Recent archaeological discoveries in Gorniy Altai have shed new light on the life and traditions of the Pazyryk culture dating from the fourth and third centuries B.C. In the famous “frozen” tombs were found amazingly preserved human mummies wearing pieces of clothing and buried with their grave gifts and horses. The archaeological artifacts have provided new insights into the clothing, meals, decorations, lifestyle, and appearance of the Pazyrykians. This book covers an entire spectrum of issues related to textiles found in Pazyryk mounds, including reconstruction of male, female, and child costumes, manufacturing and dyeing techniques, historical and ethnographic parallels, and possible production centers.
Ancient textiles must be examined using an array of analytical methods, such as physical, chemical, and historical analyses, to reveal the developmental history of these artifacts. The “frozen” tombs, which were first excavated two thousand years after the burial, preserved things with minimal signs of deterioration in sealed larch log-chambers. Ice served as an excellent preservative for ancient fabrics: it preserved the structure and color of ancient silk, cotton, and, most importantly, wool fibers. In addition to a technological analysis, the Pazyryk textiles were studied using physical and chemical methods for the first time. An integrate study of the Pazyrykian textile was carried out by the author in cooperation with researchers from the Boreskov Institute of Catalysis and the Novosibirsk Institute of Organic Chemistry. The study aimed to identify inorganic components in the Pazyryk textiles as well as natural dyes used to color the pieces of felt and fabrics. In the experiments a small number of ancient samples was used. The investigation resulted in important discoveries related to textile weaving and dyeing.
The first chapter of the book discusses important issues that must be taken into account when studying the ancient clothing of Eurasian nomads. The author refers to ethnographic material that illustrates the meaning of clothing in traditional cultures and ways of using clothes in communities with a lifestyle similar to that of the Pazyrykians. For example, it is known that Asian nomads never washed their clothes; they wiped their hands with the skirts of upper garments or used them as plates for food. Clothes were worn until they were completely unsuitable. In traditional cultures, people mended clothes many times, and even rags were used for as long as possible.
The attitude toward clothing among traditional peoples was based on a belief that the costume was a continuation of an individual, like a second skin, or, sometimes, the costume was a substitute for its owner. Clothing reflected the social and marital status of the wearer as well as his tribal affiliation.
The second chapter describes and analyzes the clothes of Gorniy Altai inhabitants from the fourth to the second century B.C. The author presents original reconstructions of female and male costumes discovered in the Great Pazyryk tombs (Second Pazyryk Barrow) and the Ukok mounds (Ak-Alakha 3, barrow 1, Ak-Alakha 5, barrow 1, Verkh-Kaldzhin 2, mounds 1 and 3 and others). Special attention is given to the main elements of the female costume, including woolen skirts, silk and cotton shirts, woolen belts, felt stockings, fur coats, wigs, headdresses, decorations, and tattoos. The male costume, consisting of woolen trousers, boot-stockings, felt helmets, and felt gorits (a sheath for a bow), was typical of the costume of Eurasian mounted warriors. The author emphasizes the important role of woven fabrics in the Pazyryk culture, which indicates that it was formed in a different gepgraphic and cultural environment far from the Altai. Analogues to the Pazyryk costume are found in the Achaemenidian artistic tradition, which incorporated features of many cultures. Pazyryk male garments are similar to those of the Saka, Parthian, Khivian (Khorezmian), Bactrian, and Sogdian envoys depicted on Persepolis bas-reliefs. Throughout the Eurasian steppes during the Scythian–Sarmatian period, the male warrior costumes were much alike. This striking similarity can be explained by the convenience of wearing this type of costume, which was designed to protect from a harsh climate and to meet the needs of nomads. There is a well-known event in the history of Central Asia, when the Chinese wanted to fight with the Xiongnu during the Wuling Wang reign: they replaced their loose upper garments with the “barbarian” trousers of mounted warriors. This is probably one of the most illustrative examples in history of how a fashion or, more precisely, a piece of costume overcame ethnic and cultural barriers.
The Pazyryk female costume more distinctly reflected cultural and confessional differences. It has no exact analogues known from depictions on ancient pieces of art. Nevertheless, some pieces of female clothing are identical to those found at the Xinjiang sites of Subashi, Shampula, Cherchen, Kariya and others. The cut and style of long woolen skirts made of several wide bands of various colors, woven braids used to belt the skirts, white and red woolen and cotton shirts with long sleeves and round necks trimmed with red laces, and long felt stockings are analogous to those found in the mounds of the Pazyryk culture. Despite the similarity of separate pieces of clothing, the cattle-breeders of Xinjiang oases and the population of Gorniy Altai (Pazyrykians) had different upper garments (fur coats), hairstyles, decorations, and tattoos. This testifies to the common origin of woven clothes of the Xinjiang and Gorniy Altai communities, and makes a tie with Iranian peoples, who were related to the Saka world. Anthropologically, the inhabitants of Gorniy Altai and Xinjiang in the Early Iron Age were Caucasoid. The author also analyzes analogous clothes of ethnic minorities living in southeastern China.
The third and fourth chapters discuss felt accessories and carpets found in the “frozen” Pazyryk tombs. Results of technological and physical-chemical analyses of Pazyryk textiles from the Ukok sites are given in the appendix.
An important result of the study was identification of dyes in ancient fabrics from the Pazyryk tombs. The goal was to identify the composition of ancient colorants, reconstruct the dyestuff sources and processes, and determine the place of manufacturing. The dyes were identified using molecular spectroscopy and high-performance liquid chromatography. The substances identified include dibromoindigo, monobromoindigo, indigo, alizarin, purpurin, and carmine and kermes acids. These dyes were produced mainly from animal or plant sources, including Murex and related mollusks (dibromindigo), coccids, madder root (alizarin and purpurin), and indigo, which are not found anywhere in the Gorniy Altai or the environs. The most probable natural habitat for the sources of the colorants identified in the Pazyryk textiles is the eastern Mediterranean region. Note that one of the identified coccids (Kermes vermilio) can be found only on several species of oak near the Mediterranean and the Murex mollusk can be also found only in the Mediterranean region.
The textiles preserved in Pazyryk mounds were dyed and obviously manufactured at workshops far away from the Altai, at famous weaving and dyeing centers around the Mediterranean. The conclusion describes in detail the procedure for dyeing specific Pazyryk artifacts. It is determined that the dominating color in Pazyryk fabrics was red (79 %) and the most rare color was blue (5 %). Purple produced from Mediterranean mollusks was the most expensive, complex, and sacral of all the dyes used in antiquity. Although true purple was found in 3 % of Pazyryk fabrics, the purple color was sometimes imitated (13 %) using a combination of other dyes (red and blue) to produce a color similar to purple.
The determination of dyes and colorants brought the author to another important conclusion: none of the plant or mineral dyes readily available in the Gorniy Altai and environs were used to dye the textiles found in the Pazyryk mounds. This also indicates that the origin of these fabrics was outside of the Altai.