Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Sarmatian timeline

Below is a general timeline of Sarmatian activities. Much of it is taken from the New Penguin atlases, and sometimes the only information given is their spot on the map. Other times, they're discussed in more detail in the text. I've supplemented in a few additional notes from elsewhere and will continue to update this post as needed.
Note that overall, there is a general trend among western steppe nomads to eventually be pushed westward by tribes moving in from the east.
  • By 415 BC, the Sarmatians are inhabiting the Russian steppes north of the Caspian Sea.
  • By 192 BC, the Sarmatians are pushing the Scythians westward.
  • By 145 BC, Sarmatians can be divided into three sub-groups (Jazyges, Roxolani, and Alan), each group's area is delineated east-west by major rivers. 
  • By 79 AD, the Sarmatians are being pushed westward to the point that the Roxolani cause the Jazyges to be displaced to the Hungarian steppes.
  • By 230, the Jazyges have been further restricted by Vandals moving in from the north, while the Roxolani are actually pushed back toward the Alans by the Goths moving in from the west.
  • By 305, the Roxolani and Jazyges are no longer on the map. Their areas have been taken over by Asding Vandals and Ostrogoths.
  • By 362, the Alans are feeling the heat from three sides- the Ostrogothic Empire to the West, the Finns to the north, and the Huns to the east. They live in a small area between the Black and Caspian seas north of the Caucasus Mountains. They then expand south into  the mountains.
  • Throughout all this, approximately 250,000 people live on the steppes between those two seas at a given time.
  • By 406, the Huns have taken over the steppes, pushing Germanic tribes west- along with a clan of Alans. The Vandals, Suevi, and the Alan clan invade Gaul at the end of the year.
  • By 420, the aforementioned barbarian pillagers have moved into the Iberian peninsula. As part of a bargain with Rome, the Visigoths pushed most of them into the northwest corner before returning to Gaul.
  • In 429, the Asding Vandals leave their corner of the Iberian peninsula, pick up the Siling Vandals and Alans left in the south, and 80,000 men, women, and children cross the Straight of Gibraltar into Africa. Rome has to cede the western provinces (the northernmost parts of modern Morocco and Algeria) to them in 435. In 442, they trade them for modern Tunisia. The Alan king had died in battle before this and the clan was absorbed by the Vandals they traveled with.
  • By 476, the Alans who stayed behind during the Huns' rule have regained ground in and around the east Caucasus.
  • By 600, the Khazar Turks have pushed the Alans out of their northern reaches. The Alans are able to push the Huns back slightly to the west.
  • By 661, the Khazars have expanded and now rule the Alans.
  • By 1030, the Alans are back on the map in the east Caucasus. (It's a long stretch of time, but stuff happened in between which was not intimated in the book.)
  • By 1071, the Alans now hold almost all of the steppes between the Black and Caspian seas and north of the Caucasus. The Kingdom of Georgia is to their southwest.
  • By 1092, the Alans have lost some of their northern lands and gained some in the eastern Caucasus.
  • From 1221-1222, a group of Mongols originally sent to pursuethe Shah out of his empire to the south fights their way through several groups' lands, including the Alans, and deep into Russia. The Mongol attacks are damaging, but Genghis Khan dies before he can take advantage of them.
  • In 1236, the Mongols return to the Russian steppes. No one has bolstered their defenses and the Alans fall under Mongol subjugation along with other groups. 
That is the last they are mentioned in the New Penguin books, but the Encyclopaedia Iranica gives more information on their eventual fate from other references. After devastating wars in the 14th centuries, the Alans split into three groups- one moved into the foothills of the central Caucasus and became the Iron and Digor Ossetians still around today. Another migrated to Hungary and became the Jasz (It seems I was wrong before about them being descended from the Jazyges. Though I'm still puzzled by the name parallel.) The third took up with the Mongols and were sent to China as guards (the Mongols and Chinese called them "Asu" or "As"), where they were eventually absorbed or killed in battle.

McEvedy, C., 2002, The New Penguin Atlas of Ancient History, 2nd ed., Penguin Books.
McEvedy, C., 1992, The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History, Penguin Books.
Yule, H., 1913, Cathay and the way thither: being a collection of medieval notices of China, Vol. III, Hakluyt Society, London.
The History of Yuan (pīnyīn: Yuán Shǐ), 1370, ed. Song Lian, Ming Dynasty Bureau of History, China.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Literature Review: The New Penguin Atlas of---

   This review is actually for two books in a series which both contain information on the Sarmatians and later Alans- The New Penguin Atlas of Ancient History and The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History by Colin McEvedy. The sheer amount of work that must have gone into compiling all of the information contained therein is staggering. And the concise way in which it's presented is brilliant. The commentary is pretty hilarious at times, too. If you're a map or history buff, no matter what culture you care about, if it was in Europe or the parts of Asia and Africa near it at some point in history (and even pre-history) before the end of 1483, you'll enjoy this book. Best of all, the author is candid about the instances where he makes assumptions that are not well-established. I cannot recommend it enough.

  Each book consists of a collection of maps showing the large-scale evolution of such cultural features as language, writing forms, migration, borders, and population size with a running commentary on the side. Most history books will pick a time and place and talk about it in detail (such as the Italian Renaissance or Tudor England) and they're great for diving into narrow subjects. The purpose of this book is to see the big picture, so it doesn't provide the fine level of detail you can get elsewhere, but is equally as valuable for a different reason. It puts things into perspective. Instead of jumping from Greece to Rome in your history book, you actually get a vague idea of whats going on with the "barbaric" Germanic tribes at the same time (using that word in its original sense). You see the kingdoms of France and Armenia showing up at about the same time on opposite ends of the map. It really helps to remind one that things do not exist in isolation.

  There was enough information about the Sarmato-Alans in the two books that it warrants an entire other post. Be expecting a Christmas present from me. :)

McEvedy, C., 2002, The New Penguin Atlas of Ancient History, 2nd ed., Penguin Books.
McEvedy, C., 1992, The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History, Penguin Books.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Christmahannukwanzuleid!

