The Stein Collection

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artist
Unknown
attributions_note
bibliography
Stein, Aurel, Serindia: Detailed Report of Exploration in Central Asia and Westernmost China Carried Out and Described Under the Orders of H.M Indian Government , 5 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1921), vol. I, p.250.
collection_code
EAS
credit
Stein Textile Loan Collection. On loan from the Government of India and the Archaeological Survey of India. Copyright: Government of India.
date_end
0300-12-31
date_start
0100-01-01
date_text
100-300 (made)
descriptive_line
Bundle of textile fragments
dimensions
Length: 18 cm bundle, approx., Width: 6.5 cm bundle, approx.
edition_number
event_text
exhibition_history
gallery
historical_context_note
Niya includes a group of towns in the southern region of the Taklamakan Desert, at the foot of the Kunlun mountains. Once a military post under the Kingdom of Khotan, Niya became an important oasis along the southern Silk Road. Stein excavated several groups of dwellings there and found hundreds of wedge-shaped wooden tablets, some laced together in pairs with string and affixed with clay seals. The appearance of Pallas Athena, Eros and other Greek deities on some seals showed the impact of western classical art on Khotan. The tablets were inscribed with Kharoshthi, an ancient script of northwest India. Stein identified some as Buddhist prayers and others as administrative documents and he dated them to the period of the Kushan empire, which thrived in the first three centuries AD. Among ruins of dwellings and orchards, Stein found numerous textile fragments, Roman coins, wooden furniture with elaborate carving, pottery, Chinese basketry and lacquer, and documents in Chinese script which he dated to the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). The V&A holds, on loan, a large number of textiles from Niya, including leather, wool yarn, appliquéd and stitched wool felt, and braided animal hair. The inclusion of two talons from the Northern Goshawk may reflect both a trade in captive hawks along the Silk Road and also cultural beliefs relating to the use of animal parts as amulets or ornaments. The Northern Goshawk is a large hawk that strongly favors woodland habitants. It seems unlikely to have occurred naturally within the Niya region; these specimens must therefore be considered imported to the city (as existing artefact, whole or partial bird corpse or living bird), probably along the Silk Road. There is documentary evidence of export of trained Northern Goshawks from China (where Goshawks were highly prized as falconry birds) into Japan in 244 A.D. during the reign of Empress Jingu. There are very strong and ancient traditions of falconry throughout Central Asia, from where it is thought falconry spread westwards into Europe. The Silk Road would have been essential to this spread. Additionally, many Central Asian cultures include a strong tradition of shamanic practice, inlcuding the use of animal remains as amulets. These talons may be the earliest known direct evidence of the presence of captive hawks along the Silk Road, and could be signifcant in terms of dating the westward spread of falconry. Notes on the Northern Goshawk prepared by Joanne H. Cooper
historical_significance
history_note
Attached to bundle is a circular sticky tag showing Stein number possibly in Stein's handwriting or that of his assistant, Miss F M G Lorimer. The Northern Goshawk is a large hawk that strongly favors woodland habitants. It seems unlikely to have occurred naturally within the Niya region; these specimens must therefore be considered imported to the city (as existing artefact, whole or partial bird corpse or living bird), probably along the Silk Road. There is documentary evidence of export of trained Northern Goshawks from China (where Goshawks were highly prized as falconry birds) into Japan in 244 A.D. during the reign of Empress Jingu. There are very strong and ancient traditions of falconry throughout Central Asia, from where it is thought falconry spread westwards into Europe. The Silk Road would have been essential to this spread. Additionally, many Central Asian cultures include a strong tradition of shamanic practice, inlcuding the use of animal remains as amulets. The discovery of these paired talons may reflect both a trade in captive hawks along the Silk Road, and also cultural beliefs relating to the use of animal parts as amulets or ornaments. These talons may be the earliest known direct evidence of the presence of captive hawks along the Silk Road, and could be signifcant in terms of dating the westward spread of falconry.
id
56153
label
last_checked
2014-08-29T22:57:42.000Z
last_processed
2014-08-29T22:57:42.000Z
latitude
37.062801
location
In Storage
longitude
82.67202
marks
materials
silk, felt, string
materials_techniques
Plain weave silk and felt
museum_number
LOAN:STEIN.170
museum_number_token
loanstein170
object_number
O89984
object_type
Fragments
on_display
original_currency
original_price
physical_description
Bundle of textile fragments including monochrome dark blue felt, monochrome plain weave green silk, monochrome plain weave green unidentified fibre, monochrome plain weave buff silk, various pieces of threads and string and a bird's claw, all tied together with a piece of red string. The artefact includes two individual talons, still with skin attached to their bases, stitched together to form a crescent (the thread is clearly visible amongst the creases of the skin). One talon lacks the outer keratin sheath, and the tip of the exposed bone is damaged. The other sheath is intact and seems slightly polished (to be expected with handling). It was found to most closely resemble the Northern Goshawk (Accipter gentilis), but due to the large number of raptors present across this region of Asia and the limited material of this archaeological bird specimen, the identification must remain tentative. From its the characteristics, the talon is clearly either the long back talon or innermost front talon, i.e. one of the two most powerful digits in the typical raptor's foot. The general dimensions of the damaged bone suggest that the artefact was originally a broadly matched pair of talons. The size of the surviving talon compares very closely to the adult female Northern Goshawk. (see Historical Context Note) Notes on the Northern Goshawk prepared by Joanne H. Cooper
place
Niya
primary_image_id
production_note
production_type
public_access_description
This bundle of textile fragments including dark blue felt, plain weave green silk, plain weave green unidentified fibre, plain weave buff silk, various pieces of threads and string, and a bird's claw, all tied together with a piece of red string. They were recovered from the site of Niya, which dates from the 2rd to the 3rd century AD. Niya was probably the capital city of the kingdom of Shanshan whose people were of Indian origin. The site of Niya is remarkable for the carved wooden capitals, beams and balustrades that show similarities to the western classical decoration that filtered through Iran and Northwest India. The site is in an area of Central Asia now referred to as the Silk Road, a series of overland trade routes that crossed Asia, from China to Europe. The most notable item traded was silk. Camels and horses were used as pack animals and merchants passed their goods from oasis to oasis. The Silk Road was also important for the exchange of ideas – while silk textiles travelled west from China, Buddhism entered China from India in this way. This object was brought back from Central Asia by the explorer and archaeologist Sir Marc Aurel Stein (1862–1943). The Victoria and Albert Museum has around 700 ancient and medieval textiles recovered by Stein at the beginning of the twentieth century. The textiles range in date from the second century BC to the twelfth century AD. Some are silk while others are made from the wool of a variety of different animals.
related_museum_numbers
rights
2
shape
site_code
slug
the-stein-collection-fragments-unknown
sys_updated
2014-07-31T00:00:00.000Z
techniques
plain weave, felting
title
The Stein Collection
updated
vanda_exhibition_history
year_end
300
year_start
100