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

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Scythian Period, Еxhibition "Gold of the North Caucasus"

The arrival of Scythians to the Northern Caucasus to a great extent determined the development of population of this region in the first half of the 1st millennium BC. Within several centuries the fates of these peoples got closely tied, which exerted a decisive influence on the social, political and cultural life of the North-Caucasian community. As a result of interaction of two different ethno-cultural groups: Iranian-speaking nomads and local farmers-cattle breeders an unusual syncretic culture was formed, which in different regions of the Northern Caucasus was characterized by its original artistic traditions.

The 6th - 4th centuries BC in the North-Western Caucasus were noted by the bloom of Meotian Culture. The monuments of this period are represented by settlements, fortified townsites, Meotians and ground burials. The culture of Meotians is studied primarily through their burial complexes. The burials of Meotian aristocracy were made in Meotians with complicated timber structures and were accompanied by horse burials. The ground necropolis of common people were situated near the Meotian burials. The Meotian-sanctuaries excavated in Adighe are of special importance for studying the religious and ideological ideas of Meotian society. Ritual sites with multiple horse burials, human sacrifices, abundance of rich implements are a vivid confirmation of spiritual closeness of Meotians to Scythians, whose similar ritual complexes were described by ancient Greek historian Herodotus.

Archaeological material from the burials and Meotians gives a fairly good idea of the material culture of this epoch. The main types of weapons of Meotian troops were spears and swords. Many akinaks (short swords) found in the burials dated 6th - 4th centuries BC show the contacts with Scythian weapons of previous periods. In the 4th century BC akinaks were replaced with longer swords of Sindi-Meotian type. The three-blade arrow-heads made of bone, bronze and iron were much less common than the swords and spears. The Horse bridle from common burials is represented by iron snaffles and curb bits. In Meotian-sanctuaries magnificent parts of horse harness made in animal style were found. All these items are outstanding specimens of bronze-casting art of local and Bosporus craftsmen, who worked on the order of local nobility.

Abundance of ceramic vessels confirms that Meotians had well-developed pottery. The tradition of producing modeled ceramics, which was established during the previous period, in the 4th century BC was further developed and is characterized by emergence of new more diverse modeled ceramic shapes. At the end of the 5th century BC the first vessels made with the use of potter's wheel appeared. From the 4th century BC pottery became mass production and to a great extent repeated antique samples. The presence of Greek vessels in Meotian burials is connected with trading and political relations established with the Kingdom of the Bosporus already at the end of the 6th century, and through its mediation - with Greece.

The imported items in Trans-Kuban monuments of Scythian times are multiple and diverse. These include ceramic, glass and metal vessels, gold, silver and bronze jewelry. Along with ordinary materials, which were quite popular all over the Black Sea Coastal region, the true masterpieces of Attic craftsmen were found in rich ritual complexes. Among these articles the most outstanding position is occupied by a silver rython with Pegasus' protome and a frieze picturing scenes of gigantomachy (ancient Greek myth about war of gods and giants). Equally interesting are two Panathenaean amphoras, which were prizes for a winner in athletic competitions held in Athens in honor of the city patroness - goddess Athena. The samples of toreutics??? of ancient Iran and Asia Minor are represented by a gold rython, the tip of which is ended with a panther head, and a silver phial decorated with lotus flowers and buds. Among jewelry one should pay attention to lots of sewed-on gold plaques, spectacular sets of beads made of single-color and multi-color glass, carnelian and jet. Bronze bracelets were often ornamented with stylized snake heads or engraved geometric pattern.

Materials of the 5th - 6th century BC from Trans-Kuban region show that at that time the relationship of local population with antique centers of the Black Sea Coastal region became stronger, thus gradually ousting Scythian influence from the Meotian material culture.

E. Beglova, Dr. of History
I. Ksenofontova
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