Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sketches - ancient Persia

some more sketches from around the ancient greater Persia - Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanian horsemen

 Please note all sketches-in-progress





great book on the Eurasian steppe nomads of the Bronze and Iron Age - Kurgans, Ritual Sites, and Settlements - free to download

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sketches - continued

Salve Amici Mei et kind visitors,
 more sketches-in-progress Great Eurasian Steppe - including Khalchayan and Huns (both Hephthalites and European Huns)


Tuesday, May 15, 2012


today my sketches I have been working on - all work-in-progress - early modern period to Napoleonic

.. a Polish Nobleman - XVII century















Monday, May 7, 2012

Mongol saddles and a Mongolian warrior in MyPaint

I would like to share a quick sketch I made after a Chinese drawing of Batu-khan and look at the Mongolian saddles through history.
I admit I have neglected the Great Eurasian steppe so there are some images and text to do away with this awful negligence on my part - :)

Again, I will start a link to this great article on the medieval and later Central Asia saddles. And another article titled 'Mongolian Horse and Horseman'

Well, the Mongolian-style saddles of the Great Steppe developed, over a period of 1000 years, from the horned saddles invented by the Indo-European nomads - Saka and Tocharians (Yuezhi) sometime during III-II centuries BC [e.g. according to prof. Nikonorov] - nota bene  there are some very recent interesting discoveries from Mongolia related to soma ritual, amanita muscaria (''muchomor czerwony'' in Polish) in form of tapestries showing armoured warriors, horses and saddles -  through the saddles most fully seen in the Tang Chinese  sculpture and paintings of VI -VIII centuries AD, as evidenced by this beautiful horse here or by image of the saddle horse of great Tang Emperor Tang Taizong:

This is the Middle Ages Mongolian saddle tree from the Ulan Bataar Museum, dated to XV century:
and another old saddle tree:
And this is a beautifully lacquered and painted saddle tree from the Ming Dynasty:

Photos a Mongolian saddle tree and here, and here is an image of modern saddle from Mongolia:

And here there is a great photo of full modern Mongolian saddle outfit.

 And this is my sketch:
 Beautiful saddle (intricate metal work of the pommel visible) from the National Museum of Mongolia.

On this site there is a book on how to make Mongolian saddles [sic!]

Some interesting stories and images of modern Great Steppe by the so called Salomon 'nomads'- or modern travellers in search of adventure

prolific Polish early modern history blogger and researcher Michal Kadrinazi offers a link to a docudrama on the battle of Vienna 1683 Ad.
Also,I can happily share with you that my friend Radek Sikora has finished a book on the winged hussars during the 1683 battle of Vienna.

the first image  is a painting of a Mongol warrior painted during the Ming Dynasty.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Tarim Mummies et al. - lectures from Penn Museum

yesterday I came across a series of video lectures by some of the most pre-eminent scholars researching the history of the Great Eurasian Steppe and Central Asia ancient civilisations.

Last year the Penn Museum held this very important symposium devoted to the history of the Silk Road (here an article on the history of the Silk Road) in light of new discoveries and analysis of the discovered material, especially as related to the Tocharians (the image above shows Tocharian warriors from the Qizil Cave in Tarim Basin, dated to late V - early VI century AD).

   I am going to list my favourite lectures out of the whole symposium, by names of the scholars who presented them.

Prof. David Anthony - "Horseback Riding and Bronze Age Pastoralism in the Eurasian Steppes"- my favourite lecture.

Prof. Elizabeth Wayland Barber - "The Xinjiang Textiles: More Corridors in the Goldmine"
 She wrote a very interesting book on the textiles of the Tarim Mummies, titled "The mummies of Urumchi."

Prof. James P. MalloryIndo-European Dispersals and the Eurasian Steppe - who, amongst other works, wrote a very important book "In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology and Myth" (1989), and together with Victor Mair  ''The Tarim Mummies''- ground-breaking work on the subject of the ancient Indo-Europeans in Central Asia.

Prof. Victor H. Mair - The Northern Cemetery: Epigone or Progenitor of Small River Cemetery No. 5? , in addition, there is also his very interesting lecture  on the Tarim Mummies, given at Penn Museum as well.

