Saturday, October 8, 2011

Afrasiab Chessmen

Rukh (Chariot) in ivory from Afrasiab, about 7th/8th century, Uzbekistan State Museum, Samarkand(from "Roi des jeux, jeu des rois, les échecs", Jean-Michel Péchiné, Gallimard)

Afrasiab, the king of all Turan, is still an emblem of the Turkic peoples. His name is mentioned in the classic epic poem the Shahnameh ('The Book of Kings') written by the great persian poet Ferdowsi between c.917 and 1100 AD. In the epic the legendary hero-king Afrasiab battles a legendary Iranian king, the righteous Manuchehr. Al Biruni chronicals tells us that the Khwarezmian calendar starts with the arrival of Sijavus around 1300 BC, and it is thought that the two may be the same person. According to Firdoussi, Afrasiab is the ancestor of the Hephthalites, and the name apparently has also appeared in the Uighur dynastical lists as well as being claimed as an ancestor of the Kara-Khanids.

Firdoussi's Shahnamrh is still considered very important to the contemporary adherents of Zoroastrianism, in that it traces the historical links between the beginnings of their religion up to the death of the last Zoroastrian rulers during the Muslim conquest of Central Asia.

In 1977 the archaelogist and historian Prof. Jurij F. Burjakov found the oldest surviving set of chessmen (seven ivory pieces) in Afrasiab near Samarkand known as the "Afrasaiab Chessmen". He dated them as being from early in the 8th century AD. They most probably were made some years before around 761AD because a coin so dated belonged to the same layer in the excavation layer where they were found.

Chessmen of Afrasiab