In the late antiquity numerous Iranian-speaking peoples presented one of the largest linguistic and cultural groups of the mankind. Their costume was considered one of the most luxurious clothing traditions, having complex forms and an abundant décor of gold applications, pearl, glass beads and gold embroidering, expensive bright fabrics, headdresses with animal figurines, etc. A great number of realistic depictions of people were created in the Iranian world. It gives
us a unique opportunity for reconstruction, comparative analysis and research of costume inheritance in Eurasia. Some Iranian peoples were creators of vast empires, lived in zones of frequent migrations or controlled important trade ways. It makes their costume the most valuable source for solving problems connected with the mechanisms of costume con-tacts in traditional societies. Most publications on the ancient Iranian costume of the pre-Islamic period are devoted to the small accessories as they are more spectacular and traditionally the investigation of them is more prestigious. Many ancient peoples’ clothing as such (that concerns even the leading ones which frequently figure in the sources) has not been studied properly yet. The researchers’ attention is attracted to a few ancient ethnic groups whose most numerous gold costume accessories, found at burials of the nobles, and detailed anthropomorphic images have survived so far
(the Scythians, Parthians and Tokharistаnians).
In this book, you will find a complex research of the clothes of Iranian-speaking peoples beginning from their
appearance in the world politics and in the written sources of the 7th–6th cc. BC and up to the Islamization of Iran and Transoxiana in the 7th–8th cc. AD. The accessories of the costume (except belts), the military costume, the rulers’ crowns and the costume materials themselves are not the subject matter of the text; but the hairstyle and sometimes tattoos are being under consideration. The first three chapters are devoted to analysis of the main periods of pre-Islamic history of the Iranian world (the time bounds being different for different regions): (1) the Achaemenid-Scythian time (the 7th–6th cc. BC — 4th–3rd cc. BC, for Transoxiana—up to the mid. of the 2nd cc. BC); (2) the Parthian-Sarmatian time (the 4th/3rd cc. BC — the 3rd/4th cc. AD); (3) the Sassanid and Early Medieval time (the 3/4th — the 7/8th cc. AD). The sections of these chapters deal with materials on the 13 peoples: (1) the Persians of the Achaemenian time; (2) the Early Scythians; (3) the Scythians of the “classic” period (the 5th–4th cc. BC); (4) the “Pazyrykians” of the Altai; (5) the Chorasmians (for all the 3 periods); (6) the Parnes—Parthians of Iran; (7) the Sarmatians and Early Alans; (8) the Yuech-chihs / Kushans of Bactria; (9) the Sogdians (the 2nd and 3rd periods); (10) the Indo-Scythians of Gandhara; 11) the Persians of the Sassanid time; (12) the Khotano-Sakas of Southern Xinjiang (the 2nd and 3rd periods); (13) the Tokharistanians (with other ethnic elements). As far as each of the above-mentioned peoples is concerned the above-stated ideas are analyzed and new materials (including unpublished ones) are taken into account, the details of many depictions are defined and the data on peoples (2), (4), (5), (7), (10) and (12) are generalized for the first time. First of all, we have studied the costume of these 13 peoples, which gives the most abundant and many-sided information on the costume as clothes in real life are a mass phenomenon and can be studied productively and correctly only in big series (in case of single depictions rare costume elements and the looks of gods of foreign origin are mistakenly taken for typical ones).
The main tasks of the book are: 1. The reconstruction of the look of the ethnic clothing complex for each of the above-mentioned peoples: the silhouette, the cut (the information about the latter is limited) and the decorative princi-ples, the last task being the most labour-intensive. The results allow of a reliable attribution of many artifacts from mu-seums and private collections. 2. Eliciting the aesthetical ideal of different ethnic groups reflected in the costume; the analysis of the depictions of supposed representatives of a certain people in the art of other countries for defining the degree of the authenticity in the costume depiction and its representativeness for this ethnic group. 3. The comparative analysis of the costume of each separately taken synchronous people in each of the three main historical epochs; the analysis of the costume of each ethnic group in different periods for defining the character of the costume evolution and heredity. 4. The retrospective eliciting of the look of the original costume of the most ancient Iranians and the “costume” traces of the Iranian penetration to the west of Iran. 5. Eliciting the type of the costume contacts of ancient Iranian-speaking peoples and the difference in their importance. 6. The analysis of the summarized data on the least studied significant functions of the costume aiming at eliciting the specificity of the Iranian world and some of its peoples.
