shuko (Coat)

About this object

History of use

Coats of this style are worn by shepherds in the cold mountain regions of Central Asia, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan.


Purchased by the collector in 1974 in Kabul, from a merchant in the old bazaar, for about $35 USD. He said it had been brought to Kabul to be sold in the bazaar.

Iconographic meaning

Tree of life motifs on the back of the coat have protective power and may symbolize growth and fertility. Triangular and circle motifs are common in Central Asia. The triangle is the most common form of amulet, worn to safeguard the wearer; triangular forms densely embroidered around the edges of the coat are protective. Ram’s horn motifs refer to spirit ascribed to the hunted/herded animal.

Specific techniques

chain stitch; satin stitch; backstitch.

Physical description

Man’s wool coat with blue designs. The coat is made from narrow widths of dense, coarse wool textile that has been fulled and embroidered. The coat has long sleeves, side slits and centre front opening with three buttons. The edges of the opening, sleeves and hem have a triangular motif. On the front of the coat the embroidered designs consist of vertical rows of small circles On the back the designs include tree of life, diamond and ram’s horn motifs. The embroidery thread is indigo-dyed (?) wool fibre.