The Scythian Beast Style

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Jewelry handmade by the Scythes in 1000 BC

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  • December 1976

    29th year2.80 French

    francs

    LU

    THE SCYTHIANnomad goldsmithsof the opensteppes

    31 H

    I

  • TREASURES

    OF

    WORLD ART

    Greece

    The saint with a dog's headThere are many legends about St. Christopher, including one that he once carried Christ across ariver, thus earning his name (Christofros in Greek, meaning ''bearer of Christ"). According to someaccounts he was a giant with a dog's face, only receiving human features at baptism. Other storiesrelate that St. Christopher, an exceptionally good-looking man who lived in the 3rd century,received such frequent attentions from the fair sex that he begged God to save him from temptation.His prayer was answered by a miracle: from then on women who looked upon his handsome facesaw only the head of a dog. St. Christopher was thus often depicted with a dog's head, as inthis fresco painted in 1779 by a Greek artist in a 13th-century Byzantine church at Lindos, onthe island of Rhodes.

    Photo O Hannibal Slides. Athens

  • CourierDECEMBER 1976 29TH YEAR

    PUBLISHED IN 15 LANGUAGES

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    Spanish Italian DutchRussian Hindi PortugueseGerman Tamil Turkish

    Published monthly by UNESCOThe United Nations

    Educational, Scientific

    and Cultural Organization

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    The UNESCO COURIER is published monthly, except inAugust and September when it is bi-monthly (1 1 issues ayear). For list of distributors see inside back cover.Individual articles' and photographs not copyrighted maybe reprinted providing the credit line reads "Reprinted fromthe UNESCO COURIER," plus date of issue, and threevoucher copies are sent to the editor. Signed articles reprinted must bear author's name. Non-copyright photoswill be supplied on request. Unsolicited manuscriptscannot be returned unless accompanied by an international reply coupon covering postage. Signed articlesexpress the opinions of the authors and do not necessarilyrepresent the opinions of UNESCO or those of the editorsof the UNESCO COURIER. Photo captions and headlines are written by the Unesco Courier staff. -

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    Assistant Editors ;English Edition : Roy Malkin ' "^

    oo 7

    Page

    15

    THE SCYTHIAN WORLD

    A dynamic culture on the steppes of. Eurasia 2,500 years agoBy Boris B. Piotrovsky

    ANTIQUITY'S GREAT REPORTER-HISTORIANAMONG THE SCYTHIANS

    Modern archaeology confirms the stories of HerodotusBy Yaroslav V. Domansky

    THREE VASES RECOUNT THE LEGENDOF KING TARGITAUS

    By Dimitri S. Raevsky

    17 FOUR UKRAINIAN ARCHAEOLOGISTS

    PRESENT THEIR LATEST FINDS

    By Ivan Artemenko

    17 THE GOLDEN CUP OF GAMANOV

    By Vasily Bidzilia

    19 SCYTHIAN IDYLL ON A ROYAL BREASTPLATE

    By Boris Mozolevsky

    21 A HORSE'S FINERY CAPPED

    BY A GODDESS OF THE CHASE

    By Vitaly Otroshchenko

    22 SPLENDOURS OF SCYTHIAN ART

    Eight pages in full colour

    31 PAZYRYK

    A nomad way of life "deep-frozen" for 25 centuriesin Siberian mountain tombs

    By Man'ya P. Zavitukhina

    34 CAVORTING CREATURES

    ON THE TATTOOED MAN OF PAZYRYK

    Photo story

    38 HORSES FOR THE HEREAFTER

    Seven score stallions in the grave of a mountain kingBy Mikhail P. Gryaznov

    42 SHAMANS AND SHAMANISM:

    EPIC JOURNEYS TO A LEGENDARY LAND

    By Grigory M. Bongard-Levin and Edvin A. Grantovsky

    48 THE OSSETES: SCYTHIANS OF THE 20TH CENTURY

    By Vasily ,1. Abaev

    50 UNESCO NEWSROOM

    2 TREASURES OF WORLD ART

    GREECE: The saint with the dog's head

    Cover

    Horsemen repose in the shade of a leafy tree. One holds the bridleof their two mounts while the other lies outstretched with his headin the lap of a seated woman. This scene from the life of the nomadsof the steppes is depicted on a symmetrical pair of gold plaques onceworn on a sword-belt and preserved among the treasures of the artcollection of Tsar Peter the Great. They are one of the myriad examples of the Creative genius of the artists of the steppes, homelandsof Scythian and Siberian horsemen 2,500 years ago. This issue ofthe Unesco Courier is entirely devoted to this cultural universe whichflourished in Antiquity at the crossroads of Asia and Europe.

