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

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Early iron age (9th - first half of 6th centuries BC), Еxhibition "Gold of the North Caucasus"

At the end of the 2nd - beginning of the 1st millennium BC certain climatic changes brought about by a great drought in steppe took place in the south of Eastern Europe. As a result the steppe cultures of late timber frame unity ceased to exist, the population moved to the environmental niches applicable for farming and cattle breeding. One of such "niches" with mild climate was the foothills of North-Western Caucasus. Here at the end on the 9th - beginning of 8th centuries BC the culture of Proto-Meotians developed. The knowledge of traditional Caucasian metal working and local sources of raw materials brought about a rich and diverse assortment of pieces of work of Proto-Meotians, which were at the stage of transition from the Bronze Age to Iron Age.

The items from burial ground Fars near village Novosvobodnaya in Adighe, which are shown at the exhibition, explicitly demonstrate this transition.

The set of weapons of Proto-Meotians included bi-metal daggers of "Kabardino-Pyatigorsk" or "North-Caucasian" type. The handle of such dagger was cast of bronze, while the blade was forged of iron. Later on fully iron imitations of dagger of this type appeared. The spear-heads, which in early period had been cast of bronze, were later forged of iron while preserving the shape of bronze ones. The same changes happened to the knives.

The warriors' burials of Fars burial ground often contained horses or their skins or stuffed horses. The horse bridle consisted primarily of bronze snaffles and curb bits, which were initially made of bone and later, of bronze. The headbands of horses were decorated with crescents and plaques ornamented in "Cimmerian" geometric style. A number of curb bits prove that there were contacts with the steppe - with culture of the Chernogorovka type - and even with Middle Europe. The symbols of power - maces and scepters - were found in the burial grounds of military leaders. Female graves had pins of various types, fibulas, bronze bracelets, carnelian beads. Almost every grave contained ceramic items - big modeled pots and scoops.

At the end of the 8th - beginning of 7th centuries BC the Proto-Meotians participated in campaigns to the Transcaucasus and Near East, which are known in the Assyrian sources as the Cimmerians' and Scythians' campaigns. As a result of these campaigns the role of military aristocracy increased. The burials of military leaders started being accompanied with rich implements.

One of such Meotians of the first half of 7th century BC - Uashkhitu - was excavated by the Caucasian expedition of the State Oriental Art Museum near aul Kabekhabl in Adighe. Under the 5-meter bank of the Meotian a grave pit was found sizing 13x7 m and approximately 2 m deep, which was covered with a timber canopy. Unfortunately the platform, where the buried was situated was robbed already in ancient times. However the scales of bronze armor and gold foil show that a rich warrior was buried here. To the south of the burial platform the remains of a chariot not touched by the looters were found, these remains comprised pits, into which timber wheels 90 cm in diameter were fit and harnesses of four horses. The exhibition presents metal parts of the chariot harness consisting of rings with pendants and special perforations for fastening the chariot yoke to the pole, as well as plaques and rings of trace-horses. These items were made on the basis of local tradition of making metal bridle. However they prove the acquaintance with Assyrian and Urarten lay-outs of chariot harness, which are known to us by reliefs that show kings and military leaders. Undoubtedly, under conditions of foothills of the North-Western Caucasus the chariots could not have any real military importance, they were exclusively a symbol of prestige, an attribute of the highest estate of society - the chariot-drivers.

During the same period to the east of Proto-Meotians, in the Central Ciscaucasus and Kislovodsk hollow, the Koban Culture was developing, which is represented at the exhibition by the articles from burial grounds Klin-Yar III and Tereze. This farming and cattle breeding culture, which arose during the transition period from the Middle Bronze to Late Bronze Epoch in the mountains of Central Caucasus, at the end of the 2nd - beginning of the 1st millennium BC propagated to the territory of Kabarda and Pyatigorje, where its western version got formed. The oldest articles presented at the exhibition are the ones from cremation burials of tombs 1 and 2 of burial ground Tereze. These tombs were the crypts of large families and were re-used many times within the 10th and 9th centuries BC. The material found in the tombs gives an idea of a high technology of bronze working used by Koban people, primarily these are figurines of animals cast with the help of wax model, these animals playing a great role in religious views of the society.

At the end of the 9th century BC certain changes start taking place in this region, which by opinion of researchers were connected with the influence of steppe. Cremation burials were replaced with the rites of corpse positioning, horses started being used expansively, which is witnessed by the parts of horse harness often found in the graves. The weapons on the whole are similar to the Proto-Meotian, they include daggers of the "Kabardino-Pyatigorsk" type and spear-heads. However here we also find classic Koban combat axes. The metal utensils presented at the exhibition shows the high technology of metal-working.

Rich burials of priestesses in the burial ground "Klin-Yar III" give us an idea of an important role of a woman in the Koban society.

Both the Proto-Meotians and the Western Koban people took part in the Near Eastern campaigns of Cimmerians and Scythians. The horse snaffles found in a rich warrior's burial dated the end of the 8th century BC from tomb III of the Tereze burial ground demonstrate that they were acquainted with the Near Eastern tradition of fastened snaffles and curb bits.

During the period of military campaigns, in which the population of the Northern Caucasus participated, in exchange of ideas and military achievements the Early Scythian Complex was formed, which considerably changed the image of cultures of this region.

Erlih, Dr. of History
 
     
 
     
 
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