Еxhibition "Gold of the North Caucasus" Еxhibition Gold of the North Caucasus

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Early Bronze Age, Еxhibition "Gold of the North Caucasus"

(3rd-4th Millennia BC)

In the Bronze Age the fertile steppes of the Northern Caucasus were actively developed by various tribes replacing each other.

The monuments of Maikop Culture of the Early Bronze Epoch are a unique phenomenon in the history of ancient population of the entire Caucasus region. The Maikop Culture got established at the end of the 4th millennium in the border territory between the Near East and Eastern Europe under a strong influence of cultural traditions of pre-Sumer tribes living south of this region.

The phenomenon of Maikop Culture played a great role in the history of population of southern steppes and Eastern Europe: it was due to the contacts with Maikop people that their northern neighbors got familiar with the achievements of Near Eastern and Caucasian craftsmanship. In influence of Maikop Culture tribes in the 3rd millennium BC could be traced from the Lower Don and Steppe Dnieper to the middle Volga regions.

From the end of the previous and beginning of this century the studying of Maikop Culture monuments has been based on the materials of spectacular, rich burial complexes. However the more comprehensive idea of the everyday life of Maikop people can be drawn from studying the settlements (Meshoko, Khadzhokh - in Adighe, Nalchikskoye - in Kabardino-Balkaria, Galyugaevskoye - in Stavropol region and others). The major part of such settlements had stone or earth defense fortifications. The housing was represented by light framework structures covered with clay, with fireplaces for cooking. The farming of Maikop people conditioned their settled way of life, when they moved to a new place after the cultivated land had been depleted.

The Maikop Culture tribes differed from their contemporary neighbors by high technologies of manufacturing bronze tools, jewelry made of precious metals and pottery. The Maikop people were the first in the region who learnt to make bronze bushing axes and mattocks. Along with bronze tools the stone ones were used as well. Potter's wheels were used for making refined ceramic goblets, jars and huge pithoses. The vessels were decorated with engraved and stamped ornament. The researchers connect the most ancient Meotians on the territory of the Northern Caucasus with arising of Maikop Culture there. The burial rite, for which the position of the buried curled on its side is typical, has several versions: the dead were buried in big rectangular pits at the level of an ancient surface, as well as in stone or timber double-chamber tombs.

During the Middle Bronze Epoch, in the 2nd millennium BC, the tribes of the so-called North-Caucasian cultural and historical unity got dispersed in the Northern Caucasus representing an archaeological culture, which was one of the most geographically vast and historically important for the south of Russia. An interaction with steppe neighbors played a certain role in its establishment. The main monuments left by the cattle-breeding tribes of the Middle Bronze Epoch are the burials often made in Meotians, which had been constructed already in Maikop times. AS a rule the dead were buried stretched on their backs in pits under a timber roof, sometimes stone was used in the burial structure. Sometimes wooden wheel carts were used for burial tite, onto which the dead were placed. A clay model of such cart was found in one of the Meotians excavated in Adighe. Among the burial implements we should mention modeled ceramic vessels, bronze shank knives and awls, bronze jewelry. For the early stage of North-Caucasian Culture cast bent pins were typical, which were later replaced with "hammer-shaped" ones, beads of various shapes, semi-spherical pair pendants and plaques with rich relief ornament.

Beginning from the second half of the 2nd millennium BC the tribes of catacomb culture started moving to the Northern Caucasus. In addition to the typical burial rite using the catacombs, which were vertical wells connected by short horizontal corridors (dromos) with the vault burial chambers, this culture is characterized by such category of burial implements as a censer. These vessels in the form of a cup on a cross-shaped base, which were decorated with an intricate stamped ornament, were used for burning ritual incense. Braziers made of parts of ceramic vessels were often used for the same purpose.

In Kuban river basin the monuments of the Late Bronze Epoch are scarce. The researchers connect the subMeotian burials of this time with timber frame culture, which got there from the Lower Don region. The bearers of this culture were farmers (bronze forged sickles appeared at that time) and cattle breeders, but bulky bronze arrow- and spear-heads testify to their militant nature.

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