  It's the holiday season again! Cultures around the world celebrate this time of year in some form or another, and with good reason. Winter was a lot rougher before we had the ability to produce various foods well into the winter. The winter solstice marks the time when the days stop shortening and begin their slow climb back into the longer days of summer. If you were worried about surviving the winter, that's a good spot to put your thumb and say "things will get better now". ...In spite of the fact that the worst of winter weather comes in January, but anywho.

  So now that spring is approaching, think about what that would mean to your persona. Did his/her culture observe a winter solstice celebration? What did they call it? What sort of festivities did they have? Are any of their traditions still around today? If the holiday itself is still observed, in what ways was it different back then?

  One of these days I'll ask you guys a persona question I can actually answer for my own. Curse their lack of a written language!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Literature Review: Gonzales-Ruiz et al., 2012

  I can't believe I've only done one lit review so far... Time to fix that with a discussion of a fun paper (Gonzalez-Ruiz et al., 2012) that was brought to my attention recently on the haplotypes of people buried in Pazyryk graves (The Pazyryk culture is the one that gave us the dozens of golden deer statues I discussed previously. Ethinically, they were "Eastern Scythians", a.k.a. Saka.). The best part is that it's in PLOS ONE, which is a completely open source peer-reviewed journal. No paying $30+ for an article when you don't have a university library to use. :) I won't go into detail since you can read the entire thing for yourself with a click of a button, but here are the main points. If you aren't a geneticist, don't worry about the methods; there's a lot of jargon involved. Try reading the introduction, then skipping to the discussion.

  Haplotypes are particular sequences of DNA which are very useful in biogeographic studies of humans. They evolve at just the right rate to tell us about the worldwide expansion of our species throughout, then out of, Africa when considering particular combinations of haplotypes (haplogroups). The haplotypes used for these type of studies have pervaded the populations they evolved in. Some of them were carried to new regions when a population migrated or when adjacent groups sequentially interbreed, thus transporting the haplotype that way even if the original population didn't move much.

  Central Asia and the adjacent steppes are at a crossroads between "Europe" and "Asia" insofar as the ethnicities living there are concerned (despite the name of the region itself). There are high number of diverse ethnicities living there- some seem more European and some seem more Asian. The purpose of this paper was to add more information to our understanding of the ancient genetic flow in the region.
  The authors extracted DNA from skeletal material in Iron Age Pazyryk burials and compared it to other DNA from both Bronze Age and Iron Age burials in Central Asia. What they found is that during the Bronze Age- after humans had initially expanded into the Far East- the Altai mountains were acting as a barrier. East was east, west was west, and there's no evidence for any genetic flow between them. At some point in the Iron Age, things changed. The haplogroups go from being East Eurasian (i.e. Turkic nomads) on the east side of the mountains and West Eurasian (i.e., Iranian nomads) on the west side of the mountains to about half and half on both sides.
  Today, steppe nomads are Turkic. The few remaining ethnicities in the same larger language group as the Iranian steppe nomads are sedentary now. They were driven off the steppes and diminished in prominence by the westward-expanding Turkic nomads within history. What this study shows is that during prehistory, it was the Iranian nomads who did the expanding (toward the East). They initially stopped at the Altaic mountains, then the groups living in that area started expanding outwards-or rather, their genes did. There were no new West Eurasian haplotypes showing up, just the local ones increasing in geographic range. This study adds another line of evidence for our understanding of the ancient biogeography of steppe nomads (on top of cultural and linguistic data), and give us some hard boundaries (both spatial and temporal).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Knowne Worlde Academy of Rapier and Clothing Symposium

  The annual SCA-wide fencing and clothing event was this past weekend (as was Calontir's Crown Tourney- congrats to Their new Excellencies Donngal and Catalina!).

  Unfortunate circumstances led to me missing all the morning classes I wanted to go to on subjects such as body mechanics and single rapier fundamentals, so the only fencing class I went to was the rapier and dagger master class. I got some good tips out of it for future reference, but I don't own a dagger yet and the room was waaaay too crowded, so I didn't get to actually try anything.

  The clothing class, however, was extremely beneficial. It turns out I took a class from the same teacher at Dragon*Con two years ago. She taught back-to-back classes on making patterns for Central Asian kaftans (caftans with her spelling; it doesn't really matter). She also gave us background info (hurray!) on why kaftans were constructed the way they were. Having two layers in front with a wrap kaftan I knew about- it combats the cold wind blowing straight at you when you're riding a horse. She also talked about the vestiges of those original purposes which were retained in later period sedentary cultures. One thing she pointed out (which she also talked about in the D*Con class) was how she'd spent a long time trying to figure out the neckline in a Persian (I think) kaftan, only to realize that it was the same pattern used by Turkic nomads, just the two sides attached down the center instead of wrapped.
  She had this brilliant method of teaching us a basic Turkic nomad kaftan pattern. She passed out pieces of fabric for us to cut the pieces for miniature kaftans out of. The fabric was black and white checked, which meant you could designate each small square as being a certain number of inches. It works brilliantly! I need to find some of that now.
One of the things she pointed out that had been bothering me when trying to draft patterns was shoulders. I couldn't figure out how to get the shoulder seams to lay flat against me. Turns out they aren't supposed to (at least not before later period kaftans). Shoulder seams should be straight and the pooching in front is supposed to be there.
Her name is Jadi Fatima. She primarily researches Ottoman, Mongolian, and Persian culture, textiles, and dance. She does brilliant work and I highly encourage visiting her website.

There was a ball Saturday night, for which my ride and I were the only musicians. Christian is a music Laurel (he mostly played recorder with a little guitar) and I played the drum. ...That was the second time I've picked up a bodhran. I think I did okay. o_o As he described the situation, all the musicians were from Calontir and we definitely stayed in tune the entire time.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Event this weekend

I am going to be a bad, bad Calontiri this weekend. It's Crown Tournament...but the Knowne World Academy of the Rapier/Known Worlde Clothing Symposium is also this weekend and just four hours away in the Midrealm (in Itasca, IL). As much as I've been wanting to go to Crown (I've never been to one. :( ), Gamble and I are trying to teach ourselves cut-and-thrust and have no mentors to learn from locally. We're on the Calontir Steel e-mail list, but there's only so much you can learn through exchanging e-mails. This is an excellent opportunity for us to absorb as much information as possible from experts in person and I just can't justify passing it up, seeing as Crown happens twice a year and the odds of this event being near us again are pretty low. On top of that, Gamble isn't sure what style of clothing he wants to wear in the SCA, so this is a fantastic opportunity for him to see examples from all sorts of time periods and cultures.
Anyone else heading over there?

