The Louvre Museum Paris.

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  • This type of very interesting stone statuette, sometimes referred to as Bactrian princesses or Bactrian goddesses,  is a very distinctive and rare object of the prehistoric civilization of Bactria. These seldom exceed 20cm in height and they are composite in nature, with the head (and also often a cap or other headdress) being separate from the body.

    They are made up with two or more different types of stone; usually green chlorite or steatite for the body, with heads of white limestone and occasionally in green chlorite.
  • These sites were discovered and named by the Soviet archaeologist Viktor Sarianidi in 1976. Sarianidi first discovered the remains of a Bronze Age culture in the Karakum Desert in 1976.

  • Bactra was the Greek name for the area of modern Balkh, in what is now northern Afghanistan and Margiana was the Greek name for the Persian satrapy of Margu, the capital of which was Merv, in today's Turkmenistan.
  • This civilisation was contemporary with the European Bronze Age, and was characterised by monumental architecture, social complexity and extremely distinctive cultural artefacts that vanish from the record a few centuries after they first appear. Trade appears to have been important, as Bactrian artefacts appear all over the Persian Gulf as well as in the Iranian Plateau and the Indus Valley. Pictographs on seals have been argued to indicate an independently-developed writing system.
  • Religion may have been based around deities represented by pieces such as this. However, they are extremely rare.. Their significance is unclear. Some scholars identify them as elite members of this early society, while others consider their compelling monumentality to signify that these female figures are depictions of one (or more) goddesses.

Viktor Sarianidi left.


  • This group  of stone figures are invariably  referred to in the archaeological literature as female,  are seated or squatting on a platform and wearing a robe decorated with a pattern,  imitating sheep's fleece. (There are much rarer "standing" types.) 
  • Most known examples have highly stylised armless bodies and legs sometimes represented by a protruding ledge or base.
  • Similar seated females on cylinder seal impressions from South Western Persia appear to depict royal figures. On stamp seals from western Central Asia, a possible version of the female figure appears where she is sometimes flanked by or seated on animals or mythical creatures. These attributes could indicate a divine quality."
  • These exampes, below,  are in museums or in private collections. Thanks to "Y" for the images. The two at the  bottom are the only images of apparently male figurines in a museum which we can as yet find.





Barber Muller Collection and LACMA.

Louvre and Miho Museum Japan.

Two in the Ancient Orient Museum, Japan.

Miho Museum again and The Metropolitan Museum.

  • The form of dress worn on these figures is a  garment which is like  the Mesopotamian "kaunakes": from Greek "thick cloak", which was a woolen skirt or cloak woven in a tufted pattern suggesting overlapping petals or feathers. This clothing originated in the Sumerian civilization around 2500 BC and was originally the actual sheep's fleece with the skin turned inside and the wool combed into decorative tufts on the outside.

  • These garments which were initially only skirts were pinned in place and extended from the waist to the knees or, or for more important persons, to the ankles. The upper part of the torso was bare or clothed by another sheepskin cloaking the shoulders. It was known in Sumerian as gu-en-na, gu-an-na, "garment which leaves the shoulder bare", and it passed into Semitic, and thence into Greek as kaunakes.

  • From about 2500 BC a woven woolen fabric replaced the sheepskin, but the tufted effect was retained, either by sewing tufts onto the garment or by weaving loops into the fabric.

  • Women wore the kaunakes draped from the left shoulder, and this habit was also adopted by men in the Semitic period of Akkad.  At this time, also, long cloaks were worn, and materials for garments and head coverings included felted wool and leather. Men were generally clean-shaven. Both sexes seem to have often worn large wigs, as in ancient Egypt.

  • This tufted fabric is shown in all the sculptures and mosaics of the period, as, for example, in the art from the excavations at Ur exhibited in the British Museum.

  • There is no real evidence for the purpose of these Bactrian figurines, but as they were found in the necopolis it's thought that they had a function in the funerary sphere being cultic , of the deceased  or votive.
  • A well known dealer wrotes on his website that A "2003 inventory calculated that there were at least thirty-eight examples of such Bactrian idols known, and although the number of examples discovered since has increased, the total number of such Bactrian idols remains relatively small. Nine examples have been found in South Eastern Turkmenistan and two more in Pakistan."


So if you came across these two on eBay what would you think?





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