  • This golden stag (see detail incolour, page 23) is a superbexample of typical Scythiananimal art. Discovered in a

    tomb in the Kuban region,north-east of the Black Sea, it

    was made by a master-goldsmithof the steppes early in the 6thcentury B.C. In the words ofthe Soviet archaeologist,Aleksandr Shkurko, an authorityon early Scythian art, "The artistwas not unduly concerned withmodelling the animal's body oradding precise detail. Whatheld his attention was its inner

    qualitiesits strength, speed andessential wildness. Thedecorative treatment of the horns

    and the compactness of thecomposition confer on the imagean almost heraldic appearance."The stag was a favourite themein the art of the Scythians.

    SCYTHIAN WORLD

    byBoris B. Piotrovsky

    BORIS BORISOVICH PIOTROVSKY,

    Soviet archaeologist, is an Internationallyknown authority on the history and art ofthe Scythians. A member of the Academiesof Sciences of the U.S.S.R. and the Arme

    nian S.S.R., he is Director of the HermitageMuseum (Leningrad) which has a pricelesscollection of Scythian artifacts. He is alsoprofessor of Ancient Oriental History at theLeningrad State University. The author ofimportant studies on the history, cultureand art of the ancient Orient and the Cau

    casus, Prof. Piotrovsky is a correspondingfellow of the British Academy, the FrenchAcadmie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres,and the Bavarian Academy of Sciences.

    THE sweep and substance ofthe Scythian world have onlyrecently been fully revealed,

    although the existence of the Scythians was recorded long ago, andthey should not be regarded as oneof the forgotten peoples of history.

    Herodotus, writing about them inthe fifth century B.C., included in hisdetailed account a number of Scythianor Greek legends concerning theirorigins, and stated that the landswhich they occupied had previouslybelonged to the Cimmerians.

    The flatlands north of the Black

    Sea, home of the Scythians whocaught Herodotus' attention whenthey came down to do business inthe Greek trading-colonies on thecoast, are studded with kurgans.These burial mounds of earth, erected

    by the various nomadic tribes whichroamed across the steppes, werethemselves the subject of many alegend, and the treasure-seekers whoplundered them in the past werecertainly rewarded on more than oneoccasion.

  • a dynamic culture on thiof Eurasia 2500 years ago

    steppes

    Many of them had been built bythe Scythians, and it was here thatthe first archaeologists unearthedoutstanding examples of an art formcharacteristic of Scythian culture anddating mainly from the fifth to thethird centuries B.C. Since then, hardly a year has passed without the delight of fresh discoveries by Ukrainianarchaeologists.

    Excavations began a considerabletime ago. In 1763, a rich burialmound of the early Scythian periodnear Elizavetgrad (now Kirovograd)yielded a large number of gold and

    silver objects, including an iron aki-nakes (the short dagger of the Scythians) the scabbard and hilt of whichwere decorated in the ancient Eastern

    style with fantastic animals andanthropomorphic deities, gatheredround a sacred tree. These inte

    resting finds were placed in theKunstkammer, Russia's first realmuseum, which had been foundedby Peter the Great in 1714.

    The Kunstkammer already contained a number of gold objects-later identified as Scythianwhich had

    been found in Siberian kurgans andsent as gifts to Peter the Great in1715 and 1716 by Nikita Demidov,the owner of mines and metalworks

    in the Urals, and by the Governor ofTobolsk, Prince Gagarin. In 1718, aspecial government decree ordered"the collecting from earth and waterof old inscriptions, ancient weapons,dishes and everything old andunusual."

    The Kunstkammer's "marvellous

    and mysterious collection of Siberiansantiquities", as it was still called byr

  • early nineteenth-century archaeologists, was only explained and identified when archaeological investigations over a wide area gradually revealed a considerable degree of culturalunity in the wide belt of steppe-land,foothills and upland pastures whichstretched between the 40th and 50th

    parallels of latitude, from the Danubein the west all the way to the GreatWall of China in the easta distance

    of more than 7,000 kilometres.

    From one end to the other of this

    territory, archaeologists have unearthed identical pieces of horse gear,iron swords, triangular arrowheadsand ornaments, all dating from theScythian period, while cultural similarities between different regionsare reflected in the widespread useof imagery in the so-called "Scytho-Siberian animal style."

    But these links existed even ear

    lier, and can certainly be clearlydetected in the pre-Scythian, Cimmerian period (i.e. the eighth centuryB.C.). Convincing evidence of thisis provided by the objects found inthe Arzhan kurgan in the Tuva S.S.R.,far to the east (see article page 38).This ruined tomb of a military leaderyielded not only a number of itemssimilar to finds from the Ukraine and

    Bulgaria, but also scraps of wovencloth of Iranian origin, pre-datingby almost 200 years the famousIranian carpet discovered during excavations of the Pazyryk kurgans of theAltai (see article page 31).