My Anniversary Present!

The hiatus is over now. :)
I've been waiting to post this one for quite a while. I initially held off because it was my husband's entry in Queen's Prize and I wanted to wait to post it until it was over. Then the mundane busy-ness happened.
My husband (who has started going by Gamble in the SCA) is awesome. I was traveling for five weeks prior to our first anniversary and he spent that time secretly plotting and planning my present. I came home to this:

  He looked through the Sarmatian books I'd left behind and referenced a bath robe and jacket I have to make the pattern and figure out the measurements. The extra triangular sections on the front are there because the initial cut didn't wrap around as far as he wanted.
  We don't have a sewing machine, so he hand-sewed the entire thing. He's almost as new to sewing as me (and much better!) and wanted to play around with reversibility, so it's reversible. He used some of the fabric gifted to my by Juturna to imitate deerskin leather and found some polyester imitation silk at the local fabric store. He made it reversible for the heck of it and it is awesome.
   I'll take some measurements and update this post later so everyone has a tried and true kurta  pattern to work with.

Monday, October 15, 2012

On rude behavior (and a bit about the Jassic people)

I'm making a brief mid-hiatus appearance to say- I've had a visit from a troll. Which means I'm a real blogger now! Look on the bright side of things, right?

I recently received a comment from someone which I unfortunately felt a need to delete. The gist of the comment was, "I'm Alan and you don't know what you're talking about, so stop." (Which means about as much as if I had said "I'm an academic and you don't know what you're talking about, so stop.", which is not much of anything. It's misleading and leaves too much to be said.) That's it. No correcting any perceived mistakes. And some cursing, which was the sole reason I deleted it. I did not make the settings on this blog "adults only" and have no intention of doing so. Strong cursing will not be tolerated and any comment containing it will be deleted posthaste.
I suspect the commenter is someone who followed a share of one of my posts made by a Hungarian on Facebook. There were comments on some of his other posts by someone who also said he was Alan and the Hungarian doesn't know what he's talking about. The Hungarian had uploaded a video to a song (in Hungarian?) which, based on other comments, must have mentioned the Jassic people of Hungary, who are descended from Sarmatians (likely the Iazyges/Jazyges, considering the name and location). The human genographic project provides an independent line of evidence in the form of haplotypes traceable back to the Sarmatians' homeland showing up in a village in Hungary. Spencer Wells, one of the head researchers for the project, gave a talk at my university last semester and mentioned that briefly. He didn't actually say "Jassic" or "Sarmatian", but I knew exactly what he was talking about and looked it up later to confirm. I may have audibly squeed. It's a really cool project; I highly recommend you browse through their findings. Maybe even contribute your own DNA if you can afford to. :) The research is largely funded by people buying the kits, which is why they're so pricy. In short, there's plenty of evidence for the Jassic people being of Sarmatian descent- DNA, their now-dead language, and our knowledge of their history all point toward it.

But back to the topic at hand- The Commenter's reason for objection had a bit of a racist ring to it. Maybe not quite what you normally think of when you hear the word racist- more like a desperate need to be special and unique, as his people haven't exactly been treated fairly in recent history. He also seemed to think the video implied that the Magyars were of Sarmatian descent (which they aren't and which other commenters said it didn't imply).

So if you're reading this, Commenter, being rude and confrontational will get you nowhere.  There are people interested in Ossetians and Alans who aren't of your ethnicity- that's a compliment and a testament to your rich cultural heritage. I'm not sure why you aren't happy that others recognize that and want to know more. If you know something I don't, please do tell me and tell me where I went wrong. Simply saying "I'm right, you're wrong" is not conducive to learning.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hiatus and Queen's Prize

This is overdue, but considering how busy I've been and will continue to be for the next month, I should officially declare a hiatus to be ended in mid November.

A couple quick notes, though- My husband and I both entered Queen's Prize last month. It's a kingdom-level A&S "competition". It's specifically for novice-level (though you can request to be judged at intermediate level, which I did). The competition aspect is less emphasized than it is in Kingdom A&S. I entered the Chinese dumplings I taught a class on at Lilies and my husband entered a Sarmatian-related thing which I'll write about once the hiatus is over.
I finally got to see the Big Book of Emblazons in person. Everyone really seems to be enjoying it! And as a thank you for making it and doing other heraldry service, Their Majesties made me a Torse! The Torse is the AoA-level service award in Calontir. :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Steppe Nomad Symbolism for SCA Armory

   I’ve talked about tamgas being a heraldic tradition of steppe nomads before, but what if your particular culture and time didn’t have tamgas, didn’t use them as heraldry, or you just don't want one? There are still plenty of ways to make your Western-style armory reflect your steppe persona. Just think about symbolism that would have been important to your culture and put that on your device or badge. Mine their art for ideas as well as thinking about their modes of life.
    Below are some ideas. Can you think of any others? Add them in the comments!

    Steppe nomads were not exactly a peaceful lot. They raided, they were mercenaries, they fought against empires that threatened them… They also got a lot of their sustenance from hunting. Bows (think Mongol-type bows, not longbows) and arrows were used both for hunting and in combat (Parthian shots ftw!). Some Sarmatian tribes, like the Iazyges, used long lances in combat. Swords and daggers were also prolific (swords in particular held strong symbolic significance for some, such as the Alans). When you emblazon them, just pick the type your persona would have had. Sarmatians were known for swords with little to no guard and ring pommels. They also had dirks which they carried in sheaths strapped to their thighs rather than hanging from their belts as Westerners would have done.
Ring pommels were popular between the 2nd cent. BC and 2nd cent. AD around the Black Sea and Hungarian Plain. They were usually 50-60 cm long, and sometimes had semi-precious stones set in the rings. These are from the Odessa Archeological Museum. (Brzezinski and Mielczarek, 2002)

    What would your persona wear? What type of kaftan did their culture have? Were their boots distinctive? What about hats? What type of armor did they wear? Any torques or other commonly-worn accessories? All of these are possible charges.

    People are not common in armory- partially because most don’t care for them as charges and partially because they’re harder to draw/sew/embroider/etc… for most. If you do like them, though, you can have people standing around, people riding horses, people shooting bows, etc… Just give them the sort of racial features and proportions your nomads would have had, dress them up in their clothes, and make any other accoutrements persona-appropriate.
Models of dwellings from
Kirch, Crimea circa 600 BC.
(Andrews, 1999)

Wagons and Tents
    Steppe nomads did not simply sleep on the ground or in a bedroll; they had wagons and tents (which or what they look like depends on your persona). You could have a tent or wagon simply placed on your device, show them being drawn or carried by horses, cattle, or camels, or you could have multiples arranged to symbolize an encampment (heraldic options for this are semy, in orle, a semy on a bordure, or in a train (try “on a fess, x wagons/pack animal”).
    The single most important animal in a steppe nomad’s life is their horse. They are transportation, source of dairy, indicator of wealth and status, pack animals, mount during hunting or combat- everything. This makes them an extremely appropriate charge for a steppe nomad’s armory. 
Running deer from: 1-2)The Ukraine,
3-5) Russia, 6) Iran, 7) Kazakhstan,
8) Mongolia. (Lebydynsky, 2011)

    Early steppe nomads- both Iranian and Altaic- really like deer as art subjects. This wonderful figure from Lebedensky’s Tamga book illustrates the uniformity of just one deer motif. They sculpted, painted, and sewed them standing, lying down, being attacked by predators, with their legs turned 180 degrees (registering that might be hairy, though you could display it that way), and running. In Western (and SCA) heraldry, courant invokes the image of legs extended, but the steppe depiction is the moment in the stride where the legs are tucked under the body.

    Griffins are of huge importance to Iranian steppe nomads. Unlike later Western griffins, it isn’t simply the back half of a lion glued onto the front half of an eagle with ears. You take something that looks like a lioness (or maneless male lion), add bird wings, a beak, pointy, feathery ears, and a fish-fin type crest running down the length of its neck. If you want to get really fancy, have it vulning (standing on top of and attacking) a deer or ibex. Depending on your culture, the deer’s legs may or may not be twisted 180 degrees from the front of the body.

Phalera with two Bactrian camels.
Bronze, Filippovka, 4th cent. BC.
(The Golden Deer of Eurasia)
They have pompadour mullets!
    Camels were (and are) important to many Altaic nomads. A fairly common theme that you see in nomadic art is two Bactrian camels with fangs standing side-by-side and biting each others' back legs. I seriously doubt that particular pose could be registered, but the “combatant” pose was created with the intention to show animals attacking one another, so try registering that instead (the word may be changed to “respectant” during registration since they’re herbivorous). Alternatively, you could have them standing and facing one another (statant respectant). Then when you display it, shift it to the form more appropriate to your persona.

    You don’t often see unique chimerical monsters in SCA heraldry, but they do exist and are completely registrable (there are currently 37 registered). You just have to blazon the different parts they’re made of. Some steppe nomads left behind depictions of chimerical monsters. The most common example it to start with either a deer or a horse. Say you have a deer- you can give it a bird beak. You may put stylized griffin heads on the ends of its antler tines. The blazon would read something like "a monster composed of the beak of an eagle and the body of a deer, with antler tines ending in gryphon heads". If you start with a horse instead, you do the same thing while adding deer antlers.
In steppe terms, this is a lion-headed, goat-horned gryphon (with front leg proportions more akin to a goat, but still ending in paws). Because of the difference between medieval gryphons and early steppe gryphons, this chimaera would be better blazoned as "a bird-winged monster composed of an ounce's head, paws, hindquarters, and tail, a goat's horns, ears, and forequarters, and a dragon's neck" if you want to register something like this in the SCA. It could be taken to be couchant (lying down) or sejant erect (sitting, but with front legs raise), but make it more obviously one or the other for registration purposes. It's wings are addorsed and inverted if you want to blazon that detail. Remember that steppe art involves squishing and stretching things to fit the space.
From a scabbard made by a Greek with Scythian designs and for a Scythian. Gold, PLACE, TIME. (From the Lands of the Scythians)
 What Not to Have
   Once you've come up with a steppe-themed charge, you might find that you want to put a little bit more on your device but don't want the rest of the obviously steppe options. Instead, you might find yourself flipping through the PicDic or medieval armorials for possible charges. What should you avoid if you want it to still make sense for a nomad? Big ships, for one- horse nomads have no reason to go sailing (unless you want to be one of those Iazyges who went to what's now England, or an Alan who crossed Gibraltar to raid with the Goths, but those were one-off trips). That's not to say they didn't fish in rivers or any of the seas in or near the steppes- you can occasionally find a zoomorphic fish- but big whales? No. Pelagic fish? No. Also avoid any objects which postdate your particular culture or that they never would have encountered. Maunches, for example- the angel-armed sleeves- are not from a time or place in which they could be encountered by a Saka. Farming implements (aside from some involved in animal husbandry) would also be uncharacteristic. If your persona didn't have a written language, books and quill pens wouldn't make much sense. Unless you have evidence that a steppe nomad encountered tales or depictions of New World fauna, it would be best to avoid them considering how temporally and geographically restricted knowledge of them was in SCA period. These are just a few examples. Basically, just do your homework and use your best judgement when picking charges not specific to steppe nomads. :)

One Final Note
   Keep in mind with all of these that if a steppe nomad motif looks much different from the Western standard, there is the risk of it not being registered if submitted as such. I’m not saying it couldn’t, but keep in mind that typical SCA heralds have to be able to blazon it consistently. Stylized zoomorphic art has been registered in the past, but so far as I know it isn't anymore, so definitely avoid that aspect when drawing for submission. When it comes time to display your armory, though, show everyone your steppe persona!

From the Lands of the Scythians: Ancient Treasures from the Museums of the USSR, 3000 BC-100BC, Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol 32, no. 5, 1975.

The Golden Deer of Eurasia: Scythian and Sarmatian Treasures from the Russian Steppes, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000.