We suggest a complex approach including following elements: (1) dealing with all kinds of sources alongside ob-serving the most possible scope of facts on each studied people (in case of a technical impossibility, the representative statistic excerpts are studied); (2) the proper selection of the costume décor remnants from burials under analysis (only the accounts and publications of high quality are used) excluding significantly fragmented and stylized depictions and, for some regions, images of gods; (3) the analysis of the material according to the linguistic and ethnic principles—not a regional one (which is not typical for modern research on the costume history); (4) considering all the main costume attributes of the ethnic group as a single costume complex that reflects the specificity of the people; 5) the description of the costume of each ethnic group according to the common program in chapters 1–3; (6) considering ethnic complexes against the background of the synchronous neighbouring ones and both earlier and later ones up to their successors in the 19th–20th cc. AD (otherwise the rightfulness of most conclusions is difficult to guarantee); (7) the analysis of costume evolution of separate ethnic groups under the influence of different factors; (8) compiling a special summary tables on the costume of each people (each drawing in them not being an exact copy of a definite depiction, but given in the most appropriate foreshortening without unnecessary details interfering with perception).
For each of the studied peoples there are dominating sources of a certain type, and their diversity creates great difficulties at comparison. Today there are no effective methods of historical reconstruction on burial materials (the author’s approach being presented in chapters 2.2 and 2.3) and depictions (usually without reasoning). Inaccuracy and lapses in expedition documentation (there is a way to improve it suggested in the Appendix) can be partly explained by the psychological factor (scattered around a burial, clothing ornaments are not perceived as a single, properly designed, multilevel complex), or by diminishing the initial drawing and inaccuracy in showing the orientation of smaller items. There is another problem—inaccurate descriptions of clad figures’ images in publications. Unfortunately, images do not give us objective information about the look of a certain people (images of the gala costume of noble men for a warm season usually prevailing; special ritual scenes or gods of foreign origin being also presented). The stylization of figures and their canonical poses interfere with objective characterizatlon. Among the misinterpretations of images there are following typical ones: incorrect analogies, the use of overly enlarged details and schematic images.
In Сhapter 1, the comparison of common features of the peoples of Ahaemenid-Scythian time and a number of monuments of Late Bronze Age helps retrospectively reconstruct the list of the costume elements of the most ancient Iranian community. The list includes: (1) short caftans gaunaka, sisirna etc. opening down the front (worn either over-lapped from the right to the left or fastened with two or three clasps, or thrown open); (2) a gala sleeved coat candys, worn thrown open; (3) men’s trousers with shoulder-straps; (4) high cone-shaped headdresses; (5) men’s leather plate-decorated belts with a set of one-typed metal plagues on the strap; (6) capes; (7–8) low-top boots and, probably, shoes; (9) men’s leggings, fastened to the belt with straps. The tribes of the Bronze Age of Andronovo cultural unity have only a few elements analogous to the Iranians of the Achaemenid time (high cone-shaped headdresses and high leather boots, partly, plastrons and tubes for hair locks on the top of the head).
A series of barbarian archers created with great exactitude to the details on the Athenian vase painting of the 520–490 BC reproduced ethnographic features of a certain nomadic Iranian-speaking ethnic group. The most original ele-ments of their costume have direct analogies for the nomads of Transoxiana (the Tigrahauda and Overseas Sakas) and, partly, people living farther to the east; the Athenian Greeks could not really see all of them. But many of these elements are really documented for Early Scythians. Their costume complex has practically no common elements with the costume of later “classic” Scythians (the 5th–4th cc. BC), which proves the version of A.Yu. Alexeev about two migration waves of the Scythians of different origin to Eastern Europe.
