Reconstructions of

Sogdian murals from Panjakent (Panjīkant), 6th-8th Centuries

On a high valley terrace on the banks of the Zeravshan River, 6km from the modern town of Penjikent, are the ruins of ancient Penjikent, a major Sogdian town founded in the 5th century and abandoned in the 8th century with the arrival of the Arabs. The ancient city has not been built upon since. The foundations of houses, a citadel with a couple of Zoroastrian temples, and the city bazaar are visible in the excavated ruins, but the best of the frescoes (some of them 15m long), sculptures, pottery and manuscripts have been carted off to Tashkent and St Petersburg. There is also a small museum chronicling the excavations; copies of frescoes are also there.

Cavalrymen with long maille coats, banded vambraces and greaves, spheroconical helmets with nasals, ear pieces, worn on top of face-covering coifs. They wear a coat over their armour with some decoration. Some Sogdians are shown wearing long coats of lamellar, with three-way or two-way split skirts, and upper-arm defences. The lamellae are B-shaped and a few have been found in Eastern Europe which match the Sogdian depictions. They would likely be alternating brass and iron (or gilded and silvered). The shield cover from Mount Mogh shows early bazubands, although it's not clear whether the elbows were cupped. This type of armour probably used by the Samanid cavalry as well, except there, you might expect them to carry primitive sabres (from the 8th or 9th Century), and possibly strung bowcases towards the very end rather than C-shaped unstrung bowcases. And the crupper straps for the horse would be different as well.
Photos by Retlaw Snellac



Other paintings from Panjakent
Wall-painting (reconstruction): the death of Syavush. Piandjikent, building XI, south wall, seventh-eighth century. Photo: State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Wall-painting (reconstruction): ritual scene, probably depicting the Nu Ruz sacrifice, with traces of Soghdian inscription. Piandjikent, building X, north wall, seventh-eighth century.
Wall-painting: men playing chess. Piandjikent, seventh century. State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Wall-painting: Rustam slaying the Dragon. Piandjikent, Room 41, seventh century. State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Wall-painting (reconstruction): horsemen. Piandjikent, seventh century. State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Wall-painting (reconstruction): Dehkans sitting at a feast, Piandjikent, seventh century. State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Wall-painting (reconstruction): harpist with a halo. Piandjikent, seventh century. State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Wall-painting : A Battle. Piandjikent, 7th-8th century. State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Wall-painting : Charging Sogdian Cavalry. Piandjikent, 7th-8th century. State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Wall-painting : A Feast. Piandjikent. State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Wall-painting (drawing): A King of the Demons. Piandjikent, eigth century. State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg


Referenced in Attila and the Nomad Hordes by David Nicolle (Author), Angus McBride (Illustrator), p53:
The wall-paintings uncovered in the pre-Islamic palace of Piandjikent, not far from Samarkand, illustrate battles, hunting, feasting and religious celebration. Helmets are almost always very pointed with cheek-pieces and mail aventails, some pulled over the wearer's face. Warriors wear long or short-sleeved mail hauberks, some alone, others under tunics or lamellar cuirasses. Bows are carried unstrung in long cases, swords are straight and round shields are small while a distinctive form of horse-bit curves around the front of the animal's mouth. Many such features were adopted by the Muslim armies which conquered Transoxania shortly after these pictures were painted. (Hermitage Mus., Leningrad)
Referenced by Saljuq Clothing by Elsie H. Peck

For a detailed article about Pandjikant see Encyclopaedia Iranica



A Sogdian Mortuary Couch, A.D. 550-577. China, Henan province, probably Ce xian
Cup with horseman, Khwarezm c.7th to beginning of the 8th Century
Shield (fragment) with horseman. Mug Castle. Soghdian, eighth century. State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Iranian Dish with a Horse-archer Hunting, c.8th Century
Drawing of, and notes on, a Sogdian Horse Archer by Ian Heath
Sogdian split tapestry (kilim) coat with animal motifs, Central Asia, 9th/10th Century

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