Twin fish pendants from North Caucasus to northeast Asia

Twin fish pendants found in tombs of the Kofun period have counterparts in Far Eastern artifacts in the North Caucasus as well as Jurchen jewellery.

In recent years, a number of unusual artifacts finding no parallels in Eastern Europe have been found in the North Caucasus. Only in 2000 were their Far East analogs discovered.

Fish pendants. Five finds of this sort are known. The first fragmented bronzecast, fish-shaped plate was published in 1991.

A fragment of the fish figurine was found among the sand drifts in the outskirts of the modern village of Bazhigan.

This incidental find is attributable to the period of the Golden Horde, the second and third pendants recovereed in the area of the North Caucasian railway crossing No. 13 (see Fig 1, 2) were heavily fragmented. The interior surface of both figurines is ornamented with a net-like decor in the form of crossing oblique lines (engraving) The tail is engraved with longitudinal lines Both figurines are bronzecast.

In 2004, seven more similar bronze items were found about 500 m away. These pieces are highly reminiscent of fish-shaped pendants widely spread among the Jurchens in the Far East (Shaw Kunor, 1973, 1990)

On the appearance of the fish pendants in Chinese courts, according to a press release article of the HK government “Chinese accessories display ancient craftsmanship”:

“Since the Zhou dynasty, garments and accessories not only served functional and ornament purposes, but were associated with the system of etiquette. Specific formats of attire were used to identify seniority, official rank and social status. On different occasions, like festive celebrations or religious ceremonies, there were strict dress codes and accessory rules. … The fish-shaped official pendants and pouch worn by officials in the Song dynasty (960-1279) showed past merits of the wearer by the choice of material. In the Jin dynasty (1115-1234), the Jurchens had numerous codes for attire…Another example is the silk waistband which gradually developed into the leather belt, forming a part of the official costume in many dynasties. The material of the ornaments on the belt indicated the official class of the wearer…”

The twin fish-pendants being a favorite totem of the Jurchens,  likely became a standard at court when the Jurchens after being allied briefly with the Song against the Liao, turned around exploiting the weskness of the Song to conquer the whole of north China, as it founded the Jin Dynasty between the 12th-13th c. Court officials of the Song and Jin wore belts that had pendants dangling from them(matching fish pendants were also attached to gilt bronze funerary shoes) had already been part of the royal dress ensemble centuries earlier in the Korean and Japanese courts.

Twin fish or carp symbols seem to have been highly prized by many early societies of Eurasia and Central Asia, see Pair of fish or twin kissing fish symbolism


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