In Сhapter 2, many changes for the Parthian-Sarmatian time are marked. There are following common elements for different Iranian-speaking peoples of that period. The increase in significance of pullover clothes as upper garments; the spread of long-sleeved coats and partly quilted ones; fitting-at-the-waist dresses and, in western regions, women’s clothing of Greek type chiton; the preserving, in a number of cases, of a later modification of a fur coat, kandys; a cut
of pullover garments with 3–6 sharp gores in the skirt or an arc-shaped cutting of the skirt and an abrupt widening of it with gores; pullover clothes with a vertical neck line, a breast pocket and a beveled collar; short narrow coats fastened on the shoulder; the décor of upper body garments (more rarely of other costume elements) along seams with a line of gold tubes threaded on a thong; “shoulder-pieces”; a band with a line of plaques of one type worn as a laid on hori-zontal
collar; gold diadems with the image of the World Tree with birds; men’s headdresses with ribbons along the lower edge on the back or a round plaque on the forehead; berets; a short head cover and introducing scarves for women; trousers with a vertical stripe of cloth or a line of plaques across the leg; the spread of belts with large twin buckles; the set of warrior and “gala” men’s belts; the spread of high boots (often with a triangular jut under the knee) in western and south-western regions and in Khotan; fastening of trousers’ edge and boots with a large disc-shaped clasp; for a num-ber of countries, single finds of high-heeled boots or shoes are documented (the innovation which did not become popular); the wide use of gold brocade and silk in clothing of nobility and, more seldom, pearl embroidery; the dominance of geometric and vegetative patterns on sewn-on plaques of the costume; the spread of the fibulae, red beauty spots on the face (usually round); the deforming of the skull in childhood.
These common features in some cases may be explained by the increase in nomadic Iranian-speaking tribes’ migrations westward; in other cases, they were caused by the influence of the Seleucides Kingdom and Parthia and, to a smaller degree, by the Xiongnu, the Roman and Kushan Empires (political relations with them, the influence of décor and clothes-making technologies of nobility’s garments) and also the increase in importing high-quality fabrics and spreading new jewelry styles.
Chapter 3 is devoted to the 3rd–7/8th cc. AD. There are following common features for the costume of most Iranian peoples for that period (the initiators being given in brackets). The dominance of pullover garments as outer clothing (the opposite tendency for the easternmost regions—Tokharistan and Khotan—is connected to the increase in nomadic influence); the prevalence of wearing upper body garments opening-from-the-front clasped but not deeply overlapped; for both sexes in Xinjiang and Transoxiana—wearing collars with one lapel (the Heptalites) or two lapels (the Turks); the spread of shoulder medallions (the Sasanides); the occurrence of sleeves with high cuffs (the Sasanides) and, much rarer, short sleeves; wearing (often thrown over the shoulders) women’s long coats (outside Iran, often with widening sleeves); pullover clothes with a triangle neckline, more seldom with a small high-collar or a collar, gathered and tied up at the shoulder with a band; the important role of the edging along the side cuts in the décor of men’s pullover clothes (the Sasanides); the making of gala cloaks usually of polychromic fabrics and fastening on the breast with two twin clasps with ribbons (the Sasanides); men’s, more seldom, women’s capes of different types; women’s dresses with a flounce or a row of frills along the skirt’s edge (the Sasanides); women’s light scarves wrapped round the body; sewing trousers of polychromic fabrics; lessening popularity of “stripes” on men’s trousers; men’s gold belts with a series of medallions with inlays of precious stones; men’s (much more seldom women’s) belts fastened on the abdomen with twin clasps having ribbons run through them (the Sasanides); plate-decorated belts with a line of rectangular or square plaques with a rim (the authentically Turkic system of plaque placing being a great rarity); headdresses with the animal figurines of male rulers; the wide spread of cone-shaped and small hemi-spherical headwear for both sexes; men’s and women’s hats with a rather wide brim (felt or woven ones); wearing turbans (excluding Iran) more often by women (the Turks); high boots with a triangle jut below the knee, richly embroidered in Iran or black in other territories (the Turks); prevailing of a male short cut without parting and a clean-shaven face; the spread of male plaits in Transoxiana (the Turks); female coiffure with two plaits of different length and a series of massive tubes and pendants on them. For the nobility clothes in the second half of that period the use of polychromatic silks, produced in a number of cases by that time in different local centers of the Iranian world, is a characteristic feature, whereas the role of the décor consisting of lines of gold and other plaque-applications becomes less important.
