ISSN 2227-2380 (Print)

List of issues > «Geoarchaeology, Ethnology, and Anthropology Series». 2018. Vol. 24

Luxury in Nomadic Culture: Women's Jewelry as a Marker of the Cultural Identity of the Central Asia Nomads

M. M. Sodnompilova

Jewelry occupied a special place in the life of the nomads of Central Asia, acting as one of the key markers of cultural identity. A wide range of meanings and functions associated with decorations provided this element of the nomad costume complex with the preservation and immutability of its structure over many centuries. The high symbolic and social significance of the jewelry determined the required presence, if not of the complete set, then at least part of it in the women's costume complex. There were many reasons to demonstrate their jewelry worth in the nomadic way of life. Clothes and jewelry worth of women, along with large herds of animals, the best racehorses in a smart harness, were one of the brightest visual signs of the family’s financial well-being. The presence of unique fine work ornaments, reflecting the ethnic features of various Mongolian peoples, testifies to the widespread occurrence of this craft among the nomads of Central Asia and the high skill of blacksmiths and jewelers. In the nomadic environment, the idea of high symbolism of jewelry is intertwined with ideas about their aesthetic and material value. The material value of the jewelry was well recognized, so the representatives of different social groups tried to acquire the jewelry at every opportunity. In connection with it, the problem of social inequality among Transbaikalia population reflected in jewelry worth through the prism of views of the population, local authorities and representatives of the Buddhist church. As shown by archival materials reflecting the activities of the Buryat Steppe Dumas (Authorities) and by the information of researchers in Eastern Siberia of that period, even the poor spent their last money on jewelry to the detriment of the development of their economy. The transition to the industrial production of jewelry, changes in the types of clothing contributed to a change in fashion for jewelry. In the 20th century, traditional silver head and tress jewelry handicrafts gradually disappeared from the Turkic and Mongolic people's everyday life. Earrings, chest jewelry – guu, which kept prayers and amulets, coral necklaces, rings and bracelets, have not lost their relevance.

About the Authors

Sodnompilova Marina Mikhailovna, Doctor of Sciences (History), Associate Professor, Department of Ethnology and Folk Art Culture, East-Siberian State Institute of Culture; 1, Tereshkova st., Ulan-Ude, 670031, Russian Federation, e-mail: sodnompilova@yandex.ru

For citation

Sodnompilova M. M. Luxury in Nomadic Culture: Women's Jewelry as a Marker of the Cultural Identity of the Central Asia Nomads. Bulletin of the Irkutsk State University. Geoarchaeology, Ethnology, and Anthropology Series. 2018, Vol. 24, pp. 93–105. https://doi.org/10.26516/2227-2380.2018.24.93 (in Russ.)

Turkic-Mongolian world, nomads, jewelry, symbolism, silver

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