Pazyryk Needlework

Saddle cloth with Chinese silk in the centre, Barrow 5, Pazyryk, 4th-3rd centuries BC. Saddle cloth with Chinese silk in the centre, Barrow 5, Pazyryk, 4th-3rd centuries BC.

The kurgans of Pazyryk, in the Altai mountains of southern Siberia, yielded the burials of noblemen who had been buried there in the fourth and third centuries BC. The tombs included many textiles, including Chinese silks with embroideries. The first of the barrows (kurgans) was excavated in 1929; others were studied between 1947 and 1949 by Sergei Ivanovich Rudenko.

The tombs are generally classed as belonging to the Scythian/Saka cultural zone. The burials contained the remains of (tattooed) men and women, but also of horses. There was even a four-wheeled chariot. Other objects indicate the central position of the area between China and the Iranian Plateau. One of the most spectacular finds was the so-called Pazyryk (pile) carpet, with Persian-style motifs.

The textile finds in the Pazyryk tombs and related sites in the same area are many and varied. They include embroidered silks from China. The largest of these derives from Kurgan 5. It was a fragment of undyed silk embroidered with birds and floral motifs, worked in chain stitch. Comparable embroideries are known from the fourth-third century finds from Mashan, Hubei, China. The Chinese embroidery found at Pazyryk was used to incorporate and decorate a saddle blanket (shabraque).

Local products were made of leather or felt. Leather garments or smaller panels could be decorated with metal foil, painting, or with fur or felt. Felt garments or panels were decorated with appliqué, cutwork, embroidery, metal foil, or they are being dyed. They could also be ornamented with horse hair or wool thread.

Source: RUBINSON, Karen S. (1990). 'The textiles from Pazyryk. A study in the transfer and transformation of artistic motifs, Expedition, Vol. 32, 1, pp. 49-61 (downloadable here).

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 14 February 2017).



Last modified on Monday, 27 March 2017 19:41