On the whole, the images of representatives of Iranian-speaking peoples in such developed fine art traditions of other cultures as the Early Classic Greeks, the Chinese periods of Han and Tang dynasties, the Late Sogdian period demonstrate much higher exactitude in foreign clothing depicting, than it is thought to be. The elements of stylization are more often quite insignificant.
In Chapter 4, the comparative analysis prevails and 12 different types of the costume contact, the tendencies of costume evolution for some peoples and some insufficiently researched signifying functions of the costume in Iranian world (including ethnological data on Iranian-speaking peoples). Different dynasties of Iran itself, migrations of Irani-an-speaking nomadic ethnic groups and the communication in the area of the Silk Road played a special role in the process of costume contacts. The influence of non-Iranian states up to Turkization in the 7th c. AD was evident first of all in the spread of accessories, more seldom of hair styles, not in the elements of clothing as such. Among the “nomadic empires”, which influenced Iranian-speaking ethnic groups the special role belonged to the West Turkic Qaghanat when the Turks also spread a number of clothing elements of other ethnic groups. The Sogdian costume
underwent Turkization to the greatest degree.
The list of 12 Median elements in the gala costume of the Ahaemenides is specified. They were mainly introduced into practice for the Persians as a result of the costume reform in the autumn of 539 BC, defining the nobility costume looks. The influence of Persian clothes on different peoples is also specified. The Achaemenid costume influenced the dependent and neighbouring Iranian-speaking peoples to a relatively small degree; the influence on the “classic Scythi-ans” being most visible. The neighbourhood of the Arsakides Empire with Palmira led to a few borrowings of men’s costume (local merchants); the influence on the Kushan Empire is only documented beginning from the
fifth ruler, Huvishka. The costume of the Sasanides exerted a certain influence on the Kushanians of the 3rd c. AD;
in the 5th–7th cc. AD this influence is evident in the clothes of Tokharistan nobility, and partly in Sogd, Chorasmia (Khwarezm) and the Byzantine Empire. Borrowings of costume elements of the Kushan Empire were more modest (as the clothes were not evidently thrusted upon conquered peoples and were not included into diplomatic gifts) and are attested most of all for the Khotano-Sakas. The “Sarmatization” of the North Pontic Greek costume from the 1st c. BC means first of all the use of convenient items of the nomadic men’s costume in local conditions but without the Sarma-tian system of décor.
The systematization of the material allows us to specify the region of the ansestors’ motherland for a number of the largest nomadic groups in Eurasia. For example, the “classic” Scythians have the biggest number of the costume similarities to the “Sakas” of South Siberia, including the “Pazyrykians” and also to Tokharo-speaking peoples of Xinjiang. Their predecessors, the Early Scythians, have similarities in the costume analogous first of all to the nomadic ethnic groups in Transoxiana. As far as their costume is concerned, the “Pazyrykians” are very close to their southern neighbours in the above-mentioned Xinjiang. In the clothes of the Early Sarmatians, beginning from the 2nd–1st cc. BC and the Late Sarmatians in the 2nd–3rd cc. AD, a large number of analogies with the Yuech-chihs/the Kushans is quite evident.