Prof. Colin Renfrew - Before Silk: Unsolved Mysteries of the Silk Road - author of too numerous books and articles to list. In this lecture prof. Renfrew, amongst others, shows an photo of a leather pad saddle with a bridle and a bit with cheekpieces unearthed in the Tarim Basin, and a rather crude drawing showing a reconstruction of this very ancient horse tack. also images of Sintashta chariots

Dr Michael Frachetti - Seeds for the Soul:  East/West Diffusion of Domesticated Grains along the Inner Asian Mountain Corridor. - I happen to have his book "Pastoralist Landscapes and Social Interaction in Bronze Age Eurasia." (2008)

!thanks! my Persian friend Nadeem I am going to share with you a link to this great  magazine - The Silk Road Journal -  devoted to the archaeology, history and culture along the Silk Road - and it is free to download - :)

A sketch-in-progress of a North Iranian nomadic warrior performing a rite; they worshipped both wind (''breath'') and the sword, because they believed that the wind gave life, the sword because it took it [Lucian, Toxaris - after Prof. Mariusz Mielczarek, ''The Sarmatians'')

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Pacem Eaternam, maestro Peter Connolly

I learned yesterday that Mr. Peter Connolly, British academician and artist and one of the greatest scholars in the area of Ancient Greece and Rome  reconstructions passed away on May 3, 2012.

His works and especially his reconstructing via illustrations of the Greek and Roman fighting men, daily life, equipment, architecture etc has no parallel in the modern world. For the historians and enthusiasts of the historians of horsemanship it was Mr. Connolly who reconstructed the horned saddle of the Roman cavalry.

Some of his images available on the Net here
There are some of his books in my own library:
* (1979), Pompeii
 * (1991), The Roman Fort, Oxford Univ. Press
(1993), Greek Legends: The Stories, the Evidence

* (1988), Tiberius Claudius Maximus: The Cavalryman, Oxford Univ.Press.
*  (1988), Tiberius Claudius Maximus: The Legionary, Oxford Univ. Press.

* (1998), Greece and Rome at War, Greenhill Books and Stackpole books
* with  H.Dodge (1998), The Ancient City, Life in Classical Athens & Rome, Oxford Univ. Press
* (1998), The Ancient Greece of Odysseus, Oxford  Univ. Press

all  images attached are in copyright and are shown here under fair use to give some, albeit inadequate, impression of Mr. Connolly's talent and expertise.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Old Sun's wife - Piegan warrior

American Indians of the Plains are famous for their association with horses and horsemanship feats, but not seldom it is forgotten or omitted that often (the wholly nomadic tribes) and at times (in case of the earth or grass lodge dwellers)  the entire household was also transported on horseback (and dog back) or pulled loaded on travois, especially during the golden era when the Comanches ruled the southern plains while various nations and tribes skirmished over the northern and central plains...

The work of setting up or taking down of the conical tents/lodge known as tippi / teepee (from the Dakota Sioux language ), gathering and cooking food, working hides, making clothes, carrying for children, accompanying the men on hunts to dress the carcass and prepare meat for the most important food product of the plains pemmican, tending to small gardens etc was done by women and girls  while their men were hunting, stealing horses or on war-party, and boys were busy watching the horse herds and gentling horses or hunting for small game.

Notwithstanding these domestic and economic duties and obligations that the women carried in the very masculine and bellicose societies of the Great Plains nomads, some women undertook taking active role in the war parties (as we know from the records of the frontier wars between the US military and the nomads - eg Mo-chi, Buffalo Calf Road Woman, Moving Robe Woman, Minnie Hollow Wood, The Other magpie ), while others took active part in negotiations and other diplomatic relations leading to cessation of hostilities or simply truces.

In pre-horse era of the Great Plains Indians cultures during the historic period (after 1500AD) their women were obviously the desired target of kidnapping/slaving parties carried by the enemy warriors, thus those women would become captives and slaves, and some eventually would change their status to adopted tribal members  and wives to their captors.

Once the horses became companions of the Plains Indians during XVII century Apacheria (excellent dissertation on the subject, plus Frank R. Secoy's work)/Jumano/Ute/Caddo horse distribution period and later during the Comancheria of XVIII century domination, the entire warrior ethos of the Great Plains Indians turned to horse capturing and coup counting as the primary pursuits for the warrior. Researchers like professor John C. Ewers ( in this book ''Plains Indians Culture,'' p.196 ) suggest that the custom of stealing women during the pre-horse era and the honours associated with that activity  were actually appropriated/addopted as the model for the horse stealing raids during the post-horse era (that lasted until the 1880s AD).

