Eastern Iran and Western Central Asia during Late Antiquity (3rd-5th cent. CE): Numismatics, Archaeology, and Art History in Dialogue

Conference organized by Sören Stark (ISAW)
September 29, 9:00am-5:00pm

This article first appeared in ISAW Newsletter 19, Fall 2017.

A silver plate, missing part of its left rim and illustration band. A band of figures in relief performing various tasks follows the circumference of the plate. In the center, more figures together with plants and animals appear. Fragmentary Silver Plate (British Museum, acquired in Rawalpindi, 4th century?) Late Antiquity in Western Central Asia and Eastern Iran—that is the centuries between the downfall of the Great Kushan dynasty and the beginning of Türk suzerainty—remains a particularly obscure period. Major questions concerning even basic political and cultural developments are still poorly understood. Yet, it is clear that this period was one of important and momentous political, social, demographic, and cultural change—such as the rise of Iran as a new hegemonic power in the wider region, the ascent of Sogdiana as one of the main cultural and economic power-houses of Eurasia, and the influx of new populations and elites, labeling themselves and/or labeled by others as “Huns.” One of the major problems faced by any historian of Late Antique Central Asia and Eastern Iran is the dearth of historiographical (narrative) sources. All the more important are numismatic, epigraphical, and archaeological data, which have in recent years greatly improved our overall knowledge of the area during this supposed “dark age.” Yet, each of these disciplines has its own methodological, terminological, and epistemic vantage point, and systematic cross-disciplinary awareness of new and important research results are still all too often lacking. The primary goal of this one-day workshop is therefore to improve the dialogue across what are key disciplines for the study of, Eastern Iran and,Western Central Asia during Late Antiquity, with a regional focus on Bactria/Tokharistan and Western Sogdiana.