Analysis of the “costume” traces of the early penetration of Iranians into the West Iran of today on the verge
of 2nd–1st mil. BC shows their small number even in Luristan (having a lot of anthropomorphic images); opening down-the-front garments of different length, sometimes short-sleeved with no overlapping or with an insignificant one; a cyl-inder-shaped women’s headdress with a head-cover; a belt with long ends drooping in front from the belly; trousers—such features were met only in two types of bronze items and can be connected not with the active presence of the Ira-nians themselves but rather with a certain influence of their clothing.
The proportion of evolution and heredity in the costume complexes of those peoples whose clothes are abundantly dated during 2–3 studied periods is subjected to analysis. The smallest number of inherited elements from the Ahaemenides to the Arsakides, attested only for men, becomes evident (pullover clothes of the sarapis type with a ver-tical strip of a netlike pattern or an arch-like cutting of a skirt edge from the front; the hairstyle with false curls from the sides). The succession in the costume of nobility for the Late Arsakides and the Early Sasanides was much more evident, especially during the 3rd c.
The clothing of the Parthian State appears as an international imperial phenomenon having been formed for a rather short period of time and being actively brought in vogue (in contrast to the Achaemenid time) for the nobility in the territories under their dominion. The specificity of the costume in autonomous regions does not become quiet apparent. Probably, the most often “personal costume initiatives” of some rulers took place precisely at the Parthian time. The latter can be explained, firstly, by the complex structure of the Arsakides Empire that made the forming of the international costume one of the factors to strengthen the unity of the country, secondly, by the influence of the neighbouring Hellinistic monarchies and later Rome. At the minimum, 10 rulers who changed the types of headdresses or hairstyles, the caftan décor and beauty spots on the face can be considered active in this respect. Quite a few innovations are also documented for obscure and weak rulers.
There is a new reconstruction of the initial looks suggested for men’s costume of the nomadic Parnes—the founders of the Arsakides’ power. The costume of Iran, different peoples of Western Turkestan (the Parnes’ moth-erland) and those nomadic ethnic groups who (simultaneously with the Parnes) created their states in the Middle East (Yuech-chihs, Indo-Scythians) has been compared. The Parnes’ costume complex includes a short opening-down-the-front kurtak overlapping to the left with a rich décor of coat breasts and a sleeve seam; a short narrow cloak; trousers of middle width stuck into footwear; a plate-decorated belt with a line of square plaques; short haircuts without parting and a small beard; a diadem tied up with too long ends hanging behind. The costume of the early inhabitants of Parthia (before it was conquered by the Parnes) has practically no common features with the imperial complex of the Old
Arsakides. On Early Parthian coins the famous “Parthian archer”—an idolized founder of the dynasty—is also present-ed not in the authentic Parnes costume but in the old clothes of an Achaemenid satrap.
Under the Sasanides during a short period of time (probably, mainly during a comparatively favourable beginning of the tragic, for Iran, Peroz’s rule, 457–484, i.e. in the 60s) there appears a number of innovations in the costume, some old forms become obsolete. They are: the emergence of “bulbous” skirts with wide edging in men’s shoulder garments; the disappearance of short caftans-kurtaks and men’s cloaks; long women’s sleeved coats and shoulder-strapped dresses, dresses detached on the waist with a vertical cut in the skirt in front, the disappearance of a triangular neckline and the emergence of a small stand-up collar; the disappearance of men’s peaked headdresses-kulah—and belt fabrics, a general change in the décor of men’s clothing collars, the disappearance of round shoulder medallions and the emergence of high sleeve cuffs, women’s dresses of brightly-coloured fabrics, men’s high boots with a triangular jut under the knee or with bell-shaped tops, and men’s hats. In male hairstyle long beards substitute shaved faces or short beards, in female (and girls’) coiffure there are four plaits instead of three or two (often with a line of cone-shaped tubes all along the plait or at the end with pendants). It is groundless to connect the specific “bulbous” skirt and triangle-jutted boots
with the Hephthalite influence of that time, as their singe depictions are also known for the Parthian period. The cos-tume innovations are also a characteristic feature for the period of the first Sasanide, Ardashir I’s, coming to the throne; single costume initiatives are marked for such kings as Narseh and Shapur II. On the whole, the comparison of the ma-terial on the three great pre-Islamic dynasties in Iran in the course of 1200 years demonstrates a rather dynamic costume evolution in this “traditional society”, women’s costume being changed most intensively at that. During the rule of all the three dynasties only single elements were preserved (prevalence of pullover clothes as outer ones, often with different types of “figure”, i.e. not horizontal, hem of the skirt and a vertical line of décor; rare use of quilted clothes; long wide gala coats knotted on the breast; gold belts and sashes tied up with a “Heracles knot”; headdresses tied along the lower edge with ribbons which hang down from behind; coiffure with hair-wave and wigs; gay-coloured fabrics with simple geometric patterns—netlike ones and different combinations of circles).
