Golden deer of Eurasia

Golden deer of Eurasia

Handle of a wooden vessel (?)
IV century BC. e.
Gold. 5.6 x 2.1 x 2 centimeters
Mound

The deer was one of the most revered animals not only among the nomadic tribes of Eurasia, but also in many other Asian and European peoples.
The image of this animal is perhaps the most common in ancient art, which is a reflection of the existence of various representations – totemic, mythological, fairy, religious – about the place of a deer in the life of man and society. One of the most well-known motifs is the relationship of the deer to the World Tree.

Golden deer of Eurasia

Wooden vessel in the shape of a bear, decorated with six forts
IV century BC. e.
Gold, smalt.
Wrapping in the form of a bear’s head:
17.2 x 9.8 centimeters
Forgings in the form of paws of a bear: height from 16.8 to 18.3 cm, width at the base – 7.5-10 cm. Wing in the form of a tail: 8.9 x 7.5 cm. Barrow

Deer Filippovki Wood

The early Iron Age with good reason can be called the brightest period of the ancient history of the steppe belt of Eurasia. First of all, this was reflected in unique archaeological monuments – huge burial mounds and burial mounds, which are eloquent evidence of a magnificent funeral ceremony. As a rule, burial places of the nomadic nobility were accompanied by the richest donations – hammered riding horses, weapons and horse equipment, ornaments, toilet ware, dishes. A significant place among them was occupied by jewelry made of precious metals in the so-called animal style.
The famous funeral constructions of the Scythians and Saks: Chertomlyk, Solokha, the tomb in the Black Sea, the Pazyryksky and Tuektinsky barrows in the Altai, the Issyk mound in Kazakhstan and many others have gained worldwide fame. A kind of connecting link between the West and the East, the Black Sea coast and Siberia were the Philippine burial mounds, built in the center of the steppe nomadic world, in the interfluve of the Volga and the Urals.
The mounds are located in the open steppe on the left bank of the Ural River near the confluence of the Ilek River, 100 km to the west of Orenburg. The burial ground consisted of twenty-five earth burial mounds of various sizes, from a height of half a meter to seven meters. During my five field seasons (1986-1990), the expedition of the Institute of History, Language and Literature of the Ufa Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, under my leadership, unearthed seventeen mounds, which gave a very rich and diverse material on the history, culture and art of the ancient nomads of the Southern Urals.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my great gratitude to all those who somehow helped and assisted in the excavations of the Philippine burial mounds. First of all, this is the Orenburg Pedagogical University in the person of NL. Morgunova, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor, Head of the Department of Russian History. Without her help and the help of her friends, excavations could hardly have taken place. I am very grateful to G.B. Zdanovich, head of the Department of Archeology, Ethnography and Socio-Natural History of the Chelyabinsk State University, director of the Arkaim reserve, for his support in the first and most difficult year of excavations. Arriving at the excavations from Chelyabinsk State University, a group of research workers and students have provided us with invaluable help.
Great moral support and support at that time was provided by archaeologists of the Volgograd State University, headed by a talented archaeologist and historian, my close friend, BF. Zhelezchikov. It is also necessary to express great gratitude to the staff of the Institute who took part in the excavations of Filippovka: I.M. Akbulatov, V.N. Vasilyev, F.A. Sungatov, V.A. Ivanov, V.K. Fedorov, P.M. Gindullina, T.K. Surinoy, E.Z. Shapovalova, G.A. Bikmukhametova, and many others – students, students of schools, employees who spent their holidays on excavations – in short, all who somehow took part in this unique work.
I want to express special gratitude and appreciation to the leaders of local organizations, without a good relationship whose excavations Filippovka simply would not have taken place. First of all, it is the Krasnokholmsky mobile mechanized column, headed by L.N. Zilistom, and state farm them. Georgy Dimitrova, headed by its director, VP. Shubin.
Of greatest interest, of course, is the central burial mound of the Philippino burial ground (burial mound No. 1). Its diameter is about 120 m, height is more than 7 m; according to the most conservative estimates, the original height of the mound was not less than 15-20 m. The burial discovered in the burial mound glorified Filippovka for the whole world. In a repeatedly robbed huge grave, in two undisturbed caches and in the entrance corridor, a large number of the most diverse things that characterize the economy, way of life, culture and art of the ancient nomads of the Southern Urals were found in the burial chamber.
The most vivid and characteristic feature of the finds from Filippovka is the so-called “animal style” (images of animals on objects), widespread in the monuments of all nomadic societies of the early Iron Age.
