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"A serious inquiry into the motivation that empowers traditional artistic expression,
it will be treasured as a source book for all who share in this search"
Times Literary Supplement

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Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan:
Magic Symbols in Silk, Stone, Wood and Flesh




Robert Chenciner, Gabib Ismailov & Magomedkhan Magomedkhanov

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  ISBN 189894881X 

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On the southernmost border of the Russian Federation lies Daghestan — a land of ancient villages perched among the Great Caucasus Mountains by the shores of the Caspian Sea. Beneath this rural Islamic society, animist tattoos on women and decoration on ritual spoon boxes share symbols that are believed to protect the hearth and the family. Three experts have recorded this fascinating system of folk medicine, allowing the women's own voices to reveal the living vocabulary of this hidden body language. The result provides a key to the symbols that adorn spoon boxes and other original objects found in Daghestan — as well as throughout the carpet world.
More than 140 colour images and 180 specially drawn tattoos illustrate this unique vanishing tradition..

— 96 pages with colour illustrations

Published in 2006, in association with
Desert Hearts


Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoonboxes of Daghestan



Post-Modern tattoos and designer kitchenware
History and art heritage of Daghestan
Village origins of this book
Tattooed mountain women of Daghestan
History of tattoos connected with Daghestan
Scant study of tattoos in Daghestan
18th and 19th-century Iraq and Iran
Animism, tattoos and Old Testament religions in the Caucasus
Nature worship in the Caucasus and North Asia
Cat’s pear berries: practical tattooing, initiation and protection
Tattoo signs and symbols in mountain villages
Tattooâ head-scarves and Kaitag embroideries
Some deductions Spoon boxes of the mountain hearth
Wood and the home
Carved wood in the home and mosque
Mountain house design in the Caucasus
The great column
The hearth and hearth-chain
Khinkal dumplings and mutton broth
Carved wood dumpling spoons
Introduction to the catalogue
Carved wood and master craftsmen
Spoon box construction and decoration
Wear and tear
How many spoon boxes have survived?
Spoon box styles
Show and tell
Catalogue of Spoon Boxes
Masters at work

Select Bibliography
Warm thanks to the 109 women

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