Tang dynasty pottery figure of a Bactrian camel and rider – £40,000 at Pax Romana.

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The Tang capital, Chang’an – one of the largest and most cosmopolitan cities in the world in the 9th century – became vastly wealthy thanks to its key position on the trade route. Caravans of Bactrian camels, imported from Turkestan and Mongolia, were essential for conducting trade with the oasis cities of central Asia, such as Samarkand, and those in Syria and Persia.

The species was highly regarded by the Tang emperors who established dedicated offices to oversee the imperial camel herds.

Burial purpose

This large and realistically modelled statue with a rider with non-Asiatic features was undoubtedly made to be buried with an elite member of society.

Sold by Pax Romana (15% buyer’s premium) in London on January 10, it came complete with a thermoluminescence certificate from a German laboratory and was described as ‘the property of a central London gallery, acquired from an established English collection; formerly acquired at the Hollywood Antique Center in Hong Kong in the early 1990s’.

It made close to four times the estimate, selling at £40,000.