Filippovka’s bestial style is represented by images of many animals. In addition to predators hunting for the inhabitants of the steppes, ancient artists were also interested in birds, fish and snakes. However, the leading place among all images is the deer. He (figures, heads or only horns) is depicted on one hundred and eighty-eight subjects.
The greatest interest, of course, is represented by twenty-six sculptures of deer found in
I and II caches and in the entrance corridor to the burial chamber. Sculptures are made of wood and upholstered in gold and silver sheets. They are represented by two basic types: single-plane (16 specimens), in which horns and trunk are made in one plane, and two-plane (10 specimens), in which the horns are attached perpendicular to the trunk. Dimensions of sculptures are impressive – their height is 40-50 cm, the range of horns is 20-25 cm.
The poses of deer are varied, and the methods of their depiction are different. All the wooden sculptures of deer from the hiding-places, studded with gold and silver sheets, stand in a calm pose with their heads raised. In a similar posture, deer are depicted on a number of walls of wooden vessels. A single pose also for all deer, depicted on patches-overlays from the cache II – with bent legs, the head of the animal rests on the front legs. For many of the vases, the image of a deer with a curved neck and a head lowered to the chest is characteristic. The deer’s body is disproportionately short, strongly stylized, it is peculiarly transformed into a hind leg thrown behind the back of the animal. A number of deer are depicted in a pose of rapid leap – with their hind legs turned or thrown behind their backs, or curled, with their heads turned back. Quite often pair images of deer: head to head, heads to opposite sides, going one after another.
For all images of the Filipovka deer, as well as for the neighboring early nomadic cultures that are found on the monuments, the emphasis is on the image of the animal’s horns. Often the horns occupy a larger area than the image of the deer itself.
Judging by the numerous finds that we have, the deer, of course, was one of the most highly revered (sacred) animals among the early (ancient) nomads of the Southern Urals. It is quite permissible that the ancient nomads considered the deer as an totem, perceiving it as the progenitor or distant ancestor.
With good reason, we can speak of the existence of the deer cult in the early nomads of the Southern Urals (and probably the entire steppe belt of Eurasia). There is no evidence that the deer was somehow used for utilitarian, household purposes – like a draft animal, as meat food, etc. The deer was, in my opinion, for the ancient nomads, sacred animals: they worshiped him depicted on many subjects.
The animal style of Filippovka, like other synchronous monuments of the culture of the nomads of the Eurasian steppes, carries not only, but perhaps not so much decorative and artistic load, but is a reflection of the worldview of the ancient nomads, a philosophical understanding of their connection with the surrounding world, nature and outer space .
Nomads of Eurasia: History and Archeology
Scythians – Asians and Europeans
1. SKIFS OF THE “GREAT BELT OF STEPPES”
Scythians – the common name of many close by culture, economic structure, way of life and ideological representations of nomadic tribes. They lived in the I millennium BC. e. in the steppe, foothill and mountainous regions of Eurasia from northern China in the east to the Black Sea in the west. The Scythians of the warlike nomads were the Greeks, who first encountered them in the 7th century BC. e. in Asia Minor, and then in the Northern Black Sea Coast, where the earliest Greek settlements (on the island of Berezan in the mouth of the Southern Bug and on the northern coast of the Azov Sea near the mouth of the Don) appeared in the second half of the 7th century BC. e. The Persians, who often came into contact with Central Asian nomads on their northeastern borders, called all the nomads, both Asian and European, Sakas.
The greatest popularity, both in antiquity and nowadays, was acquired by European Scythians, whose vivid culture existed in the Northern Black Sea Coast for almost a millennium from the 7th century BC. e. before the 3rd century AD. e. The origin of these Scythians is still largely mysterious, despite the existence of numerous legendary and scientific versions, the first of which appeared in antiquity. And it’s not only that the contemporaries of the Scythians – Greek and Roman historians and writers – have left on this account not quite clear evidence, but also that the archaeological sources of the culture of the Scythian nomads are still not clearly traced. It can only be about recognizing the fact of non-European origin of individual elements of Scythian culture, such as horse bridle, armament (primarily small arms) and art, the so-called Scythian animal style. But no matter which Eurasia region should be considered the ancestral home of the Scythians, two factors of their history are established quite reliably: in their anthropological affiliation the Scythians were Caucasoids, and by language – the Indo-Europeans, carriers of one of the