Well, there is a tale gathered from XIX century Blackfeet by an Anglo traveller named Julian Ralph. He was travelling in company of Frederic Remington (and Charles M. Russell's drawings and paintings) whose art (in public domain) is gracing this post.

Old Sun and his wife:
 " our joy, we found seated in that room the famous chief Old Sun. He is the husband of the most remarkable Indian squaw in America, and he would have been Crowfoot's successor were it not that he was eighty-seven years of age when the Blackfoot Cæsar died. As chief of the North Blackfeet, Old Sun boasts the largest personal following on the Canadian plains, having earned his popularity by his fighting record, his commanding manner, his eloquence, and by that generosity which leads him to give away his rations and his presents. No man north of Mexico can dress more gorgeously than he upon occasion, for he still owns a buckskin outfit beaded to the value of a Worth gown. Moreover, he owns a red coat, such as the Government used to give only to great chiefs.
    Mr. Remington was anxious to paint Old Sun and his squaw, particularly the latter, and he easily obtained permission
Old Sun's wife sits in the council of her nation—the only woman, white, red, or black, of whom I have ever heard who enjoys such a prerogative on this continent. She earned her peculiar privileges, if any one ever earned anything.[...] When Old Sun [24]brought his wife to sit for her portrait I put all etiquette to shame in staring at her, as you will all the more readily believe when you know something of her history.
    Forty or more years ago she was a Piegan maiden known only in her tribe, and there for nothing more than her good origin, her comeliness, and her consequent value in horses. She met with outrageous fortune, but she turned it to such good account that she was speedily ennobled. She was at home in a little camp on the plains one day, and had wandered away from the tents, when she was kidnapped. It was in this wise: other camps were scattered near there.
    On the night before the day of her adventure a band of Crows stole a number of horses from a camp of the GrosVentres, and very artfully trailed their plunder towards and close to the Piegan camp before they turned and made their way to their own lodges. 
    When the Gros Ventres discovered their loss, and followed the trail that seemed to lead to the Piegan camp, the girl and her father, an aged chief, were at a distance from their tepees, unarmed and unsuspecting. 
Down swooped the Gros Ventres. They killed and scalped the old man, and then their chief swung the young girl upon his horse behind him, and binding her to him with thongs of buckskin, clashed off triumphantly for his own village.
That has happened to many another Indian maiden, most of whom have behaved as would a plaster image, saving a few days of weeping.
Not such was Old Sun's wife.
When she and her captor were in sight of the Gros Ventre village, she reached forward and stole the chief's scalping-knife out of its sheath at his side. With it, still wet with her father's blood, she cut him in the back through to the heart. Then she freed his body from hers, and tossed him from the horse's back. Leaping to the ground beside his body, she not only scalped him, but cut off his right arm and picked up his gun, and rode madly back to her people, chased most of the way, but bringing safely with her the three greatest trophies a warrior can wrest from a vanquished enemy. Two of them would have distinguished any brave, but this mere village maiden came with all three. From that day she has boasted the right to wear three eagle feathers.
   Old Sun was a young man then, and when he heard of this feat he came and hitched the requisite number of horses to her mother's travois poles beside her tent. I do not recall how many steeds she was valued at, but I have heard of very high-priced Indian girls who had nothing except their feminine qualities to recommend them. In one case I knew that a young man, who had been casting what are called "sheep's eyes" at a maiden, went one day and tied four horses to her father's tent. Then he stood around and waited, but there was no sign from the tent. Next day he took four more, and so he went on until he had tied sixteen horses to the tepee. At the least they were worth $20*, perhaps $30*, apiece. At that the maiden and her people came out, and received the young man so graciously that he knew he was "the young woman's choice," as we say in civilized circles, sometimes under very similar circumstances.
     At all events, Old Sun was rich and powerful, and easily got the savage heroine for his wife. She was admitted to the Blackfoot council without a protest, and has since proven that her valor was not sporadic, for she has taken the war-path upon occasion, and other scalps have gone to her credit.""
Julian Ralph, On Canada's Frontier, NY 1892
[via The Project Gutenberg]
*dollar amounts in 1890s

More on the Plains Indian tribes and their horses in the future, I hope :)
Italian comix dell arte master Paolo Eleteri Serpieri used Remington's image of Old Sun's wife killing the Gros Ventre warrior for creation of his own image in the series  L'Histoire du Far-West ("The Story of the West") - can be seen in this collection of Western images - caveat - some drawings explicit)