What remains

At the Medeiros-Almedia this morning I happened to glance down and notice a Tekke Turkman. It looked more or less like this:

Tekke were Turkmen nomads, famous for their horses. Their carpets all feature the pattern of flattened roughly octagonal ellipsoids arranged in four parallel rows running the length of the piece. Sometimes they alternate with 8-pointed stars.

A recent issue of Hali magazine started out by asking where the abstract patterns seen in Persian carpets might come from and argued rather well that these ellipsoids, known in Turkish as g
öl, may derive from the bronze talismans of BMAC.

B-what? you might well ask.

BMAC, it turns out, stands for the Bactria-Margiana Archeological Complex, which was an advanced, settled, agricultural, possibly literary bronze-age civilization on the Oxus. It thrived between 2200 and 1700 B.C. but was subsequently lost. It was unearthed by a Russian archeologist, Victor Sarianidi,
in the 70's and 80's and represents a discovery similar in scale, antiquity and mystery to the Mohenjo-Daro find on the Indus. The news of this new discovery did not begin to filter into the West until the fall of the Soviet Empire.

BMAC talismans were widely produced and it has been suggested that they may have been worn as magical protection. The author of the Hali article thinks the
göl may be representations of these amulets.

If so, they represent a cultural survival from BMAC. Other remnants of the BMAC may include the Vedic soma cult, several aspects of Zoroastrianism, including the architectonic arrangement of the Zoroastrian temples of fire, and small figurines including the figure of "Scarface" -- snake-scaled man with a vicious gush across his right cheek -- like this one, in the Louvre:

"Scarfaces", says the Louvre, are

anthropomorphic dragon-snakes belonging to the mythology of central Asia, where they incarnated the hostile forces of the underworld. Their power was controlled not by killing them but by reducing them to silence by a slash across the right cheek. Thus dominated, they could become benevolent.
No source given for this interesting report. (Here is the Louvre's write up for you to make up your mind).

To me, the most interesting aspect of Scarface is that only four complete specimen of him survive while there are hundreds of thousands of Tekke Turkmen carpets. What survives seems so unpredictable. (What will remain behind when we are gone? Golden arches?)

And another thing: how much one can see by simply looking down; most people, when they do look down -- if they look down -- see only a worn-out carpet; but if you look carefully, it turns out that there lies at your feet a great civilization dead three thousand years!


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