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Metal and Stone Vestiges
Religion, Magic and Protection in the Art of Ancient Tibet

Image 3c

For close stylistic comparison with analogous rock art compositions, refer to the single animal at the top of this image. This probable wild herbivore was cast with deeply cut lines circumscribing the body. The accessory attachment on the reverse side was manufactured by simply brazing two metallic protuberances extending from the body of the animal into a v-shaped loop. The manufacture and modeling of this thokcha indicates that it belongs to the earliest period of the Tibetan metalworking tradition. This may chronologically correspond with either the Bronze Age or early Iron Age of Central Asia.

The other two amulets in this image are those of multiple animals, representing an unusual style of thokcha. The specimen on the right (shown sideways) depicts a yak resting on what is probably a tiger with a gaping mouth. The other specimen boasts five animals that appear to include (bottom to top): carnivore with gaping jaws, yak, deer (?), and bird. The animal on the left side of the layered of animals might be representative of a sheep. The significance of compounded animals in this genre of pre-Buddhist or early Buddhist thokchas has been lost. We might conjecture that it had something to do with the hunter-prey relationship and the success of hunting expeditions.

all text & images © John Vincent Bellezza

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