Arts, Special Issue “The Zoomorphic Arts of Ancient Central Eurasia” (edited by Petya Andreeva)

Journal: Arts (open access)
Special Issue Title: The Zoomorphic Arts of Ancient Central Eurasia
Special Issue Editor: Dr. Petya Andreeva (Department of Art and Design History and Theory, Parsons School of Design, The New School, New York, NY)

Following the recent environmental turn in the humanities, an increasing corpus of art historical scholarship is responding to the need for post-humanist frameworks in studying the arts of ancient societies. Such works place non-human agents such as fauna in the limelight of their inquiries and, in so doing, shift their focus away from the human practitioner. This line of inquiry is especially pertinent to the study of early China (namely, its northern periphery) and the Iron Age Eurasian Steppe, inhabited mainly by pastoral nomads. Despite having distinctly different preferences for materials and modes of making, both China and the Steppe exhibit a shared aesthetic penchant for zoomorphism. Indeed, animal-inspired bodies define the art and design of these cultural spheres in ways that one would not observe elsewhere in the ancient world. This Special Issue seeks to uncover the different strategies behind the construction and circulation of animal imagery and objects in ancient Central Eurasia (700 BCE–400 CE). Authors may also engage with the usage of products and materials derived from animals, the entanglement of human makers and their biota, animals as cultural capital and tokens of clout, and, more broadly, the role of animals in one’s creative process. The goal of this Special Issue is twofold. It ventures to find new perspectives on ancient cultural spheres that have, for too long, remained on the peripheries of the art historical canon, and whose epistemological potential has not been fully explored. This Special Issue also aims to examine the visual parameters of the unique interactions between pastoralists and the animal kingdom, in light of the former’s great dependency on the latter. Many of the papers in this Special Issue will study the visual and material manifestations of one’s symbiotic or antagonistic relationship with fauna. While primarily focused on nomadic or semi-nomadic peoples, this Special Issue also considers zoomorphism across north China and elsewhere in Central Eurasia and explores the convergent, fluid notions of zoomorphism across these interconnected cultural zones. Contributions that transcend disciplinary boundaries are most welcome.


Deer or Horses with Antlers? Wooden Figures Adorning Herders in the Altai
by Karen S. Rubinson and Katheryn M. Linduff

“Animal-Style Art,” and Special Finds at Iron Age Settlements in Southeastern Kazakhstan: Chronology, Trade, and Networks during the Iron Age
by Claudia Chang, Sergei Sergievich Ivanov and Perry Alan Tourtellotte

Animal Imagery in Eastern Han Tomb Reliefs from Shanbei 陝北
by Leslie V. Wallace

The Saka ‘Animal Style’ in Context: Material, Technology, Form and Use
by Saltanat Amir and Rebecca C. Roberts

Siberian Animal Style: Stylistic Features as Generic Indication
by Elena Fiodorovna Korolkova

Earthly Beasts and Heavenly Creatures: Animal Realms in Early Medieval Chinese Tombs and Cave Temples
by Heather Clydesdale

Strange Creatures of Chu: A Regional Approach to Antlered Tomb Sculptures
by Cortney E. Chaffin

Xianbei Zoomorphic Plaques: Art, Migration, and Human-Environment Entanglement
by Fan Zhang


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