In the third century, camel domestication started in China and Mongolia. Camels became a vital resource for travel and trade, as they were able to travel longer distances than horses without needing to stop for water or rest. Without the introduction of camels in in the early common era, the Silk Road wouldn’t have become the successful trading route that it was, affecting the future innovation and growth among empires.
Overview: The figurine is a faded copper-like color, its value affected its age. The camel has a large and protruding chest, thin and muscular legs, and a small head in comparison to the rest of its body. Atop the camel is a saddle. The figurine is made out of clay, has a wooden base, and is from the mid-late 6th century.
Parts: The camel’s curved and smooth features create the depiction that it is a creature of fluidity and grace rather than one that uses rigid and tough movements. The figurine’s flat hooves, large nostrils, and curved lips are all qualities that are almost identical to those of the actual animal’s.
Title: The title of this figurine is “Camel,” which is quite literal. The piece most likely wasn’t given a very descriptive name due to it’s age and it’s simplicity.
Interpretation: The fact that the figurine was built, and in mass numbers, tells me that the camel had a significant impact in early Chinese culture, and was seen as a creature to be respected and perhaps praised. These camels were placed in tombs and bought my families preparing for burials, as they were considered a “spirit utensil,” and would serve those in the afterlife.
Context: Camels at this time were used for transporting the upper class and traders, as well as supplying troops with essential military goods. They were used for travel across terrains as long as the Silk Road, or for short trips across town. Camels were seen as an significant contributor to a successful economy.
Conclusion: The camel figurine is one of the many figurines used to send good wishes and services to those being sent to the afterlife, justifying that camels were seen as essential commodities. In history class, we have been reading and learning about symbolism through art, as well as what essential materials were that helped keep an empire or community stable and fully operating. While camels aren’t used in the Western societies today, they are still and important part of society in many Eastern cultures.