The Bactrian Contract fragment, circa 467 CE, executed on parchment, or vellum (animal skin scraped repeatedly until white), is one of the most exceptional pieces in the De Gregorio collection. From 1-900 CE, Bactrian, a Middle Iranian form of speech, was one of the most important languages in the world, believed to have been widely known throughout Afghanistan, northern India, and parts of Central Asia.


At the crossroads of Eastern and Western trade routes, Bactria was situated on the Silk Road in what are now Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. The capital, Bactra, was the greatest city in Iran [native name of the country].

Bactrian represents the transmission of cultures, most pronounced in 9th-century inscriptions in Pakistan, and manuscript fragments found in Western China. Written in Greek script after the conquest of Bactria by Alexander the Great in 328 BCE, Bactrian is unique among Iranian languages.

From the description-translation of Bruce Ferrini: "Any examples of Bactrian script are of the greatest rarity. This item is among a small number of recently discovered documents dating from a period of this culture for which there was previously no direct evidence." Prior to these recent discoveries, the only known examples of Bactrian were inscriptions on rock, on a single 8th- or 9th-century Manichean text [often considered heretical, Manichean sects believed in two gods, one evil, one good], and on coins and seals.

The text on the fragment reads: "Has been [written in parchment]. And whosoever may dissent from this Statement and (commit) deceit [shall pay a fine to the royal treasury] Of a hundred dinars of struck gold (and) the same to the opposite parties. [And…]"


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