The Development of Cloisonné between India and the Byzantine Empire

This subproject is concerned with basic research that is to say with the question of origin and stylistic development of cloisonné between India and the Byzantine Empire. Following a careful chronological classification, significant insight will be gained through a combination of published finds and some of the objects from the collections of the RGZM originating in this vast geographic area. Comparisons of the various cultural environments, like the Graeco-Bactrian Empire, Eurasian nomadic contexts as well as the Persian Empire, should help to clarify the modes of transfer (transfer of ideas? Transfer of technology? Transfer of individuals?).  Consequently, one of the aspects to be examined includes the theoretical concepts explaining the diffusion of the style and the establishment of trade routes. It is also particularly relevant to clarify by which route, in Late Antiquity, garnet cloisonné reached the Byzantine Empire, whence it experienced rapid distribution throughout Europe.

A number of important assemblages from Eurasian nomadic contexts in Central Asia, in particular, display changes in the way the gems are set and in the combinations of garnet with other ornamental materials. In Central Asia, however, the use of garnet cloisonné had already started as early as the 1st/2nd century, gradually replacing the so-called turquois-gold style. Here, in the “Hellenised Orient” (Schlumberger 1969), in the Graeco-Bactrian sphere new styles evolved quickly through an amalgamation of diverse cultural influences. It is thus necessary to begin with an analysis of these early works and, based on the results, tracing the development from Central Asia to the Byzantine Empire. Persian products featuring garnet inlays (some of which are in the collections of the RGZM) will also be of relevance in this context, as will be the question as to how influences from this large empire reached the steppe region and/or the Byzantine Empire. Based on the finds assemblages, another objective will be the re-examination of the theories explaining the distribution of the style and of associated trade routes.

Close links exist with the subprojects examining the Indian finds (Sobkowiak and Larios) as well as the Byzantine objects (Albrecht).