The Pur-i Vahman Plate
Silver Plate with Horse-Archer Hunting Lion and Boar,

State Hermitage Museum, S247

Post Sasanian c.8th Century or Khorosanian

8th century.
Diameter 28.3 cm.
Middle Iranian inscription.
Published: Smirnov no. 61; Trever & Lukonin no. 17; Darkevich no. 115, pl. 2, pp. 57-59 (doubts Sasanian, but suggests Khorosan, end 7th-beginning of the 8th century).
Held by the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Inv. no. S-247. Source

Referenced as Illustration 101, p115 in Tamara Talbot Rice, Ancient Arts of Central Asia, 1965
101. Silver dish from Soghdia. Its decoration is derived from the large series of hunting scenes similar to that shown in Ill. 73 produced by the Sassanians. Seventh century
pp. 114-115:
   It was Sassanian rather than Byzantine art which in early Christian times exercised most influence over the Soghdians. Until recent years it was customary to ascribe a series of silver vessels decorated with figural scenes either to Sassanian or to Bactrian workshops. Now, however, it has been suggested that many vessels resembling Sassanian ewers decorated with renderings of nude women presented in niches or beneath garlands in a manner somewhat reminiscent of the Bia Naiman ossuaries (Ill. 100) or dishes displaying hunting scenes (Ill. 101) may well have been made in Soghdia. They are dated by Diakonov to between the sixth and eighth century AD. All bear a marked stylistic resemblance to the work carried out in Piandjikent and the warriors are shown wearing armour of a similar type. In the eighth century the Arab invaders of Central Asia put an end to Soghdia’s lively and fascinating school of figural art, but here and there individual works either survived or continued to be produced to delight and inspire later generations of artists. Love of figural art is difficult to eradicate and the wasp-waisted, broad shouldered heroes of Soghdian art were to set the standards aimed at by Firdausi and Islamic artists of late medieval times. The Arabs never accepted the style and were, indeed, so shocked by the presence of human figures in the paintings which adorned the façade of the Great Mosque of Bokhara that they hurriedly destroyed them. It is because of their opposition to work of this type that no figural paintings of early Islamic date survive in Central Asia, but Soghdian art provides good evidence that the roots of Islamic figural art are nevertheless to be sought in that area.

Referenced as figure 341 in The military technology of classical Islam by D Nicolle
341. Silver-gilt dish, 8th-9th centuries AD, Kurāsānī, Hermitage, Leningrad (Ric A).
Vol 1 pp.169-170 Protective felt and leather garments were used in China, Iran and Byzantium in the immediate pre-Islamic era14 (Figs. 18, 43, 45, 46, 95, 102, 197 and 473). They continued to be worn in later centuries, particularly in Muslim Kurāsān15 and the rest of eastern Islam (Figs. 127, 198, 209, 341, 410, 609I, 625 and 642C).
    14. Laufur, op. cit., p. 292; Haldan, "Some Aspects of Byzantine Military Technology from the 6th to the 10th centuries," pp. 19 and 22; Aussareases, op. cit., p. 57; Fahmy, op. cit., pp. 149-150.
    15. Al Jāḥiẓ, Rasā'il al Jāḥiẓ, pp. 20-21.
pp206-7 A form of leg protection known as the sāq seems to have been used throughout the period under review in many parts of the eastern Islamic world, though perhaps remaining rare. Some, or perhaps all, were fastened to a belt by iron hooks.27 Although those referred to by al Ṭabarī were of mail,28, their shape may have corresponded to leggings which, drawn up over the wearer's knees and presumably fastened to a belt, feature in many illustrated sources from the east (Figs. 18, 126, 233, 237, 300, 307, 313, 331, 334, 341, 342, 356, 359, 365, 400, 422, 468, 477 and 623.
    27. Al Ṭabarī, op. cit. vol. II, pp. 586-587.
    28. Ibid.
p327 As a last decorative feature there is the knotting of the horse's tail. This is again first seen in Sassanian Iran (Figs. 339 and 341), although here the pattern so formed generally consists of a single loop.
p347 Most of these Arab ʿAbbasid troops came from the east and eastern jund forces had probably already adopted many Iranian traditions. Thus, by the late 8th century, there may well have been little difference between Arab-speaking and more strictly Kurāsānī warriors from those regions. Our best available illustration of a Muslim warrior from eastern Iran, whose name of Pur-i Vahman may be an Arabic construction, appears on a silver-gilt plate now in the Hermitage (Fig. 341). His equipment is, in most respects, almost identical to that of the late Umayyad horse-archer at Qaṣr al Ḥayr al Gharbī in Syria (Fig. 120).

