Pharma vessels #2 ~ reprint.

Reprint from  a blog called  ‘Voynich imagery: a summary’ which I ran for and with some international students last year. (April 14 – some formatting issues and one label corrected).

[Note: 18/03/2015 –  for my own commentary, see two posts entitled ‘In the vicinity’. -D]

What follows is a digest of the results and my comments on an exercise in using imagery (in general) together with extant objects when describing finds. The summary is focused on that matter, using imagery from the Voynich as hypothetical example.

Also, because my students’ work is here, written permission has to be obtained before it can be used, or cited

Don’t worry – no financial charges are involved.

Just send an email to voynichimageryATgmail.com showing  the paragraph/s you want to use. Also, I should point out that my opinions,  then or now, are not necessarily reflected in what follows.

(Some formatting lost in transition).

~ PLEASE DO NOT REBLOG, PRINT or DOWNLOAD this post   ~

From ‘Voynich imagery – a summary’ post published April 4th., 2012.

Fig 1 fol.88v detail Afol 88v: Three vessels and their type.

The left hand side of 88v shows three fairly ornate objects, each apparently consisting of tiered segments, and only the last having a segment with curved sides.
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For general readers, I use layman’s terms wherever possible and won’t be discussing the materials which might have been used here  just   the type of object this is, and its historical and social context.
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All three have a legged base; the uppermost has the fewest legs and the lowest the greatest.
As depicted here, none of the objects accords with the way European and western Mediterranean vessels were made before the time this manuscript was made.
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Before the time when the Portuguese began seeking a road to India, early in the fifteenth century, the sort of vessels we know in the west were not given many feet, or a stand or any kind unless they generated heat, or simply couldn’t stand upright alone.
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In addition, most larger vessels had handles, and very few ever had straight sides. Some of the few exceptions include Mycenaean pottery storage vessels and milk-churns like those used in the Baltic, a product of the cooper’s and from which ornament is absent or superficial.
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These do resemble the style of modern Egyptian perfume-vials but none of that time are known from the fifteenth century. (The Museo del Perfume has a representative catalogue online)

 

Miniature forms of the larger vessels also had handles in the Mediterranean and European traditions. Fig 2 Punic vesselsAs examples see – Figure 2 – which shows Punic perfume bottles and as you can see they cannot stand alone, and have handles which are scarcely needed.   Figure 3 has been made with matching base – but this is a burner-and- lamp.  Dated to the 5thC BC, it was recovered from the tomb of Philip IV of Macedon.

Western drinking vessels might not need handles, and might have nearly straight sides but did not have so many legs.  Conversely, Jugs might have legs but they would also have handles, spouts and a curved belly.
Fig 3 container bronze lampstand Vergina tomb Phillip 4thCbce Thessaloniki ArchMusb12711c
One unusual glass is shown in  Figure 5;  dated to the 1stC AD and  found in Begram. It reflects a pre-Christian cult.  Roman-style goblets could, and did, sometimes become ornate, especially if made for royalty or ritual: Figure 6 is Merovingian (mid-5th – 8thC AD) but while the base is nicely flanged, the vessel is again given handles.

Fig 4

Fig 4

 

fig 5

fig 5

So- altogether – if the objects on fol. 88v were drawn before 1438, they’re not European, and if they’re not European they may not have been drawn within the Mediterranean or Europe, either.

 

 

 

Fig 6

Fig 6

I won’t weary readers by offering a survey of the whole history of western styles, if you can accept that until the time of Covilha and Dias, to find the style which is evinced in the pharma section, one has to move eastwards: the further east, the more likely we are to find exact matches.

(I’ll add separate post, sometime, on the ‘apothecary jars’ controversy.)

Fig 7 detail of f88v

Fig 7 detail of f88v

 

Figure 8 offers a convenient example of all the design-elements in these objects on fol.88v: the carved base, construction in sections, vertical sides, pyramidal profile and pointed finial.

 

Fig 8

Fig 8

Its provenancing is unfortunately deficient,  but in every other aspect its Buddhist character, is clear, and I should think it originated in Tibet or Nepal. Its material though is rhinoceros horn.