“Deep heredity” in the costume of Transoxiana from the Achaemenid to the Kushanian times and up to the ethno-logical contemporaneity is constantly underlined by researchers, but the actual list of such elements is extremely short. All the three periods under investigation are documented without lacunae only for the Chorasmians. There are practically no common costume features in all the three periods for that people, high tempo and large scale of constant changing in clothes being demonstrated; a certain heredity being observed between the first two periods. For the Sog-dians, the number of common elements for the Kushanian and the Early Medieval times is also insignificant. In Tokharistan, which was under the rule of different conquerors two main complexes are singled out in the 5th–8th cc.: “Hephthalite” and “Turkic” ones, partially co-existing; the country preserved a rather big number of Kushanian elements and the rates of costume evolution for both sexes were approximately equal. The innovations of the Yuech-chihs/Kushanian costume can be connected with the names of such outstanding rulers of the Kushan Empire as Kanishka I and Huvishka. In Sarmatia during all the 5 periods of the three archaeological cultures notwithstanding the constant migration of new tribes from the east there has been marked a number of common features in clothing, which means definite ethnological heredity.
On the whole, in the ancient Iranian world the brightest series of clothing and hairstyle innovations were observed more often in the periods of changing ethnic domineering or new dynasties coming to power. The term “fashion” for that time can be used first of all with respect to accessories; changes in clothes usually depended on the ruler’s will and influenced nobility.
The specificity of the king’s costume first of all was observed in belts and headdresses, an important role some-times being played by the ring. The costume of aristocracy already in the Achaemenid time is characterized by promi-nent ethnic specificity and practically cannot be classified as having certain “common” Iranian features. The clothes of women-warriors in most cases, judging from written sources, coincided with men’s ones. In a number of cases, their specificity can be observed on the example of the European Scythians and the Sarmatians (dresses with long cuts con-venient for horse riding; a special headdress is documented for the European Scythians). Characterizing commoners’ clothes is the most difficult task, which can be explained by the peculiarities of our sources. In the depictions which are known to us only servants of nobility are presented. Their clothes are more often simpler in silhouette and functional, they practically lack décor and are made of cheaper fabrics. The men’s costume of commoners differs from the one of nobility in the length of the skirt; women-dancers and musicians are often presented in clothes in many aspects close to those of men.
The costume rituals in the Iranian world are under complex analysis. The role of the costume in the funeral ritual has been researched in detail. For many nomadic tribes that role was usually realized in the costume elements being placed separately from the dead body; putting a clad mannequin into the grave symbolizing the dead body of a person who had died far away from his home place; changing the look of accessories or just symbolizing them and sometimes in red colour associated with the Nether World. More often the dead were buried in new expensive clothing but a num-ber of peoples prefer the former owners of the garments to be buried in their favourite worn clothes; women were evi-dently buried in their wedding attire. Sometimes the hairstyle was changed. The costume elements important in every-day life were not put into graves as they were either not included in the ritual complex or their absence prevented the dead from “escape”. The dominance of white colour as the colour of mourning was not always absolute. Some rituals were performed with a gala costume by tomb riders (the “most dangerous” accessories being left untouched, some of them broken).