Figure 46 in: Harper, Prudence and Meyers, Peters Silver Vessels of the Sasanian Period. Volume One: Royal Imagery, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Princeton University Press, New York, 1981
FIG. 46
Pur-i Vahman silver plate
State Hermitage Museum, acc. no. S247
Photo: Pieter Meyers


It is necessary to include a final word on the use of the term post-Sasanian.59 Although recent studies60 permit a more precise classification of some works formerly placed in this category, there are a few silver vessels for which this is still an appropriate label. The Pur-i Vahman plate (Fig. 46), on which there is an uncrowned hunter, is a good example.61 The presence of a stirrup is an indication of a date at least at the end of the Sasanian era, and the name Pur-i

   59. Erdmann, “Eberdarstellung” p. 358.
   60. Marshak and Krikis, “Chilekskie Chashi,” pp. 61-67; Marshak, Sog. Serebro, pp. 109 ff.
   61. State Hermitage Museum, acc. no. S247 diam. 27.8 cm.; height without foot 3.5 cm.; weight 1265.5 gm. Erdmann, “Die sasanidischen Jagdschalen,” p. 222, fig. 16; SPA IV, p1. 217. Bivar has called attention to the fact that the archer pulls the bow with his thumb in a fashion characteristic of the archers of Islam: “Cavalry Equipment,” p. 285, note 52. The chemical analysis of this vessel indicates that it may belong to the central Sasanian group of plates. The method of construction, in which large areas of the design were separately made and attached to the shell of the plate, is unique. This is close to a true double shell technique. There is an exterior rim line. For a date in the seventh to eighth century for this plate, see Darkevich, Metall Vostoka, pp. 57-59.

Vahman is a Persian form unknown until after the fall of the Sasanian dynasty.62 The simple hunt, including only two animal quarry, one alive and the other dead, differs from the elaborate late Sasanian hunts at Taq-i Bustan and on the Ufa plate (P1. 18) as well as from the hunting scenes on the late provincial works (Pl. 22). The hunt depicted on an eighth-century wall painting at Qasr al-Hayr West is of the same simple type as that on the Pur-i Vahman p1ate.63 A return to this less elaborate form may, therefore, be an indication of a date in the Islamic era, as Erdmann originally suggested. Equally distinctive is the almost full-front view of the head on the Pur-i Vahman plate, the Qasr al-Hayr wall painting, and the stucco hunting plaques of late Umayyad or early Abbasid date at Chal Tarkhan.64 No Sasanian horseman riding at a full gallop is presented in this unnatural pose. A Sogdian vessel dated by Marshak to the ninth century illustrates the persistence of the simple hunt form and the frontal head.65 On a plate in the Hermitage from Maltzeva in the Perm (Fig. 47), there is a king with a low, flat cap-crown decorated only with stepped crenelations.66

   62. For the presence of the stirrup at Taq-i Bustan, see Ghirshman, “Notes iraniennes XIII,” pp. 293-311. Henning’s comments are quoted by A. Alföldi, “A Sassanian Silver Phalera at Dumbarton Oaks,” p. 239; Livshits and Lukonin, “Nadpisi,” pp. 162-163: “the Arab construction of the name was not known in Iran earlier than the eighth to ninth century.”
   63. Schlumberger, “Deux Fresques omeyyades,” p. 91, fig. 5, p1. 5 facing p. 96. The incised figure of a fox in the upper left corner does not appear to be part of the original painted design. See Bivar, who mentions that the stirrup does not appear to have been in use in Iran before the coming of Islam: “Cavalry Equipment”, p. 290.
   64. Thompson, “Stucco Plaque,” p. 86, fig. 4; p. 89, note 13, for date.
   65. Orbeli and Trever, Sas. Metall, pl. 17; Marshak, Sog. Serebro, pp. 120, 154.
   66. State Hermitage Museum, acc. no. S13 diam. 25 cm.; height with foot 5.1 cm.; weight 1039.2 gm. Orbeli


and Trever, Sas. Metall, p1. 15 SPA IV, p1. 208B. The globe above the head is divided by a pair of parallel lines as on the Fabricius and Chilek plates (Pls. 26, 30) and the hunting plate in Berlin (Pl. 20). The background is carved away to leave the design in relief. Spot-gilding occurs on the design, and the background is also gilded. There is niello in the king’s eyes and in the eyes and stripes of the tigers. An exterior rim line is present. The chemical analysis places this vessel with those in the paired-line tradition. For a description of the objects found together at Maltzeva, see Darkevich, Metall Vostoka, p. 23.

A Sogdian Horse Archer in Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066 by Ian Heath, based on this Dish with hunting scene, Sasanian c.8th Century or Khorosanian

Sogdian murals from Panjakent (Panjikant), 6th-8th Centuries
A Sogdian Mortuary Couch, A.D. 550-577. China, Henan province, probably Ce xian
Sasanian Banquet Scene on a Post Sasanian Plate, 7th Century AD
Cup with horseman, Khwarezm c.7th to beginning of the 8th Century
Sogdian split tapestry (kilim) coat with animal motifs, Central Asia, 9th/10th Century

Plates with figures from Persia and Central Asia
Ancient Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers
Index of Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers