Uzbekistan opens the door to its treasures at the Louvre and the Arab World Institute

Charred wooden door from Kafir Kala, carved around the year 550, found in Samarkand (Uzbekistan).

She had been waiting for fifteen centuries: a jubilant crowd, who had come to tell about Samarkand before Samarkand. Five years ago, while excavating the residence of nomadic Iranian rulers, archaeologists discovered a charred wooden door. It was just a shapeless block; today it is one of the major pieces in the “Splendours of the Oases of Uzbekistan” exhibition at the Louvre. When we discover it, in the spring, it comes out of a miraculous restoration carried out at the Samarkand Heritage Institute. The decrepit building looks like a disused school. It was however necessary to deploy marvels of technology and know-how to make this piece of coal speak, and to awaken its army of shadows, sculpted around the year 550.

“This panel is exceptionalenthuses Yannick Lintz, who orchestrated the exhibition as director of the arts of Islam at the Louvre. When we offered to find the decor, we were treated like crazy. But the result is stunning. »

Burned during the Muslim conquest in the 8the century, the gate continued to burn underground. “The elm wood changed from organic to mineral, which allowed an exceptional preservation of the sculpture, marvels one of the French restorers in charge of this jewel. This restoration is the chance of a lifetime, we have very few wooden panels from this period. » To transport it to the laboratory, it was necessary to create a perfect mold in digital routing. It was then consolidated using resins before, millimeter by millimetre, the original decor was removed.

Rocco Rante, curator: “It’s a fascinating snapshot of the community of the time, the cohabitation of the sacred and profane worlds”

“It is a fascinating snapshot of the community of the time, the cohabitation of the sacred and profane worlds”, analyzes the archaeologist Rocco Rante, also curator of the exhibition. Thirteen years that he excavates, under the tutelage of the Louvre, the surroundings of Bukhara: he is inexhaustible on the incessant migration of peoples which characterizes this country. Iranian nomads, Hun kingdoms, Qarakhanid Turkish sultans, tribes of Genghis Khan, Timurid then Mongol dynasties… He never tires of deciphering these intertwined strata.

Read also: Journey to Samarkand, mythical and mystical

This door fascinates him, because it is one of the most vivid testimonies. “We see the population there paying homage to the divinity Nana by bringing him offerings, fruits, censers, harps or drums, under the tutelage of a Zoroastrian priest who cultivates the sacred fire: we recognize him by his astonishing beak mask. duck. Nana is the equivalent, in Central Asia, of the Ishtar of Mesopotamia, or of our Minerva: she masters water, the Sun and the Moon, life. » She is represented, below, with two arms, Iranian style; upstairs, with four, Indian style. A door at the edge of several worlds, “the comic strip of a pivotal time where India, China, the Iranian and Christian worlds meet”summarizes Yannick Lintz.

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