Old Iranian languages. Even where the Mongoloids live now – in Western Mongolia, Tuva, Minusinsk Basin, in the Altai, – the Scythian period was inhabited mainly by the Caucasians. True, even among the population of Tuva, and especially those buried in the “royal” burial mounds of Altai, a certain Mongoloid admixture was already very noticeable at that time. Moreover, modern paleogenetic studies of ancient people – carriers of the so-called Pazyryk culture – have shown that in some cases even individuals with europoid anthropological characteristics exhibit Mongoloid molecular genetic indicators. Undoubtedly, the fact that for the first half of the first millennium BC. e. a kind of genetic barrier, to the west of which there was practically no Mongolian population, was the Volga.
Actually, the ethnic history of the Early Scythian era is clearly not known enough. The fragmentary nature of the written sources at our disposal, the mobility of the nomads themselves, the traditions of the transfer and borrowing of ethnic names do not allow us now to present a detailed picture of the location and migration of various Scythian tribes for many centuries. Nevertheless, we know that in the eastern part of the Scythian world, to the north and west of China, the Chinese chroniclers placed the tribes of the Shanjong (mountaineers), Dinlins, and later – Yuechs. Shanzhun, for example, already from the IX century BC. e. worried the borders of Chinese states. In the graves of the IX – early VII century BC. e., which can be attributed to these barbarian tribes, found objects with the earliest images in the Scythian-Siberian animal style. In the central part of the Eurasian Scythia, in the region of the Southern Urals, the Caspian and Aral Seas, legendary arimaspas, Issedons, Massagets – tribes associated with the early history of the Scythians lived. It is the Issedons or Massagets, according to the two versions reported by Herodotus (5th century BC), that displaced the Scythians as a result of inter-tribal wars from Asia to the West – to the Northern Black Sea coast.
Next to the Massagets lived the Sakas, well known to the Persians, who repeatedly fought with them on the borders of their state since the 530s. e. According to Herodotus and Persian sources, these tribes were divided into different groups: saki-tigrahauda, ​​saki-haumavarga, etc.
For the western part of the Scythian world – territories from the northern coast of the Black Sea and the Northern Caucasus to the Ural Mountains – Herodotus and other ancient Greek authors used a large number of ethnic names. Here, Scythians-nomads and Scythians-tsarist, Scythian-Pahari and Scythian farmers, Herrs, Gelons and Budins, neuras and androphages, Sauromats, Taurians and Meots, etc. Some of these peoples were contemporaries of Herodotus, others existed in more early times, and some were mythical tribes. The latter, for example, refers to a special, distant tribe – the Herrs, in the area of ​​their residence allegedly buried Scythian kings. Apparently, in the mythology of the Scythians Herrs – the inhabitants of the other world, the dead heroes and soldiers. Considering the ethnic diversity of the Scythian world, the uncertain geographical location of individual ethnic groups, it is extremely difficult to establish which tribes, known by name, were buried in the Altai burial mounds – the Tuektinsky, Pazykyrsky, in the Northern Black Sea “tomb” – Solokha, Chertomlyk, etc. But it is quite obvious that the mutual geographic remoteness of these monuments did not lead to an absolute disunity of the cultures, the bearers of which were the builders of the mounds. The world of the steppes, in spite of its external conservatism, in itself was extremely dynamic and communicative. In addition, nomads have always been in the sphere of influence of sedentary agricultural cultures and powerful world civilizations: Chinese, Assyrian, Greek, Persian. Migrations, military campaigns and nomadic raids, and as a consequence, borrowing ideas and interpenetrating a variety of traditions occupied, if not the most important, then a very significant place.
2. FIRST APPEARANCE ON THE HISTORICAL ARENA: REALITY AND LEGENDS
Herodotus cited the three most famous versions of the origin of the Scythians, common in his time (Herod. IV, 5-12). The first – the Greek one – erected the Scythians to the mythical Scythian, the son of Hercules and the local northern Black Sea half-god-half-land, who met the famous Greek hero after performing his next feat – stealing cows of Gerion. According to another version, formed among the Scythians themselves, they originated from the first person in the Scythian land – Targitaya, the son of Zeus and the daughter of Borisfen (Dnepr), who spawned three sons – Lipoksai, Arpoksai and Kolaksay, who became the ancestors of the Scythian tribes. The etymology of the names of these characters – “Mountain-King”, “Water-King”, “Sun-King”, respectively, confirms the global outlook character of the myth. But the third version, which seemed more believable to Herodotus and more suited to modern scientific concepts, suggests that the Scythians came to Europe from Asia along the Great Steppe Corridor.
