download PDF


The Parthian fortress of Göbekly-depe on the North-Western border of the Merv oasis was investigated by the Central Asian Mision of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1981–2001 (with short breaks). Among the various fi nds (coins, terracotta, ostraca, metal and bone objects) of special interest there are numerous clay bullae with impressions of Parthian seals (over 3,000) used as seal bags of goods. In the 2nd century AD the fortress functioned as a customs offi ce for goods plying between the oasis and the nomadic tribes of the Sands. Among the images on the sealings, one of the most numerous groups is represented by prints with images of eagles. Eagles and other birds of prey in Ancient Iran were associated with the royal charisma and with the Avestan deity Verethragna. In Parthian time the image of eagles, obviously, interpreted as a symbol of royal power and could be associated with the idea of deifi cation of royal power. In the Sasanian period this bird acted not only as the incarnation of god Verethragna, but served as a conductor of human souls to Paradise. There are numerous images of eagles and other birds of prey in Iranian art.


Achaemenids, Parthian Empire, Sassanids, Margiana, Göbekly-depe, bullae, eagle.

Vasif A. Gaibov, Institute of Archaeology RAS, Moscow, Russia, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Alexander B. Nikitin, The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Albaum, L.A. 1975: Zhivopis Afrasiaba [Painting of Afrasiab]. Moscow.

Anderson, S.C., Hanaway, Jr., William, L. 1995: Eagles. Encyclopaedia Iranica. Vol. VIII, Fasc. 6, 623–626.

Assadullah Souren, Melikian-Chirvani 1969: Studies in Iranian Metalwork. V: A Sassanian Eagle in the Round. The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland 1, 2–9.

Avesta v russkikh perevodakh (1861–1996) [Avesta in Russian translation (1861–1996)]. 1997. Saint Petersburg.

Avesta. Izbrannyye gimny. Iz Videvdata [Avesta. Selected hymns. From Videvdat]. 1993. Moscow.

Bader, A., Gaibov, V., Koshelenko, G. 1991: New Evidence on Parthian Sphragistics. Bullae from the Excavations of Göbekly-depe in Margiana. Mesopotamia XXV, 61–78.

Bader, A., Gaibov, V., Koshelenko, G. 1998: Monarchic Ideas in Parthian Margiana as shown on Seals. In: V.S. Curtis, R. Hillenbrand, J.M. Rogers (ed.), The Art and Archaeology of Ancient Persia. New Light on the Parthian and Sasanian Empires. L.–New-York, 24–37.

Colledge, M.A.R. 1977: Parthian art. New York.

Duchesne-Guillemin, J. 1979: La royaute iranienne et le xvarenah. In: Gh. Gnoli, A.V. Rossi (ed.), Iranica. Napoli, 375–386.

Duistermatt, K. 2012: Which Came First, the Bureaucrat or the Seal? Some Thoughts on the Non Administrative Origins of Seals in Neolithic Syria. In: I. Regulsky, K. Duistermatt, P. Verkinderen (eds.), Seals and Sealing Practices in the Near East. Developments in Administration and Magicfrom Prehistory to the Islamic Period, (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 219), Leuven–Walpole–Paris, 1–16.

Fussman, G. 1983: Surkh-Kotal. Tempel der Kushan-Zeit in Baktrien. München.

Gaibov, V. 1997: Bullae from Gebekly-depe (Margiana). Bronze Age Traditions in Parthian Sphragistics.In: M.-F. Boussac et A. Invernizzi (ed.), Archives et sceaux du monde hellénistique (BCH Supplement 29). Paris, 385–394.

Gaibov, V. 2007: The Bullae of Göbekly-depe. After Alexander. Central Asia before Islam. Proceedings of the British Academy 133, 285–294.

Gaibov, V. 2011: Tsarskaya okhota – novyy syuzhet v parfyanskoy sfragistike Margiany [The royal hunt – a new plot in the Parthian sphragistics of Margiana]. Un impaziente desiderio di scorrere il mondo. Studi in onore di Antonio Invernizzi per il suo settantesimo compleanno, 303–308.

Gaibov, V.A. 2004: Margianskaya bulla s izobrazheniyem tsarya-vsadnika [Margian bulla with the image of the king-rider]. Vestnik drevney istorii [Journal of Ancient History] 2, 69–74.

