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Why is there a bear?

Updated on February 12, 2018


      Bactrian Gold.

                                                  Why is there a bear?


       At the relatively new encyclopedia-“The facts on file, encyclopedia of World Mythology and legend” (N.Y., 2004, vol.1) not that difficult to find  an answer , why the image of (she)bear was used by ancient jewelers in Bactria to decorate an armory of a male from the 4th burial of Tillya-tepe.

But Ms.V.Schiltz  (Scientific researcher, Paris, France) described in a new 2008 catalog  (“Afghanistan. Hidden treasures from the National Museum of Kabul”, National Geographic )  that “it’s a clumsy silhouette of standing bear, seeming to dance “or “vegetarian bear” (p.273) on a golden sheath?

20 000 pieces of gold from the six burials of Tillya –tepe will never stop to mesmerized researchers and bring more evidence of an ancient world connections with other cultures and believes.

The findings from Tillya-tepe (1978), are not separate articles, but rather complexes, ensembles of jewelry articles .This period is characterized by distinct artistic features that resulted in the formation of a unique style, significantly different from those preceding. It is possible that the “push” for the formation of a different new style in jewelry art was made by the nomads, in conjunction with the ever-present traditions of Hellenistic Greece, well known for their great mastery of portraying live nature. . Figurative images predominate, although it is still possible to find stylized images.

 Mythological content is very common and displays an overall increase in thematic diversity than the preceding periods. We encounter images of lions, boars, snakes, as well as fish , birds  and bear.

No one ever explained why on the gold- covered sheath, we see an image of a bear. Even in an early catalog “Bactrian Gold” (Leningrad, 1985, p.39) the image was  described  just as a bear cub.

  In Greek mythology, an Arcadian nymph Callisto, follower of Artemis (the goddess of the moon, hunting,  and more -“The facts on file, encyclopedia of World Mythology and legend” ,vol.1.p.102. N.Y., 2004) was transformed into a bear and placed in the heavens as a Great Bear.

Zeus, ever lustful, saw her one day resting along in the woods. Disguising himself as the goddess Artemis he…… raped her.

In order to keep his adultery a secret from his wife, Hera, the God changed Callisto into a bear.

 A variant account says Artemis discovered the girl was pregnant and metamorphosed her into a bear. Another account says that Hera changed the girl into a bear (“The facts on file, encyclopedia of World Mythology and legend ”p. 209-210))

The ancient Arcadians showed visitors a tomb of Callisto on the hill, the top of which contained a sanctuary of Artemis Calliste, indicating that Callisto was another form of goddess Artemis. The she-bear was the animal associated with the cult of Artemis Calliste.”

Another source  “The continuum encyclopedia of Symbols,(N.Y.,1994 p.37) described the image of bear as shown by rock drawings and bone findings, bear played an important role in pre-historic rituals. They were worshipped  as human- like, powerful being by the Nordic peoples in particular and were sometimes regarded as mediators between heaven and earth (bear cult are found among hunting peoples of northern Asia and North America). Bears were closely connected with warriors and the martial arts. In Siberia and Alaska, the bear was associated with moon. In China the bear was regarded as the masculine principle. 

For ancient jewelers from Bactria was so natural to “tell” us stories thru the images and scenes they used. For us it’s not that easy to decipher  the codes of an ancient artists and explain to the others.



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