Figures of camels were a ubiquitous presence in the tombs of persons of rank and means. As camels were the primary means of transporting goods along the wastes of the Gobi Desert via the Silk Road, their presence both in life and in the afterlife connoted abundance and prosperity. The groom in the present pair depicts a merchant from West Asia, possibly a Turk or Sogdian, suggesting the far-reaching commerical ties of the deceased; see James C.Y. Watt (ed.), China: Dawn of a Golden Age, 200-750 AD, New York, 2005, p. 313, no. 205. An exceptional feature of the unmounted camel is the skein of silk modelled near the back hump over the packboards, a clear example of how the precious fabrics were transported during this period. Intriguingly, the method of packing skeins of silk in multiple figures-of-eight persists even to this day in China; see E. R. Knauer, The Camel's Load in Life and Death, Zurich, 1998, p. 115, fig. 79.
The results of Oxford Authentication Ltd. thermoluminescence tests nos. C101f29 and C101f28 are consistent with the dating of this lot.