Lot 39: Russia (Perm) Chalcedony Scabbard Slide -- Rare!
27 October 2016
Louisville, CO, USALive Auction
Russia, Perm area (west central Russia), ca. 3rd to 5th century CE. This is a very interesting, quite rare stone object from an under-studied area! Most scabbard slides that are known to archaeologists come from China, but there are a few examples from elsewhere in central Asia. The style of this particular one is similar to those documented from the Perm District of Russia. This particular example seems to be made of a creamy brown chalcedony and has a shallowly incised curved design on its upper plate; the lower plate is much boxier than Chinese or Syrian examples. See similar examples on pages 234 to 235 of the book cited below. This slide was almost certainly inspired by the Chinese designs, but the artisans who made it added their own unique touches. Size: 2.1" L x 0.6" W (5.3 cm x 1.5 cm)
The scabbard slide was invented in the steppes of the southern Ural Mountains 2500 years ago, developed to manage the long iron equestrian sword. In China, nearly all of these objects are made from "jade" in the widest sense; elsewhere, there are also examples in bronze, lacquered wood, gold, and ivory. The purpose of these objects was forgotten until the 20th century, when some were scientifically excavated from undisturbed archaeological contexts. Now we know that the scabbard slide was attached, using silk thread or a thin strip of metal, to a flat or ribbed part of the scabbard, facing away from the body and generally at the balance point. A belt, usually of leather, would go through the slide.
c.f. Trousdale, W. 1975. The Long Sword and Scabbard Slide in Asia. Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology, No. 17.
Provenance: Ex-John Piscopo collection
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Condition Report: Some dirt encrustation; minor wear to the edges of the design.