With a powerful simplicity of form, these enigmatic stone idols were produced by artisans of the Bactrian (or Oxus) culture, an ancient civilization that flourished between the 3rd and 2nd millenniums B.C., occupying a large area between India and Afghanistan.
Their original use is a matter of modern debate, though many scholars believe the earliest such “idols” were in fact counterweights used for pounding the agricultural produce that was the backbone of the Oxus economy. The presence of grooves in some column idols (Lot 23) may have originally hosted a cord that suspended the weight for this purpose. Their use may have subsequently developed to the purely ritual, as later examples are found to be smaller and shorter, much shallow in depth and with a more pronounced curving form (Lot 27), less appropriate for practical use.
Regardless of their original purpose, these stone idols have an element quality that speaks to a modern aesthetic. The present collection was formed in the 1960’s and features a range of particularly fine examples, each selected for the beauty of the stone.
Lyon & Turnbull offers four auctions of Antiquities annually; with sculpture from ancient Greece and Rome placed into biannual dedicated sections of our Five Centuries sales and Fine Antiquities offered in our biannual Form Through Time editorial sales. This ensures that the broad range of Antiquities offered at Lyon and Turnbull each reach the correct market.