The single, most telling, element here is not, in fact, any of those listed above.  It is those wider surfaces shown in both – as planes parallel to the base.

They are indicative of a Buddhist environment, and very likely a Buddhist context, for the whole object/set then presents as the kind of  model or miniature stupa that was used, originally, to present food or gifts to the Buddhist mendicant monks.

Stupa.

The Buddhist stupa is a structure which originally served to house relics of the Great Teacher (Gautama Buddha).  It was also a place for leaving votive goods and for daily rites.

Stupas that were built during the Hellenistic period – the time of the Ptolemaic and Seleucid kingdoms – have a an interesting detail that I might mention here, for general interest, if nothing else.

Fig 9

Fig 9

As you can see from the diagram below (Figure 9), stupas built during the 2ndC BC have on top of the dome a finial representing divine cover and protection.  In that same form, and its significance, the motif bears comparison those which I have already noted as the ‘nail’ and canopy motifs of fol.75r, and again the parasol in fol.79v.

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Having somewhat similar motifs does not prove anything much about our manuscript, even though one can point to similar motifs again on near-contemporary coins or imagery. All the similarity does is offer an added footnote to any final conclusions.

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At the same time, it is true that Indians were in Egypt during the Hellenistic period, just as certainly as Greeks in northern India.

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Ref: Salomon, Richard,  ‘Epigraphic remains of Indian traders in Egypt’ Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol.111, No.4 (Oct-Dec.1991) pp. 731-736.

   [For the acute observation that the form which is given the sets/objects on fol.88v is not exactly that of the stupas, but of a ‘miniature stupa’, full credit is due to “L.V”, whose original observation it is. As she pointed out, this ‘terracing effect’ appears on donation-vessels (or sets) but not on the stupas themselves. -D]

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That some few regional forms (Figure 10) can appear flat from below does not diminish the importance of the observation. Fig 10 archit stupa Shigase monaster TibetThis detail tells us that at some stage in the manuscript’s development, and more likely at earlier than a later stage, the materials being represented in these folios, and the objects associated with them, were being issued from, or presented to, centres of Buddhist worship.
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 ‘Miniature stupas’
What are often called ‘model’ stupas should be termed  miniature stupas.

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Already by Hellenistic times there were more that one kind of miniature stupa.

Fig 11 pharma containers miniature stupas tsa tsa Nalanda in Rome

 

One type held a tablet or piece of palm-leaf (or, later paper) inscribed with a passage from the Buddhist sutras, and then set under the stupa proper, in the ground or in an underground chamber.

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Figure 11 shows the sort of clay tablet that might be inside a miniature stupa, and stupas are impressed upon it in a way which evokes the human form.  According to Taddei, who cites Franke, the script which is visible below them is “an ancient form of Sarada”.  The illustration comes from Taddei’s article. The object was recovered from Ghazni, now in Afghanistan but once in Hellenistic territory.

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Ref: Taddei, Maurizio, ‘Clay Tablets and Miniature Stūpas from Ġaznī’, East and West, Vol. 20, No. 1/2 (March-June 1970), pp. 70-86.
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Nor is the presence of the plants out of keeping, since these may be scented woods, or materials for inscriptions. One early Chinese visitor to India, Hsuan-tang, reported how
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 “It is a custom in India to make little stupas of powdered scent made into a paste; their height is about six or seven inches, and they place inside them some written extract from a sutra”, while another wrote of how,
“The priests and the laymen in India make Caityas or images with earth,  or [they] impress the Buddha’s image on silk or paper,.. any one may thus employ himself in making the objects for worship.”
 quoted by Taddai op.cit. p.81
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One famous exception to the usual interment of  miniature stupas occurred in the eighth century AD, when an empress of Japan ordered a million miniatures, each with a passage from scripture within, and all to be distributed or maintained in the temple at Nara, Japan’s ancient capital, where many remain to this time.
(Figure 13)

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Fig.12

Fig.12

 Fig 13 container Tibet tower
All those examples have their pinnacles of certain type, but as Figure 14 shows, different forms might be used, especially if the object was also used in rituals, or meant to hold provisions.

