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

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Sarmatian period, Еxhibition "Gold of the North Caucasus"

Sarmatians is a collective name for many Iranian-speaking nomads, which initially inhabited the steppes of Volga region and Southern Urals. During the last centuries BC they subdued a huge territory from the Urals to Danube, thus becoming the leading political force of this region. In the 3rd century BC powerful Sarmatian groups went to the Northern Black Sea Coastal region and to the Northern Caucasus, where many of the subkurgan burials of various design were found. Beginning from the 2nd century BC the Sarmatians started penetrating the foothill area of the Northern Caucasus, which led to their merging with local settled population. On the verge of the 1st millennia an original culture was formed, which united both Scythian-Sarmatian and local Caucasian cultural traditions.

Under the influence of Sarmatians the weapons changed considerably. Sarmatian short swords with ring tops and iron shank arrow-heads became wide-spread. There were certain changes in the composition of troops as well. Special place is occupied by a heavily-armed cavalry - catafracts, whose main weapons were long double-edged swords and spears with bulky heads.

Beginning from the end of the 1st century BC - beginning of the 1st century AD the burials started containing diverse ceramics with zoomorphic handles imitating the bodies of various animals. Probably such representation of animals had a certain magical importance. Undoubtedly the religious and mystical properties were assigned to cast bronze mirrors, the back side of which had an ornament comprising a stylized picture of the sun disc.

In Sarmatian times the character of jewelry changed. A fashion to wear multi-color jewelry resulted in appearance of articles made of gold and silver with the use of colored stone and glass inserts framed with granulation and filigree. Among jewelry we should mention the abundance of bronze fibulas of various European types. The horse harness is noticeable different from the preceding one. The bronze bridle frontlets, shaped curb bits and plaques are replaced with various phalerae, breastplates with sewed-on colored glass and other beads, chalcedony plaques decorating the harness. Popularity of multi-colored ornaments in the Sarmatian community is primarily connected with the Kingdom of the Bosporus, which was one of the largest centers on making items in a polychromatic style.

Close cultural and trading contacts of the Northern Caucasus with the Bosporus established in the preceding period did not weaken in Sarmatian times either. Glass and metal utensils, all sorts of jewelry made of precious metals and huge amounts of beads, among which the amulets-charms made of "Egyptian" faience are especially spectacular, continued coming from the Bosporus cities.

Large ground burials of Sarmatian period ceased to exist by mid 3rd century AD. In the North-Western Caucasus this is most likely connected with Goth coming to the Black Sea Coastal region, while in the Central Ciscaucasus - with arrival of Alani. In western Greek-Roman sources the Alani are first mentioned in mid 1st century AD in connection with their forays to the Danube provinces of Roman Empire and campaigns to Transcaucasus. In Chinese dynastic chronicle of mid-1st century AD there is a concrete mention of "Alani estate" subordinate to Kangui (Southern Aral Sea Coastal region). This fact, as well as many others, prove that formation of Alani took place at the territory of Kangui. Many Iranian-speaking nomadic peoples, including the ones known from Chinese sources - Yueh-chih and Usini, participated in formation of the Alani. By the 1st century AD a considerable part of the Alani tribes from Central Asia moved to the west to Volga-Don interfluval area and captured the territories in the region of Don-river and coastal region of Azov Sea. Most likely their arrival explains the fact that items of Oriental origin, including bronze Chinese mirrors of Han dynasty times, started appearing in the steppes of Eastern Europe. Within the next three centuries the Alani were the most powerful political and military force throughout a huge territory from Volga to the Northern Black Sea Coastal region. Their power ended at the end of the 4th century, when Huns came from the east. Part of Alani population went together with Huns further into Western Europe, the other part had to move to the Central Ciscaucasia and merge with the Alani, which had settled there earlier.

An outstanding monument of the "Great Peoples' Migration Epoch" in the Northern Caucasus is a richest burial of Alani military chief found in 1989 near village Brut in Northern Osetia. The burial contained a rich assortment of gold items made in the "polychromatic style of Huns epoch". The new jewelry style is characterized by silver, but more often gold articles encrusted with red-colored inserts united in geometrical ornaments. The main difference between the polychromatic Huns style and the jewelry traditions of preceding epochs lies in the total absence of zoomorphic themes. Many peoples, both settled and nomadic, took part in formation of the former. The articles made in this style are met throughout the huge territory from Siberia to Western Europe.

Burials near the village Brut were made in catacombs under the Meotians. These are the last of the Meotians connected with Alani nomads, which are known by this time. Simultaneously with them the Central Ciscaucasus started having expansive ground catacomb burials, which showed that the Alani became settled people and the medieval Alani culture was formed in the Northern Caucasus.

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