Amongst the most striking examples of figural sculpture surviving from the Oxus (Bactrian-Margiana) civilisation of ancient Central Asia, these enigmatic figures known as “Princess Idols” were clearly of significance, yet their exact purpose remains unclear.
Seals found further to the southwest engraved with similar likenesses confirm the clear relationship between these Bactrian statuettes and Elamite art. One such seal even depicts a queen wearing the same characteristic kaunakes garment. The elaborate dress and grandeur of the Bactrian statues have long led scholars to believe they may depict women from the aristocracy. However, there is no conclusive evidence to support this theory. Another possibility is that these figures represent goddesses who maintained the balance of natural forces. Despite the enigmatic nature of their meaning, these statues are considered among the most aesthetically pleasing remains of the Oxus civilisation.
Muscarella (2003:368) writes, "attempts have been made to interpret these figures as deities or prominent humans, but insufficient information exists to permit a satisfactory conclusion. There is no doubt, however, that they are charged beings, physically massive but projecting a calm power and authority."
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