Brzezinski, R, and Mielczarek, M, 2002, Men-at-Arms: The Sarmatians 600BC-450AD, Osprey publishing.

Andrews, P, 1999, Felt Tents and Pavilions, Melisende UK Ltd.

Lebydynsky, I, 2011, Les Tamgas: Une "Héraldique" de la Steppe, éditions errance.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Make Your Own Scythian Gryphon

There are two metal sheets, but I'd already used one when
I took this picture.
   After walking around the Met, I went to their annex, the Cloister. If you're heading to New York, definitely make a trip there (you get same day entrance when you go to the Met). It's parts of several abbeys and recreations of those styles all combined into one absolutely gorgeous building. There are various exhibits (including the famous unicorn tapestries!), labelled gardens of European plants used in the Middle Ages, and guided tours (such as one for all the really cool carved doors they have). It's off the beaten path, not crowded, and very peaceful.
   I also discovered this in the gift store. It's a kit for making your own Scythian gryphon like the ones actually displayed at the Met! The box is even made so that you can display your "masterpiece" by hanging it on a wall complete with a descriptive card. A lot of the Iranian steppe artifacts at the Met were made via a chasing and repoussé technique (info from the booklet) and that's what this one sort of recreates. It's a little kid-ified version, so it's by no means true-to-life, though it's a nice introduction to it for the beginner. There are several other techniques "recreated" in this series, so I definitely recommend children's ministers take a look at it. Probably not for the very young ones, but perhaps ages 10 and up?
Edgework plus wing and eye details
   Rather than gold sheets, you get two gilded sheets of some sort of silver-colored malleable metal (tin?). The sheets one would actually use to recreate steppe gold jewelry would be a much thicker (in addition to being actual gold sheets). These are far too flimsy to be sewn to clothing like Iranian steppe nomads did. The size of the gryphon (~4 in) is much larger than the originals it's based on (~1 in). Given how soft and thin the sheets are, hammering is overkill, so all you do is push and rub with the plastic tools given. The surface used to do the repoussé is just a thin sheet of foam because that's also all that's needed.
   You start by taping a sheet to the mold. From the top, use the wide, flat tool on the right (a square end and a circular end) to mark the edges of the gryphon and major body parts (I just did the wings). Then you switch to the tool in the center of the picture above to make the details show up. There's a spherical end and another like a sphere cut in half (for the smaller areas and the sharper edges). You also use the tool on the left (a point and a wedge on either end) to define the corners and get into the crevices. This is the "chasing" part, where the background is being forced away from you.
   Then you take the tape off and turn the sheet over on top of the foam. Use the round end of the middle tool to push out the large areas (wings, thigh, shoulder, neck...) and the half-round end for the smaller areas. This is the "repoussé" part, where the image is being forced away from you.
After "chasing" with the second and third
tools. See the inadvertent rips?
Because the sheet is flimsy, some parts will inevitably get pushed back away from where you had them, and some edges will become less defined. At this point, you flip back and forth between "chasing" and "repoussé" until you're happy with the way your gryphon looks.
   The instruction booklet tells you to stop here and display your "masterpiece" in the front pocket. But since the Scythian gryphons were standalone plaques for clothing, not images on sheets, I decided to go ahead and remove the background which was not part of the gryphon. Mostly I could just rub the pointy tool back and forth along the edge until it ripped (sometimes this happens on accident, as you can see in the picture to the left). I had a few little snags hanging on and ended up taking scissors to them or folding them under, depending on where they were, and whether their size and shape was messing with the gryphon itself (that happened a lot around the toes).
   Someone got their Laurel for goldworking at Lilies. I might have to look him up at an event and see if I can get his input on using actual chasing and repoussé to make Sarmatian plaques for my clothing...
After applying "repoussé"
After ripping/cutting out the gryphon and dealing with the edges
Ta-da! My "masterpiece" displayed! So cute and corny...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Steppe Nomads at the Met

I was recently in NYC for mundane research. Given that three of my books surveying Sarmatian and co. goldwork were published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it was on my list of things to do when I'm not working in the collections of the natural history museum.
I wasn't expecting a lot to be displayed- they aren't exactly popular with the general public- and there wasn't. Iranian steppe nomads are confined to a corner in a small gallery devoted to Near East Asian art. This includes other groups such as the people of the Caucasus, Sassanian Persians, and Mesopotamians. I was actually surprised at how little work was being displayed from "the cradle of civilization". The one thing that I was disappointed about, even with my low expectations, is that none of the golden deer were displayed. I think the Golden Deer of Eurasia was written as a companion to a special exhibition (how I wish I could have seen it!), but I was hoping at least one of the many they have would still be viewable by the general public. Oh well. I still highly recommend going if you're in town. The museum has a dearth of other things displayed. I took pictures of Renaissance string instruments for a friend, saw Henry VIII's last set of field armor (how sad that his "grossly overweight" is "normal" for much of the US today...), and a really awesome ceramic dish. It was made at the end of period using actual animals to make casts. Check out their annex, The Cloisters, as well!

Below are pictures of what they did have in the Caucasian peoples (sensu stricto) and Iranian nomads corner.
Disc with running dogs surrounding a mountain goat
Caucasus region, 1st-3rd centuries AD

Clasp with an eagle and its prey
Gold with turquoise inlays
Iran? Parthian, 1st cent BC-1st cent AD

Roundel with horned animal, lions, and griffins
Gilded silver inlaid with stones, iron backing
Central Asia, Sarmatian, 3rd-2nd century BC

Roundels with griffin heads
Gilded silver with stone inlays
Western Asia, late 1st millennium BC

Axe head
Silver and iron
Western Asia, Scythians, 6th-5th century BC

Dress ornaments
Northern Black Sea region (Maikop?)
Scythian, 5th century BC

Fragment of a plaque
Northwestern Iran, possibly Ziwiye, 7th century BC

Teeny tiny ibex figure (an inch long at most)
Same info as above plaque fragment

Finial and pommel with coiled animal forms
Gold and gold with turquoise inlays
Western Asia, possible Black Sea area
Scythian, 6th century BC

Belt buckle, felines attacking ibexes
Mongolia or southern Siberia, Xiongnu period, 3rd-2nd century BC

In addition to the relevant corner, I also found these gems in the Chinese exhibits (which are extensive!). Look familiar to anyone?
Belt buckles
North China, 3rd-2nd century BC
This shape of belt buckle is also present in the form of several Saka (i.e., Asian Scythians) artifacts figured in the Golden Deer book, including the one I used to make the bottom right scene in my '8 of 8' scroll.