Gaibov, V.A. 2005: Bully sasanidskogo i parfyanskogo vremeni na vostoke Irana: Ak-depe i Gebekly-depe (popytka sravneniya) [Bullae of Sasanian and Parthian time in the east of Iran: Ak-depe and Göbekly-depe (attempt to compare)]. Problemy istorii, filologii, kul’tury [Journal of Historical, Philological and Cultural Studies] XV, 37–45.

Gaibov, V.A., Koshelenko, G.A. 2007: Krepost na granitse Mervskogo oazisa: Gebekly-depe [Fortress on the border of the Merv oasis: Göbekly-depe]. Antiquitas Aeterna. Povolzhskiy antikovedcheskiy zhurnal [Antiquitas Aeterna. Volga Antiquity Journal] 2, 360–374.

Gaibov, V.A., Koshelenko. G.A. 2001: Bully iz raskopok Gebekly-depe (Turkmenistan) [Bullae from the excavations of Göbekly-depe (Turkmenistan)]. Vestnik drevney istorii [Journal of Ancient History] 2, 71–78.

Gaibov, V.A., Nikitin, A.B. 2018: Parfyanskiye imena na bullakh iz raskopok Gebekly-depe [Parthian names on the bullae from the excavations of the Göbekly-depe]. Numizmatika i Epigrafika [Numismatics and Epigraphy] XX, 50–55.

Gaibov, V.A., Nikitin, A.B. 2019: Krepost Gebekly-depe v Margiane v kontekste razvitiya iranskoy fortifikatsii [Göbekly-depe fortress in Margiana in the context of the development of Iranian fortifi cation]. Kratkiye soobshcheniya Instituta arkheologii [Brief Communications from the Institute of Archeology] 254, 319–329.

Gaibov, V.A., Košelenko, G.A. 2008: A horseman chairing a foot-soldier: a new subject in Parthian glyptic art. PARTHICA. Incontri di Culture nel Mondo Antico 10, 99–107.

Gnoli, G., Jamzadeh, P. 2012: Bahram (Vərəθraγna). Encyclopaedia Iranica. Vol. III/5, 510-514.

Koshelenko, G. 1997: Bullae from Göbekly-depe. General Problems and Main Subjects. In: M.- F. Boussac et A. Invernizzi (ed.), Archives et sceaux du monde hellénistique (BCH Supplement 29). Paris, 377–383.

Koshelenko, G., Bader, A., Gaibov, V. 1991: Parfyanskiye bully iz raskopok Gebekly-depe [Parthian Bullae from the Göbekly-depe Excavation]. Informatsionnyy byulleten MAIKTsA [International Assosiation for the Study of the Cultures of Central Asia. Information Bulletin] 18, 5–18.

Koshelenko, G.A. 2004: Bulla s izobrazheniyem dvugorbogo verblyuda s gorodishcha Gebekly [Bulla with the image of a two-humped camel from the settlement of Göbekly]. Rossiyskaya arkheologiya [Russian archeology] 3, 144–146.

Koshelenko, G.A. 2005: Bully Staroy Nisy i Gebekly-depe: sopostavleniye [Bullae of Old Nisa and Göbekly-depe: comparison] Problemy istorii, fi lologii, kul’tury [Journal of Historical, Philological and Cultural Studies] XV, 45–56.

Koshelenko, G.A., Gaibov, V.A., Bader, A.N. 1995: Dve bogini? [Two goddesses?] Vestnik drevney istorii [Journal of Ancient History] 2, 194–203.

Koshelenko, G.A., Nikitin. A.B. 1992: Monetnyye nakhodki i problemy stratigrafi i Gebeklydepe [Coin finds and problems of Göbekly-depe stratigraphy]. Informatsionnyy byulleten MAIKTsA [International Assosiation for the Study of the Cultures of Central Asia. Information Bulletin] 18, 108–121.

Lippolis, C. 2016: Eagles over Parthian Nisa. Iskusstvo i arkhitektura Turkmenistana. Nauchnye soobshcheniya [Art and architecture of Turkmenistan. Scientifi c reports] 4, 115–123.

Lippolis, C., Manassero, N. 2015: Storehouses and Storage Practices in Old Nisa (Turkmenistan). Electrum 22, 115–142.

Rosenfield, J.M. 1967: The Dynastic Arts of the Kushans. Los-Angeles.

Sellwood, D. 1980: An Introduction to the Coinage of Parthia. London.

Yatsenko, S.A. 2001: Znaki-tamgi iranoyazychnykh narodov drevnosti i rannego srednevekov’ya [Signs-tamgas of the Iranian-speaking peoples of antiquity and the early Middle Ages]. Moscow.