Public versus private: Perspectives on the communication of power in Ancient Chorasmia

Fiona Kidd, Michelle Negus Cleary, Elizabeth Baker Brite

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Monumental mudbrick architecture and a growing corpus of monumental mural art from Chorasmia (Betts 2006; Helms and Yagodin 1997: 62; Khozhaniyazov 2006; Kidd et al. 2008; Tolstov 1948b; Yagodin et al. 2010) leave little doubt that they were created by a powerful body with broad access to knowledge, skills, and resources. The public nature of monumental architecture makes it highly symbolic, serving as an effective and evocative communication vehicle for broad expressions of authority (Lawrence and Low 1990: 466–469, 473, 484–6; Moore 1996: 93–98; Trigger 1990). Conversely, monumental art, especially in restricted or private contexts, may reflect a much more targeted message, reinforcing both vertical and horizontal social relationships. The built environment is imbued with social meaning, which is associated with certain behavioral responses (Rapoport 1982: 15). Discussions of the communication of power in pre-Islamic Chorasmia remain largely unexplored, despite an impressive landscape of monumental sites and a surprisingly rich visual art repertoire. The aim of this paper is to use monumental art and architecture to explore visual mechanisms in the communication of power in public and private (restricted) contexts in first-century BC Chorasmia at the site of Kazakly-yatkan. The first section examines the symbolic capital embodied in the public monumental architecture of Kazakly-yatkan, in particular the fortifications. The following section focuses on how mural art at Kazakly-yatkan is employed to represent a more nuanced, private display of authority.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Archaeology of Power and Politics in Eurasia
Subtitle of host publicationRegimes and Revolutions
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)9781139061186
ISBN (Print)9781107016521
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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