Belt plaque
Gilded silver
North China, 3rd century BC
Another belt buckle plaque, this time rectangular. There's that Sarmatian theme of twisting the hindquarters around 180 degrees. It also has the Iranian nomad modifications of taking a horse (it has one hoof per foot), giving it a bird beak, deer antlers, drawing the antlers in that very stylized way, and terminating the tines in griffin heads to boot. The griffin heads aren't quite as noticeable as they typically are, but if you've seen it before you can easily recognize it as such.

There are multiple records of Iranian steppe nomads getting a hold of Chinese artifacts and vice-versa (trade-and-raid routes and all that). There's also the pan-steppe themes that extend all the way east into Mongolia, which borders China. Mallory and Mair discuss the introduction and adoption of Scythian-style art in China. Lebedensky (the same guy who wrote the tamga book) mentions in another book that some Scythians may have migrated into China (must get a hold of all his books!) I didn't notice anything steppe-related in the Greek or Roman rooms (though I could have missed something; they are rather extensive), so I was extremely excited to find these steppe-type artifacts in the Chinese area. There were a few more relevant artifacts in the China section, but these were the best examples of steppe-type art there.

The Golden Deer of Eurasia: Scythian and Sarmatian Treasures from the Russian Steppes, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000.
Iaroslav Lebedynsky, Les Saces, p.73
Mallory and Mair, 2000, The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Another A&S 50 Challenge: Emblazon the Calontir Royal Lineage

Aritê's Depth 50- Draw 50 Calontir royal arms for use as flash cards and whatever else they may be used for (the Calontir Big Book of Emblazons, for example).
50+/50 completed  

Calontir's current Gold Falcon sent out a request for someone to make flash cards of the arms of the Royal Lineage of Calontir. I had recently, for two seconds, thought about illuminating a roll of arms (like the period tournament rolls of arms) before sensibility took over and said "Too much work right now." Drawing things in Illustrator, though, takes much less time and has the additional benefit of building up my library of charges for use with future clients. In short, this request was perfect.

As of the beginning of this challenge, there have been 82 royals of Calontir who either had registered arms or were using them. That's at least 50, so why not make it another challenge? It's not quite enough for two, so I'll just complete the challenge on the way to completing the flash cards.

Making this in Illustrator may seem redundant since one can already access images in the Royal Armorial. However, most of them are pretty low-res and not good for blowing up to the size Gold Falcon wants. Illustrator files are vector art, so it's a non-issue there.

Here they are in no particular order. I'd have them in some sort of order (by reign or by name), except that blogger has decided to place them randomly. If the colors look off from what you would expect, it's because I made CMYK files since they're destined for printing. I also included notes where needed.

Chepe l'Orageux
5th Champion/4th Warlord and 1st King
Per saltire gules and sable, two lightning flashes
throughout in saltire, barbed and flighted Or

* The emblazon in the armorial does not have the bolts throughout, but I have a hard time believing he didn't intend them to be, so I've drawn them that way here.
**These are modern lightning bolts. You may see more rectangular lightning bolts on newer devices, but if I remember correctly, these are Victorian. I don't think lightning bolts are registrable anymore (correct me if I'm wrong), so I've just left them as is here.

Conna ingen uί Chearbhaill
57th Queen
Quarterly azure and vert, a cross fusilly
between four roundels argent
Eleanor d'Autun
22nd Queen
Vert, a fret couped within an annulet argent
Thoman Shadan Secarius
2nd and 11th King
Or, a gurges gules, overall a dagger inverted sable,
and for augmentation, on a canton purpure
a Cross of Calatrava within a bordure Or

*I added the augmentation to the blazon. Looks like it was never resubmitted to add it, though it's being
displayed this way.
Cuthbert Aldhelm
27th King
Lozengy couped in fess gules and argent,
on a pale Or a sword inverted azure
Luther Ambossfaust
30th King
Checky azure and argent,
on a saltire Or an anvil sable
Roderick of Mandrake Hill
15th King
Sable, on a chevron wavy between
three spearheads Or, three acorns sable
Jane Corwin
48th Queen
Azure, a triskelion of legs Or between three bezants
Isabeau Beaux Yeux
49th and 55th Queen
Per chevron azure and vert, a chevron
cotised between a pair of eyes
argent irised azure and a bell argent
Anton Raghelan
49th and 55th King
Per chevron azure and vert, a chevron
cotised between a pair of eyes argent
irised azure and a snake nowed argent
Ariel of Glastonbury Tor
37th, 44th, and 51st Queen
Azure, a domestic cat
sejant within an orle Or
Bataciqan-nu Ko'un Ashir
54th King
Azure, a Mongolian phoenix to dexter, wings elevated
and addorsed, sable rising from flames gules

