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The article discusses two scenes common in the petroglyphs of Northern Eurasia – animals at the «world tree» and «the lord of the horses». The sign shown on the rock depictions is shaped like a pole with a fork, which is associated with the earliest reduced images of bulls in the petroglyphs of Europe. Probably, it was a shape of a real artefact associated with livestock sacrifi ces. Among the Chinese antiquities belonging to the era of the Western Zhou, a jade bull fi gurine is known, restrained with such a pole and mounted on a cart. Another bull on wheels comes from a hoard in India dating to the middle of the 2 mill. BC. Perhaps these fi ndings refl ect the real religious practices that were widespread in Eurasia and are associated with the resettlement of pastoralists from the steppe zone to the south.

The consistently repeating image of the «Lord of the Horses» is recorded in Chinese clan emblems on the bronze vessels of the Western Zhou era. Probably, such a manifestation of the subject provides evidence on the infl uence of the steppe traditions to Ancient China and can be explained by the original steppe component that brought its ritual practice related to cattle sacrifi ce to China at the very stage of the formation of the Chinese Bronze Age. An opposite version of later invasions into the steppe from China cannot be either ruled out, however, the stylistic features of the horse images point out to the earlier formation of such a style in the northern pastoral regions of Eurasia.

It is concluded that the direct involvement of the steppe people in military and economic activities of ancient China as well as their admission to the sphere of Chinese ritual life led inevitably to the transformation and rethinking of the old Chinese traditions.


Petroglyphs, animals at the «world tree», «lord of the horses», ritual, Ancient China

Konstantin V. Chugunov, State Hermitage, Saint Petersburg, Russia, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Jessica Rowson, Oxford University, Merton College, Oxford, UK, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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