A Sogdian Drinking Game at Panjikent


The wall painting, which is the focus of this article, on display in the ancient Central Asian galleries at the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia (author’s own photograph)


This article reconsiders the religio-ritualistic interpretations of the use of the rhyton within eighth-century CE Sogdiana. Through a close art-historical analysis, I argue that three eighth-century wall paintings from Panjikent illustrate a drinking game. This proposal expands the current breadth of meaning attributed to the imagery decorating Sogdian homes. Not only could the paintings illustrate epic narratives, religious veneration, or moral didacticism, but they could also celebrate conviviality, fun, and humor.


“A Sogdian Drinking Game at Panjikent,” Iranian Studies, volume 52, no. 5-6 (2019): 837-857.

link to article at Iranian Studies online

Presentation Venues

“Fashion and the Feast,” The Friends of the Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art, Spring Event, The Met, April 2018

Hensellek_Figure 3

In March 2018 I commissioned Tabriz-based metalworking artist Majid Abedi to create a replica Sogdian rhyton. Pictured here is a colleague trying her hand at drinking from that replica rhyton at the ‘Fashion and the Feast’ event held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, April 2018. Photo courtesy of Monica Eisner.