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Tibetan Silver, Gold and Bronze Objects and the Aesthetics of Animals in the Era before Empire

Cross-cultural reverberations on the Tibetan Plateau and soundings from other parts of Eurasia

John Vincent Bellezza
Publication Year:
184 pages, Illustrated throughout in colour and black and white. 2 tables, 148 figures, 2 maps.
BAR number:


This archaeological and art-historical study is woven around rock art and ancient metallic articles attributed to Tibet. The silver bowls, gold finial, and copper alloy spouted jars and trapezoidal plaques featured are assigned to the Iron Age and Protohistoric period. These rare objects are adorned with zoomorphic subjects mimicking those found in rock art and embody an artistic zeitgeist widely diffused in Central Eurasia in Late Prehistory. Diverse sources of inspiration and technological capability are revealed in these objects and rock art, shedding light on their transcultural dimension. The archaeological and aesthetic materials in this work prefigure the Tibetan cosmopolitanism of early historic times promoted through the spread of Buddhist ideas, art and craft from abroad. The metallic articles and petroglyphs of this study are markers of relationships between Tibet and her neighbours. These transactions enabled a fusion of Tibetan innovation and foreign inventiveness, a synthesis of disparate ideas, aesthetics and technologies in the objects and rock art presented.


John Vincent Bellezza PhD is an archaeologist and cultural historian specializing in the pre-Buddhist heritage of Tibet. Author of twelve books and numerous articles, Bellezza has over many years comprehensively charted archaic monuments and rock art in Upper Tibet and has worked extensively on Old Tibetan mytho-ritual texts.

‘With its many illustrations, the book is an excellent source of designs for artists and craftsmen, I can see jewellers and metal workers being especially drawn to some of the items it illustrates in its pages. (…) if you are interested in thogchag and the pre- Buddhist art and culture of Tibet it is a must have.’ Nicholas Breeze Wood, Sacred Hoop Magazine, Issue 110, December 2020

‘Die durch Artefakte und archäologische Spuren belegte Einbindung des prähistorischen Tibet in einen größeren zentralasiatischen Kulturraum ist der große Verdienst von John Bellezza.` Michael Buddeberg, Preetorius Stiftung, Issue 170, October 2020

‘With this publication BAR Publishing house, based in Oxford, has added another little jewel to its already rich and high-quality catalog of books dedicated to the archeology and history of central and eastern Asia. (…) I’m always amazed by the quality and quantity of his literary production, his brilliant mind, and the vast quantity of his new works.’ Giorgio Dallorto, The Mirror, Issue 149, September 2020

‘I have never encountered a work of this depth on these regions of East and Inner Asia. What is more, Bellezza demonstrates a deep knowledge of the existing research literature from the past 40+ years and is able to weave his citations and observations together effectively to make a very important argument linking the Tibetan cultural sphere into the larger Inner Asian region. This is a rare, significant, and welcome contribution to academic research on ancient Tibet.’ Professor William Honeychurch, Yale University

‘There is a broad range of scholars who would find this volume of interest, including Tibetologists, art historians of Central and East Asia, archaeologists, and historians.’ Professor Mark Aldenderfer, UC Merced

Table of Contents (S2984_9781407354316_ToC.pdf, 99 Kb) [Download]

Introduction (S2984_9781407354316_Introduction.pdf, 285 Kb) [Download]