The Helmand Sistan Project


Ceramic figurines were reasonably common from the Parthian period. Most were broken pieces of a horse and rider combination, but a variety of figurines representing other animals were found on the surface as well. These include rams, camels, and elephants. They were found at numerous sites, though two cultic sites—Khwaja Kanur and Khwaja Ali Sehyaka/Sehyak—contained the bulk of those we found. One exotic piece, possibly a ram with elongated horns, was found during the excavation at Sehyak and was in a very different style than the rest. We were shown the collection of an American engineer who had purchased a large group of figurines, almost 4000 in all, purportedly from Khwaja Kanur. These included human figures as well as the animals we were accustomed to finding. Other archaeological projects in Sistan have found similar figurines. It is unclear whether these were designed as toys or, as they are almost always broken and often found at cultic sites, they had some other cultural function. The figurines are being researched by a team of Italian scholars and will appear in Volume 2 of the project report. 

A collection of ceramic horse and rider figurines from Sehyak. Riders are usually broken off with only their legs and saddle still attached.
Some of the horse figurines are decorated with jabs or slashed lines representing eyes, manes, and reins.
A rooster from Khwaja Kanur.
A sheep(?) from Qala-i Surkh South.
An unusual painted animal figurine found on the surface at Shahr-i Gholghola. The ware, painting, and style are significantly different from other figurines and suggest a later date, possibly a decorative element on a ceramic piece.
The stylized ram figurine excavated at Sehyak is unique in our collection.
Human figurines were rare outside of the collection we viewed from Khwaja Kanur. The figurine here is probably of a rider detached from his horse.
The large Khwaja Kanur collection of an American artifact hunter contained numerous ceramic human figurines, often finely made and decorated.