*This device is in use but not registered. It would not be registrable due to low contrast unless evidence were supplied as described in the "Individually Attested Pattern" part of SENA.
Comyn Hrothwyn of Goldum Aecum
35th Queen
Sable, on a pale bretessed between
four oak leaves, the lower two inverted
Or, a dagger inverted dable hilted vert
Morgana of Raglan
17th Queen
Per bend sinister vert and Or,
two melusines counterchanged
Magdalena vander Meere
52nd Queen, current Princess
Argent, a mermaid in her vanity
contourny and on a chief
gules three escallops argent
Cadfael the Mordant
16th Queen
Per chevron argent and azure,
two clusters of three grape leaves
vert and a descrescent argent pierced
by a crossbow bolt fesswise reversed Or
Erzebet von Schachendorf
2nd Queen
Per bend Or and sable, a rose azure barbed and seeded proper and an anchor argent
Garick von Köpke
42nd King
Per chevron argent and Or,
three flames proper each
charged with a tower sable
Martino Michele Venèri
37th, 44th, and 51st King
Per chevron gules and sable,
a chevron ermine between two
towers and a wolf's head
erased argent, a bordure ermine
Valens of Flatrock
8th, 23rd, 29th, 35th, and 39th King
Vert, a bend azure, fimbriated Or
between a tower argent and a castle Or,
and for augmentation, on a canton purpure
a Cross of Calatrava within a bordure Or
Fionna nic Alisdair
13th Queen
Or semy of hearts, a snail contourny gules
Brummbarr von Schwarzberg
1st, 2nd, and 4th Champion, 1st and 3rd Warlord, 3rd Prince
Per bend azure and sable, a bend embattled
between two bears rampant argent, and for augmentation,
on a canton purpure a Cross of Calatrava within a bordure Or
Joe Angus Wilson of Clan Gunn
32nd King
Per chevron lozengy sable and argent and sable,
a chess knight argent
Mammarra Liona of Egypt
2nd Consort, 2nd and 5th Princess, 3rd and 7th Queen
Azure, an Egyptian gynosphinx rampant Or
Steffen Albert Rheinbauer
18th King
Azure, a sinister gauntlet clenched
aversant bendwise sustaining a rose slipped
and leaved bendwise sinister argent,
in chief a mural coronet, all within an orle of chain Or
Kaye of Gordon
53rd and 56th Queen
Per pale azure and vert,
a turtle rampant gorged with a county
coronet and in chief two ivy leaves Or

*The registered device does not include the coronet, which is currently in submission.
Lyriel de la Foret
34th Queen
Per pale vert and Or,
a fleur de lys counterchanged

*Device used but not registered
Ostwald Konrad Riese Toten
53rd and 56th King
Vert, a bear rampant argent gorged with a
county coronet Or between two flaunches argent,
each charged with a halber blades to center

*The registered device does not include the coronet, which is currently in submission. His name has also been resubmitted, with a changed from Tod to Toten.
Llywelyn Lorell of Shrewsbury
10th, 20th, and 47th King
Per chevron vert and argent,
two towers argent and a portcullis
within a bordure sable
Alix Coeurbois
11th Queen
Per chevron azure and argent, two crosses
crosslet and a stump snagged proper
Vaclav Semjaka
45th King
Azure, a bear rampant and on a gore
argent a mullet of three points gules
Thorvald the Golden
9th King
Argent, a sword argent flamed and hilted
within a bordure rayonny azure
Miriam bat Yehuda
5th Queen
Azure semy of roses, a lion rampant
contourny argent and in chief a coronet Or
Margarette de Saint Martin-sur-Mer
38th Queen
Per chevron argent and vert,
a lion passant guardant sable and
three crosses bottony two and one argent
Hywela Frech ferch Wyddel
6th and 14th Queen
Per bend sinister vert and vair,
in bend two griffins segreant Or
Elisabeth de Rossignol
5th Princess and 4th Queen
Gules, a pall erminois between three
pomegranates slipped and leaved Or
Gilligan of Eire
24th King
Argent, three lions passant contourney
within a bordure embattled vert
Isadora of Orange Wode
12th Queen
Ermine, chaussé ployé sable
an orange tree eradicated proper
Rorik Galbraith
17th King
Sable, a bear's head erased argent
muzzled gules between two swords
in pile argent within a bordure
argent semy of lozenges sable
Adelith of Horton-cum-Studley
24th Queen
Per pale sable and argent, two swans naiant
respectant, wings elevated counterchanged
Sally Salamandra the Whitesmith
25th Queen
Purpure, a salamander tergiant vert flamed Or
Branwen ferch Rhael
27th Queen
Argent, on a fess purpure between
three dragons' heads erased
azure, three cinquefoils argent
Ternon de Caerleon
3rd Champion/2nd Warlord and 1st Prince
Gyronny of six palewise vert and erminois,
in pall three dexter arms, flexed and
conjoined at the shoulders, each
hand grasping a dagger argent
Valmai Arcalien of Dernhealde
3rd Princess
Per fess argent and azure, in pale an oak
leaf bendwise and a goblet counterchanged
Conn MacNeill
16th and 21st King
Gules, on a pile raguly between two
cups Or, a sword inverted sable
Sheelagh O'Kyan
21st and 41st Queen
Per bend sinister argent and vert,
an oak leaf palewise and a bottlenosed
dolphin naiant counterchanged
Volkmar Katzbalger
12th King
Per pale sable and gules, two halberd heads
addorsed and in chief a lucy Or, for augmentation
on a chief purpure issuant from the line of
division a demi-cross of Calatrava throughout Or
Yrsa in kyrra Guðbrandsdottir
33rd Queen
Argent, a duck naiant sable,
a bordure wavy gules platy
Gabriel ap Morgan ap Hywel
6th and 14th King
Per bend azure and vert, on a bend
engrailed argent between two mullets
of six points Or a fox's head gules
Yasamin al-Hadiyya
42nd Queen
Purpure, a senmurv within eight octofoils in annulo Or

*In use, currently in submission
Tristram of Lindesfarne
Ermine, a boar passant azure and a chief gules fretty Or
43rd and 46th King

*In use, not registered
Elspeth of Stonehaven
23rd Queen
Per bend sinister dovetailed sable and argent,
a unicorn's head couped contourny and a dog's head
couped within a bordure dovetailed all counterchanged
Chrystofer Kensor
19th, 25th, and 38th King
Azure, a wolf rampant contourny argent maintaining
in its sinister paw an axe bendwise hafted Or,
a base argent and in chief a ducal coronet Or,
for augmentation, on a canton purpure
a Cross of Calatrava within a bordure Or
Branwyn Whiteraven
9th Queen
Sable, a raven close and on a bordure argent, six roses, barbed and seeded, proper
Arwyn Antaradi
1st Consort and 1st Queen
Or, a saltire cotised gules, overall a horse rampant to sinister sable
Zenobia of Rebelswood
10th Queen
Argent, a unicorn rampant and on a chief
embattled gules, an arrow, barb to dexter, argent
Mahmood al-Taifi (Tomeeki)
13th King
Argent, an elephant rampant sable maintaining in its trunk a coronet gules
Angelo Paolo Cavelli
48th King
Per pale Or and vert, a vol and in chief an annulo counterchanged
Humpk d'Bohunk
6th Champion/5th Warlord, 2nd and 4th Prince, 3rd and 7th King
Azure, a sword inverted Or surmounted
by a skull argent between in fess a pair
of wings, all between three roses Or
Lucian Fidelis
57th King
Argent, a satyr maintaining a spear bendwise sinister inverted sable a bordure embattled gules

