All photos courtesy of the Ancient Enthusiast unless otherwise specified
Where are they going, anyway?
While searching through almost 100 photos of pesky purses the Ancient Enthusiast had collected, it occurred to me that it might be useful to put them in order of date. In doing so, what I discovered about them is quite interesting.
We will start our journey in Gobekli Tepe 10,500 BCE, then move to Iran somewhere between 9000 and 6000 BCE.
As you look at these examples, remember the Ice Age and the last great extinction (some say caused by a comet impacting central Mexico) started about 11,800 BCE and ended about 9400 BCE.
Pillar 43 at Gobekli Tepe prior to 10,500 BCE:
Photo by Klaus-Peter Simon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Teppe Yahya, 6000-9000 B.C. Kerman- Iran:
From this point, we go to the Jiroft culture and move around the Mediterranean. I am only showing a very small sample of the artifacts from about 3000 BCE to the 1st century BCE.
Jiroft Culture 2000-3000 BCE:
I like the last one because the figures seem to be swimming and, of course, Oannes is the fish-tailed god who came from the sea to teach the civilizing arts. I believe that Oannes dates back even earlier as first Enki of Sumerian (5300-1940 BCE) lore and then as Ae of Akkadian (2334-2157 BCE) lore. They are all fish-tailed gods from the sea who brought civilization to humankind.
Babylon 1894-141 BCE:
Late Hittite, 1600-1178 BCE:
Museum of Anatolian Civilizations
Fortress of Karatepe, Kadril, Osmaniye
Mitanni 1500-1300 BCE:
Phoenician Lebanon, 1200-800 BCE:
Fragment of the altar with the image of the goddess of Yanouh. Beirut National Museum
Assyrian 700-800 BCE:
Plaques depicting a winged demon and a fish-man, probably Oannes
Ancient Armenia 860-590 BCE:
Lower image: Fragment of a bronze helmet
Syro-Phoenician 700 to 600 BCE (time of Nimrod):
Bottom image drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an Assyrian bas-relief from Nimrûd. From Maspero’s History of Egypt, vol 3. (Public Domain)
The historian Berosus first wrote about Oannes in the later Babylonian era. But, remember, his legend goes back to 5000 BCE when he was known as Enki. Reputed to come from the sea to teach the “civilizing arts,” among them agriculture, language, architecture, mathematics, Enki later became Ae, then Oannes.
Northern Syria 800-750 BCE:
Etruscan 768-264 BCE:
This is where it gets interesting:
Now go back and think about this one:
Where are they going? West, perhaps, to the Americas?
We don’t find much more around the Mediterranean after about 700-500 BCE, but we do start finding them in Central and South America. At about this time the Phoenicians (Carthaginians) were at the high point in their maritime activities. And about this time there were three great invasions of Phoenecia. First the Assyrians (883-605 BCE), then the Babylonians (605-538 BCE), then the Persians (538-332 BCE) took over and ruled the area. Did the “pesky purses” suddenly show up in the Americas with some fleeing Phoenicians?
Peru 700 BCE
Compare the stone artifact above to those from the Jiroft culture (3000-2000 BCE):
Mexico 700 BCE:
By Cesarth (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
These are from Tula (Tollan), The Capital of Toltec Empire. They are also known as the Atlantian Columns.
The “warrior” bags these statues carry seem to be a variation found in several Central and South American cultures. There is another Mayan example below.
LaVenta (Olmec) 400 BCE-200 CE:
By Audrey and George Delange (Audrey and George Delange) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons
Mayan somewhere between 250-900 CE:
Veracruz, Mexico, 600 – 900 CE:
Moche 100-700 CE:
Painting on vessel (Hocquenghen 1987) From original research by Aedo Fernando on AE
Tairona, Colombia, 900 CE – 1600 CE:
Now I am wondering–did the image of the pesky purse travel to ancient America with ancient mariners?
We find very few examples in other parts of the world. That is why I think it is not just a matter of “independent invention” that brought the pesky purse to the Americas, but rather a case of diffusion from one specific area to another. But just to be fair, here are the two instances of purses in other parts of the world captured by the Ancient Enthusiast:
4th century CE, Zenica, Bosnia:
Yes, I think this is more likely to be a coincidence, but then….symbols last for millennia, even when their original meaning is forgotten.
Sumba, an island in eastern Indonesia:
My search did not turn up anything concrete about this artifact. Most Sumba “statues” are more Moai like. This may be a later date.
One final connection: Coso Rock Art:
US Park Service photo
Note the date. Habitation of the area started sometime after the last ice age, 10,000 BCE about the time of Gobekli Tepe, our first example.
Now look at this sketch of the rock art with what are being called “medicine bags”:
Little Petroglyph Canyon, California USA . Coso rock art district. Photo is on Stephen Bodio’s Querencia blog. (Scroll down.)
I seriously doubt this petroglyph is from the end of the Ice Age. But is it possible that it is an ancient symbol carried down generation after generation?
And maybe those pesky purses are Medicine bags as many suggest. Think back to my previous blogs about Chief Joseph’s Cuneiform stone and the Assyrian Star of Ishtar on his medicine bag…another clue to the ancient past.
The Chief Joseph artifacts date back to the Sumerians and Assyrians 2040 BCE. Were there two migrations? One before 2040 BCE and a second wave about 800-900 BCE. Or perhaps migration was just continuous.
Pesky Purse images in the 20th and 21st Century:
Try as I might, I could not find images from the 20th or 21st century until my friend, D, put me onto one. To see the images, click HERE.
Reported to contain “lucky charms (talismans) from family and friends, this pesky purse is also alleged to be a secret communication devise. Put on a banquet table, it means, “We leave in 5 minutes.” Changed from arm to arm, it is reported to mean, “Get me away from this boring person, NOW!”
New Information just in:
While knitting, I was listening to Laird Scranton’s Lost Origins Interview on YouTube.
He talked about the Maori in New Zealand. They have a legendary figure, Tane, who climbed a mountain (or went to heaven) and came back with knowledge in three handbags, the same number of pesky purses on the Gobekli Tepe carving.
Laird Scranton thinks the shape represents the “squaring of the circle,” so important to sacred geometry. The square, he says, represents our physical dimension and the circle represents another timeless dimension. Squaring the circle is communication between the two. More secret messages in images.
The Ancient Enthusiast for all his help with finding the era and area of many of the artifacts above. And for putting together 100 examples on his Facebook page!
Laird Scranton’s Lost Origin’s blog: Perspectives on Ancient Handbag Images
My friend, S, for pointing out the images on Ancient Enthusiast and my friend D for putting me onto the 21st century usage of the symbol.