    Thus, in Cimmerian times, the conditions already existed for the establishment of contacts between widelyseparated territories, and for thecreation of a generalized, semi-nomadic and stock-raising economy, inwhich the dominance of horse-

    breeding permitted mobility over longdistances.

    The network of relationships between different tribes made up for thelack of natural resources, and of

    metal deposits in particular, in different regions. The vast area coveredby Scythian culture, where the mostoutstanding artifacts were made ofgold, silver or high-quality bronze,contained few enough localitieswhere the first two of these metals

    could be found, while tin, withoutwhich copper could not be transformed into bronze "and which existed

    in Central Europe and Bohemia, wastotally absent in the lands stretchingfrom the Danube as far as eastern

    Kazakhstan.

    Of course, there was no direct orpermanent contact between the nomadic tribes inhabiting the westernand eastern extremities of this world;the elements which composed theircommon culture were, so to speak,"shuttled" from tribe to tribe, oftenlosing their stamp of origin in theprocess.

    We should also remember that

    these breeders of cattle and horses,whether Cimmerians or Scythians,werefirst and foremostwell-armed

    and highly mobile horse-soldiers,whose rapidly moving war-parties,according to Herodotus, penetrateddeep into Asia Minor.

    Herodotus' accounts have since

    been confirmed by ancient Easternsources, and by documentary andarchaeological evidence from Assyriain particular. Reports by scouts ofthe Assyrian king contained in thearchive of clay tablets found in theAssyrian capital, Nineveh, refer tothe appearance of Cimmerians inAsia Minor as early as the middle ofthe 8th century B.C.

    The participation of Scythians ina devastating attack on Assyria acentury later is mentioned in achronicle of the Babylonian kingNabopolassar which relates eventsin 616-609 B.C., and in a 5thcentury account of the sack of Nineveh, by the Armenian historianMovses Horenatsi.

    Excavations in seventh-century fortresses in Transcaucasia (at Karmir-

    MY KINGDOM

    FOR A HORSE

    Some Scythian jewelsreveal numerous details

    of the dress, way of lifeand customs of these

    nomads of the steppes.The two bearded Scythianriders decorating theends of this torque, oropen necklace, of twistedgold are one example.The figures wearankle-length caftans tiedat the waist and longtrousers held by a strapbeneath the boot.

    They ride bareback andwithout stirrups. Theirmounts emerge fromthe ends of the torque,woven of six gold strandsbound in an intricatelydecorated sheath inlaid

    with enamel. The

    horses' manes and theharnesses and bridle bits

    are rendered with greatprecision. The torque,of Greco-Scythian styleand weighing over260 grammes, was foundin 1830. It encircledthe neck of a chieftain

    in a 4th century B.C.grave in the Crimea.

    Blur, near Erivan) and in the centralregion of ancient Urartu, near LakeVan (in present-day Turkey), havebrought to light a number of items ofhorse gear, iron weapons and beadssimilar to objects found in ancientScythian burials of the Black Searegion.

    The Scythian connexion with AsiaMinor is clearly reflected in the so-called "Ziwiyeh treasure" from Saq-qez, in Iranian Kurdistan, discoveredduring the Second World War.Among the objects found here, whichwere subsequently proved to havecome not from a treasure hoard but

    from a tomb constructed in the

    seventh century B.C., is an outstanding group of artifacts in which imagescharacteristic of both ancient Near

    Eastern and Scythian art arecombined.

    The golden objects in Scythianstyle found at Ziwiyeh are similar tofinds from Scythian burial mounds,such as the sword with a gold-covered

  • hilt and scabbard unearthed in 1763

    in the Elizavetgrad (Kirovograd) kur-gan in the Ukraine, and the gold-handled sword and axe from the

    Kelermes kurgans in the Kuban region, excavated in 1902.

    All these objects combine Scythianmotifs (reclining deer) with ancientEastern imagery (the holy tree withits attendant divinities and fantastic

    animals), and it is probably correctto consider that they are imitations ofUrartean artifacts, modified by theaddition of elements in purely Scythian style.

    Attempts have been made to relate the birth of Scythian art to theperiod of Scythian campaigns inAsia Minor, but this theory is disproved by the examples of Scythian andpre-Scythian art discovered in Siberia, which pre-date those fromZiwiyeh (i. e. 7th century B.C.), butare also decorated in the animal style.

    The term "Scythian" is nowadays

    applied to a large number of ethnically unrelated tribes, characterizedby a strong Iranian influence in theirpersonal and place-names. Its application is frequently limited to thetribes inhabiting the coastal flatlandso...

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