*in use, not registered
*Credit where it's due- this emblazon is based very heavily on a sketch by His Excellency, who's a good artist himself. :)
Aislinn Morcroft
28th and 36th Queen
Gules, on a chevron between three crosses
crosslet Or, five strawberry leaves vert
Edward Cire of Greymoor
5th Prince and 4th King
Per chevron gules and argent, two wyverns passant
respectant argent and a scoprion passant sable
Hirsch Ross Eichmann
52nd and 58th King
Or, an oak tree fructed proper and on
a chief gules three stag's attires Or
Alethea Charle
26th and 31st Queen
Lozengy argent and gules, a doe lodged and on a
chief sable two arrows inverted in saltire argent
Brayden Avenel Durrant
15th and 19th Queen
Gules, a fess invected between a natural tiger passant
and a scimitar fesswise, blade to chief, argent

*This sword looks more like a falchion or dao. They're often mistakenly called scimitars.
Katrine Thorrofsdottir
43rd Queen
Gules, a panther passant guardant queue-forchy
argent incensed proper, gorged of a collar and broken chains
Or and on a chief argent three crescents gules

*This device is in use but not registered
Thjothrekr Eiriksson
33rd King
Argent, on a bend wavy gules
between three Thor's hammers sable
a shark naiant argent
Fernando Rodrigues de Falcon
34th King
Per bend sinister sable and Or, a falcon stooping
to sinister counterchanged, and for
augmentation, on a canton purpure a Cross of Calatrava within a bordure Or
Siridean Maclachlan
41st King
Azure, a bend argent cotised
between a lion rampant
and a triple towered castle Or

*I decided to base my drawing of a lion rampant on a depiction from a period illumination. It isn't an exact copy- it didn't quite make the transition from illumination to Illustrator image without looking completely doofy. I made the mane and toes a bit more realistic. And I also gave it lion ears. The original has human ears. *snicker*
Xorazne Artsruni
45th Queen
Per saltire argent and Or, a sun in splendor within an orle gules

*In use but not registered.
Eringlin Aldhelm
22nd, 26th, and 31st King
Per pale sable and Or, a chevron between three
roundels, and for augmentation on the chevron
a Cross of Calatrava counterchanged

*The device is registered, but the augmentation is a new addition
Iliya of Shadowdale
20th Queen
[Tinctureless] A Ukranian trident and a drawn horse bow conjoined in pale [sable]

*Device in use but not registered
*This design is based on bi/tridents such as those used by the Kiev dynasty and is appropriate for an early period Russian persona such as Her Excellency's. The blazon is a guess on my part. The bottom element might also be blazoned as a heart or a quarter of a Cross of Calatrava. The words in brackets would be necessary for registration in the SCA, but nonsensical in period. In addition to stamping the completely tinctureless design on coins, she also displayed it as Or on purpure during her reign. I've chosen to reproduce it as black and white here to hold true to period design (black and white doesn't necessarily read as "tinctured"), but will change it to Or on purpure if She requests.
*Ukranian/Kievan bi/tridents might be descended from tamga (Drachuk, 1975; Yatsenko, 2001; Fetisov, 2007; Lebedynsky, 2011), though the latter two caution that it isn't necessarily the sign itself that descends from them, but rather the system of use and inheritance.
Ghleanna Meghan of Kirkaldy
1st Princess
Per fess sable and vert, a fess between
three mullets of eight points and a
horse rampant argent.

*Device in use but not registered
Catalina Arazuri
Current Princess
Or, a bend sinister per bend azure and gules
between two monarch butterflies proper.

Lenore de Troyes
30th Queen
Vert, two chevronels argent between three trefoils voided Or

*Prepared, but not submitted before her passing
Christophre Cynwyd
7th Champion
Or, a date palm leaf sable
Lile ni Mhordha
18th Queen
Per chevron ermine and azure, in base
three annulets, one and two, interlaced Or
Maerwynn of Holme
50th and 54th Queen
Or, a triskelion of three unstrung hunting horns
conjoined at the mouthpieces between
three roundels one and two gules
Asgeirr Gunnarsson
5th King
Per pale sable and argent, on a saltire cotised,
two spears in saltire, all counterchanged.
Caillin MacKenzie
46th Queen
Azure semy of roses Or barbed and seeded
vert, on a bend sinister argent three trefoils vert

*In use, not registered
Donngal Eriksson
28th King
Azure ermined Or, a cross
throughout gyronny gules and Or
Phaedra filia Roberti
32nd and 40th Queen
Argent semy of ladybugs gules
spotted sable, a bordure gules

*The ladybugs I've drawn here are European
seven-spotted ladybugs, not to be mistaken
for the common invasive Asian
species found here in the US.
Susannah Griffon
8th, 29th, and 39th Queen
Pean, a saltire Or, overall a griffon passant gules,
and for augmentation, on a canton purpure
a Cross of Calatrava within a bordure Or

*I added the augmentation to the blazon. Looks like it was never resubmitted to add it, though it's being displayed this way.
**This is a Fox-Davies (i.e. post-period) griffon, which I did not know when I drew it a while back. I'll eventually replace my Fox-Davies art with more period depictions, though they are often still registrable given their accessibility.

Drachuk, VS, 1975, Sistemy znakov Severnogo Prichernomor'ya Tamgoobraznyie znaki severopontiyskoi periferii antichnogo mira pervykh vekov nashei ery, Kiev.
Fetisov, A, 2007, The 'Rurukid sign' from the B3 church at Basarabi-Murfatlar, Studia Patzinaka, 4.1, pp. 29-44
Lebedynsky, I, 2011, Les tamgas, une "héraldique" de la steppe, éditions errance, Paris, p. 109-122.
Yatsenko, SA, 2001, Znaki-tamgi iranoyazychnych narodov drevnosti i rannego srednevekov'ya, Moskva.