Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.


Copyright 2012 by the author(s).


Sogdian fabrics produced in Central Asia became one of the shining symbols of the Early Middle Ages, characterized by the blossoming of city cultures of the region, the broad international contacts created by the emergence of the Great Silk Road, and the active interaction of urban and nomadic societies. These silk fabrics were highly appreciated for their quality and variety of design. As a rule, the designs of Sogdian fabrics were considered from the point of view of their cult or religious character. The general high demand of these fabrics in the countries of both the West and the East, possessing various religious systems (Christianity, Buddhism, Zoroastrism, Totemizm, etc.) allows us to interpret their designs not as having cult meanings, but rather as political symbols of the epoch which are related to the state interests of the various societies based on the various cultural-religious backgrounds. For example, one of the universal symbols with political implications we can identify is the motif of the "tree of life", the expression of a vertical power protected by divine force. Also among state and power symbols are the image of the wild boar, horse or goat (an embodiment of Veretragna, the god of the war and victory), the image of the lion (force, power, prosperity) etc. The universality of the design of Sogdian fabrics is one of the reasons that have made these fabrics an important key factor in the political climate of this epoch.