Figure 14 shows a modern Burmese example.

Fig 14 container stupa Burmese

Fig 14

In  other folios of the ‘pharma’ section the objects also show many points in common with Buddhist artifacts of one type of another type.  In Figure 16, note especially the second vessel from left, and the different finials on all.

 

Fig 15

Fig 13

Fig 16

Fig 16

Altogether, the three objects from fol.88v give little evidence of their date, especially given the long and cherished traditions of the Buddhist world, but in their form they suggest that the vegetable matter associated with each was meant to be carried to, or traded through, a Buddhist community – and very possibly some large monastery.

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Our principal subject being the clove and the glass routes, I’ll now include a map showing eastern Roman (Byzantine era) artifacts which have been discovered along the east-west roads. What products or objects were carried back to the peoples of Byzantium is a subject for some later post.

Fig 17

Fig 17

To make sense of the distribution lines, here is a closer look at some of the main northern routes.

Fig.18

Fig.18

The issue of transport is thus no particular problem, the evidence of Byzantine goods being supported by that Buddha in Gandharan style found in a tenth-century grave of Heligoland.

.Where any object can travel, so too can information and skills. Glass-making know-how crossed the whole of the known world within a century** and in the last quarter of the fourteenth, the Pope (then resident in Avignon) is said to have made of clay, and impressed with an image of the Lamb a certain ‘periapt or tablet’ for the king of the Grecians, inserting therein a written paper (no doubt a passage of scripture) together with certain herbs.

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** Clarification: the author was referring to discovery of ‘Roman’ glass in a Guangzhou tomb of the Han period, the glass being dated to the 1stC AD. This does not imply the importation of ‘know-how’ but of goods, and indeed it is presently believed that an awareness of such techniques as blown glass only occurs in China some three or four centuries later.- D.O’D. 1/06/2001

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The cult of the lamb and good shepherd [seen on the Begram glass – D]  predates the rise of Christianity, and so too does the practice of interment for these little messengers. The bulla illustrated is Mesopotamian and shows the habit at least seven thousand years old now, this bulla made two thousand years before Gautama’s birth.

Fig 19 Bulla envelope and tokens 37 -32oo bce
And that pope, like the famed Nestorian physicians, and like the Palaeologans themselves thought it only right to unite spiritual with physical health.
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… All of which is simply to demonstrate the great importance placed on ‘know-how’ in earlier times, and the persistence of related practices…And so to return to fol. 88v.Whether the three artifacts on fol.88v were drawn for a trader, a tax agent, or (to take an unlikely example) an invader’s inventory they like the botanical section refer to regions where Buddhism was once the chief religion.
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Stands:
Stands like those pictured in fol.88v are easily seen, and with the habit of custom the same style has not rarely been produced in identical form for many hundreds of years, so I wont discuss them here.  I include fig.(20 ) only because it is less a common type, and is made from teak-root.(the original photo was reversed).
Fig 20 container stand teak China
The fifteenth century.From about the time that the Portuguese sent their first explorers to seek a route to the Indies (de Corvilha and then Dias), we see a new and highly ornamented style of vessel emerge suddenly in Europe. Examples include the Oxford Salt of 1493 Figure 21.  A stream of similarly extravagant designs then appear, some gained from smiths’ pattern books and some being made to order, such as that made in west Africa for a Portuguese merchant in ivory. Figure 22.
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These earliest remaining examples of ‘western ornate’ style can have a disconcerting effect, for they appear to unite in their final form elements taken from African, northern Buddhist and Yemeni traditions. Figure 23 is of uncertain origin and date, another Buddhist ‘offering bowl’ and said to be Nepalese. But by the time we see such forms in Europe, the Voynich manuscript had already been copied: by no later than 1438 according to the C-14 dating.
Fig.21

Fig.21

Fig 22

Fig 22

Fig 23 container vase Tibet
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Additional
Chinese style is somewhat different. Finds recovered from the ‘Ashoka’ shrine,Famen, China.

Fig 24

Fig 24

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