages 11-8.

Quote:I'd rather not believe the Chinese lived in a non-horse-riding void until the Warring States period. They had actual-physical contact with northwestern steppe tribes early on. Mencius tells us that Zhou Wen (1152-1056BC and founder of the Western Zhou Dynasty) was a "man of the Western Yi," a steppe tribe.

There were various nomadic tribes living around the Chinese, but these were not horse-riding: they are mentioned in Chinese sources as fighting with chariots and infantry, but never cavalry, and there is no archaeological evidence for them fighting on horseback before their assimilation by the Zhou (see Jaroslav Prushek, Chinese statelets and the northern barbarians in the period 1400-300 B.C. (Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences: Prague; W. Reidel Publishing Co.: Dordrecht, 1971)); both literary and archaeological evidence point to the Chinese adoption of horseback riding only in the 4th c. BC (H.G. Creel, "The Role of the Horse in Chinese History," in American Historical Review 70, 3 (1965): 647-72; C.S. Goodrich, "Riding Astride and The Saddle in Ancient China," in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 44, 2 (1984): 279-306; Nicola Di Cosmo, "The Northern Frontier in Pre-Imperial China," in The Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221 B.C. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999): 912).

Quote:Then we have the famous "Chinese bride" chariot found at Pazyryk. The chariot has a steppe origin but was obviously used by a neighboring culture.

Do you mean the carriage from Pazyryk barrow 5? If so, what about it indicates any links with China? It's a steppe vehicle. But even if it was Chinese, that wouldn't tell us anything about whether the contemporary Chinese rode horses or not.

Quote:By 800BC we have Chinese metallic items depicting riders hunting, including people who looked like Saka-- "Images featured bearded Europoids with prominent long noses, thin lips, and rounded eyes." (Kelekna, p.138)

From where in China, and what culture? If you are referring to the bronze ring decorated with hunters on horseback from Nanshan'gen, then these were non-Chinese steppe nomads of the Upper Xiajiadian culture who lived well beyond the bounds of Zhou civilization, from whom they were separated by the non-horse riding, non-Chinese peoples often referred to by the term Rong in Chinese sources.

In sum, the earliest finds of scabbard slides come from China and date to before the Chinese began to ride horses, while the scabbard slide only appears outside of China in the 3rd c. BC or so. The invention of the scabbard slide cannot be directly linked to a non-Chinese origin or to wearing a sword while riding on horseback.
Ruben

He had with him the selfsame rifle you see with him now, all mounted in german silver and the name that he\'d give it set with silver wire under the checkpiece in latin: Et In Arcadia Ego. Common enough for a man to name his gun. His is the first and only ever I seen with an inscription from the classics. - Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
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#29
I eat my words. I said my previous post would be my last on this subject; however, if we look at the history of art, we find similar styles within several cultures. In this instance, referring to stylized leaves ("shwubry" as Monty Python would say) and the "flying gallop," we find both in artwork west and north of Chinese artists. AND WE FIND IT EARLIER.

[attachment=888]flyinggallop020.JPG[/attachment]
A western Scythian at flying gallop while killig a lion; also extremely remenicient of the non-Chinese rider killing the boar, depicted in my post above. The artist was Greek.

[attachment=889]flyinggallop008.JPG[/attachment]
The extended front legs of the flying gallop carved onto a piece of Altai horse tack. I don't think the artist was Chinese.

[attachment=890]flyinggallop014.JPG[/attachment]
Ah! The same leaves ("shwubry") that we found on the plaque shown in my post above. The only difference from the tentitively and "expertly" identified Ordos bronzes is this plaque's ID as 6th Century BC Siberian (see Aleckseev and Barkova, p 290).

When it comes to art, everything arguable. I opened up my art studio in 1968 and have since that time painted historical subjects, most of which are steppe oriented. When I think that a certain style originated with some specific culture-- say for instance the KooKoomanians or Skatians (who drew pictures on ice) I am constantly surprised by something NEW, which invariably turns out to be OLDER. Wink

I'm sure that we can argue about art for weeks, perhap years. We can always wonder why the artists who designed the Ordos bronzes showed furry Europoid barbarians rather than depicting themselves (if they were indeed Asio-mongoliod or even extraterrestials). We could argue that there is no link between a chariot society and a riding society, and we would be foolish to do so. They are inextricably linked. We could argue about just about anything where documentation is lacking. But I'm tired of it. We are spinning our wheels, running over chickens and eggs.

On the intitial post of this thread, I simply wished to point out an uncanny likeness the Orlat plaque had with the later Roman cavalry. I'll leave it at that... and retire from this redundant and humorless thread.


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Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
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#30
Quote:redundant and humorless thread.
By no means! Humorless.. well, a few jokes wouldn't have hurt, but redundant.. by no means. I learned a lot here.
Robert Vermaat
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