The Bactrian camel was not indigenous to China, but was imported by the tens of thousands from the states of the Tarim Basin, eastern Turkestan and Mongolia. The Tang state created a special office to oversee the imperial camel herds, which were brought into service for transport and for special military courier missions to the northern frontier. The camel was also employed by the court and merchants, making these animals 'ships of the desert' linking China commercially and culturally to the cities and trade routes of Central Asia, Persia and the Near East.
The burial practice of including models of camels laden with goods developed in the sixth century, and served to exemplify the prestige and commerical influence of the deceased. The large size, exquisite modelling and glaze of the present pair suggest that they would have come from the tomb of a high-ranking personage. Compare this pair with a camel excavated in 1971, now in the Luoyang Museum and illustrated in Da Sancai, Sancai from Luoyang Museum and the Liaoning Provincial Museum, 1989, no. 8 (b). See also two examples from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology, illustrated by E. R. Knauer, The Camel's Load in Life and Death, 1998, pp. 96-8, pl. 67; and a large example in the collection of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco illustrated by d'Argence (ed.), Chinese, Korean and Japanese Sculpture in the Avery Brundage Collection, San Francisco, 1974, p. 206, no. 101.
The results of Oxford Authentication Ltd. test nos. C205f77 and C205f76 are consistent with the dating of this lot.