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Sogdian mural of a Harpist and a Battle in the Rings and Dragons Cycle, Piandjikent
Tajikistan National Museum of Antiquities, Dushanbe.

A larger image of this Sogdian mural of a Harpist and a Battle in the Rings and Dragons Cycle, Piandjikent. Tajikistan National Museum of Antiquities.

Tajikistan National Museum of Antiquities
Fresco from Ancient Sogdian Penjikent. VI-VIII cc. AD.
Photo by Ninara

The cult scene with Nanaya on her recumbent lion between two caryatids supporting the arch was placed opposite the door. One of these caryatids is the famous Pendjikent harpist. The other is not preserved.
Two heroes of the ‘Dragons’ (two brothers?) and their adversary are shown on foot. Only one of them is fighting against the king of the ‘Rings’ with his royal winged diadem bound around his helmet. Two axes are broken and have been thrown away. The scabbards are empty because the swords have also been broken in the previous phase of the duel. It is time to wrestle but the hero of the ‘Dragons’ is fighting with along cavalry lance, while the king of the ‘Rings’ is shooting with his bow and arrows. Both of them use weapons for the very beginning of the regular heroic single combat. An arrow enters deeply into the breast of the ‘Dragons’’ hero and kills him.

Referenced on p.53, Attila and the Nomad Hordes by David Nicolle (Author), Angus McBride (Illustrator)
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)

The middle 2 warriors are referenced as figure 428, the right warrior as part of figure 438 in The military technology of classical Islam by D Nicolle
428. Fresco from Piandjikent Reception Hall VI/1, 7th-8th centuries AD, Transoxanian, Hermitage, Leningrad (Aka S, Yaku).
438. Fresco from Piandjikent Reception Hall VI/1, 7th-8th centuries AD, Transoxanian, Hermitage, Leningrad (Aka S, Yaku).

Lower drawing of Fig. 37
On the basis of the excavations in Pendzhikent (fig. 35; 96, 1) (near the present-day city under the same name in north-western Tajikistan), one can conclude that each living building in the early medieval town had a plan determined by the desires and capacities of the owner. The housing in design and decor somehow reminds of the rulers palace. The technical level of construction works was in fact similar to the representation of different social strata. In the 5th - 8th centuries AD mud-brick and pakhsa masonry increased and in Tokharistan, Sogd, Ferghana, and Ustrushana there was a shift to mud-bricks with rectangular shape. A building with three floors of the 6th century AD, intended for a permanent garrison which is situated in eastern wall of fortress, is related to the time of the Hephthalites in Pendzhikent.
The wall paintings of Pendzhikent (fig. 37; 38) are considered as depicting realistic characters and are the source of opinions on the ethnic composition of the population. According to A. Belenitsky, representatives of three ethnic groups are shown in these paintings - Sogdians, Turks and Kushan-Hephthalites. Ilyasov discussing the tamgha of the Pendzhikent ruler’s coins of the second half of 7th century, Gamaukyan (or Hamaukyan), notes that these are most likely of Chionite-Hephthalite origin. Based on the material from Pendzhikent a ceramic sequence was established covering the 5th century to the first half of the 8th century AD (fig. 36). The defined periods are: 5th century; end of 5th century – beginning of 6th century; 6th – beginning of 7th century; middle of 7th century; end of 7th - 8th century; and first quarter of 8th century AD.
Source: The Hephthalites: Archaeological And Historical Analysis by Aydogdy Kurbanov

Upper drawing of Fig. 37: Sogdian Mural in House III/60, Panjakent, 6th-8th Centuries. State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.
Fig. 38: Detail of Rostam portrayed as a Sogdian, Mural in the ‘Rustam Room’: Rustam cycle, Panjakent.

See a reconstruction of the Sogdian mural of a Harpist, Piandjikent.
More Sogdian murals from Panjakent (Panjīkant), 6th-8th Centuries

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