According to the legendary version set forth by Herodotus, the Cimmerians lived in the Northern Black Sea coast to the Scythians, who, without entering into war with the aliens, fled from them through the Caucasus to Transcaucasia and Asia Minor, where they were first recorded by the Assyrian scouts around 714 BC. e. during the defeat of the Urartian tsar Rusa I. The Scythians, allegedly pursuing them and getting off the road, also invaded the Near East, but in another region, much east of the area of ​​Lake Urmia and the territory of the Manna and Median tribes. In fact, the first historical mention of the Scythians under the name Askuzaia dates back to the early 670s. e., when they appear in the requests to the god Shamash Assyrian king Asarhaddon. It was at this time that the Scythian nomads appeared on the northern borders with Assyria and immediately, thanks to their military strength, unusual tactics and the possibility of rapid movements, occupied one of the leading places in the military-political hierarchy of the Near East.
The Scythians were led by the leaders Ishpakai and Bartatua. The first of them died under unclear circumstances, the second one was wooing to the daughter of the Assyrian king Asarhaddon, and it is possible that this marriage actually took place. But in the late 670-ies BC. e. Scythians, judging by the fact that their name disappeared from the Assyrian sources, left the region and most likely returned to the North Caucasus, where approximately in the middle of the 7th century BC. e. such famous Scythian burial mounds as Kelermes, Ulsky, Krasnoznamensky and others containing precious trophies of the Asiatic expeditions were built.
But the Middle Eastern epic of the nomads did not end there. Approximately in 30-35 years, the units of the next generation of Scythians led by King Madia, the son of Prototia (Bartatua – according to the Assyrian sources) once again invaded Front Asia, collided there with the gaining power of the Midiya and the decrepit Assyria. They raided to the very borders with Egypt, leaving a memory in their memory even in the Bible and in the speeches of the Jewish prophets (Gen. 10, 2-3, Jeremiah 5, 15-16, 51, 27). “For twenty-eight years, the Scythians ruled over Asia, and during this time they, full of impudence and contempt, all devastated,” Herodotus wrote about these events (Herod. I, 106).
In fact, the time of the Scythians’ stay in the Near East was, apparently, longer than twenty-eight years, and the history of their campaigns ended not very well. At the very end of the 7th century BC. After the defeat of Assyria by Babylon and Midia, part of the Scythians moved to the service of the Median king Kiaksar, although shortly before that, it was Kiaksar who, having invited them to his feast, treacherously interrupted many of them. But after a while, the Scythian warriors who served this king were forced to flee from him to Asia Minor to the king Lydia Aliatta, which became a formal occasion for the war between Media and Lydia. The war lasted five years and ended during a solar eclipse, as Herodotus writes. But the fate of the Scythians at this time is no longer known for certain. Apparently, only very few of them managed to return to the North Caucasus – their homeland, which was won a century ago.
3. “THE DARK CENTURY” OF SKIFIA
After the great Asiatic campaigns, the history of Scythia – widely ranging from the foothills of the Caucasus to the Danube (Istra) – has for many decades seemed to be quite peaceful, although not many concrete events of this time are known. Since the end of the 7th century BC. e. the Scythians began to form quite good-neighborly relations with the Greek colonists who were actively settling the northern shore of the Black Sea. During the archaic period (about 700-480 BC), many settlements were founded by the Greeks, including such large and famous ones as Borysfen on the island of Berezan, at the mouth of the Southern Bug, Olvia in the lower reaches of the Southern Bug, Taganrog – on the northern shore of the Azov Sea, Panticapaeum – on the Kerch Peninsula in the Crimea and others. There are legendary reports that in some cases the Scythians even granted the Greeks territory for the creation of settlements, from which later grew powerful Greek states, sometimes uniting many cities and different barbarian tribes, such as Bosporus. Obviously, the relations between the Scythians and the Greeks, perhaps not always peaceful, although we do not know anything about the major conflicts between them, brought mutual benefit, especially in the economic sphere. Despite its conservatism and adherence to traditions, the Scythians were not at all isolated from Greek culture. The Scythian prince Anacharsis became famous for his wisdom (sometimes even included by the Greeks as one of the greatest sages of Hellas), who committed in the VI century BC. e. a trip through Greece and Asia Minor and visited, according to the legendary tradition, famous for its wisdom or wealth of people of that time – the Athenian Solon, the Lydian Kreuz. He was even credited with the honor of some remarkable inventions, for example, a potter’s wheel and a sea anchor. True, the fate of Anaharsis was very sad. After returning home, he was killed by his brother, Tsar Savli, allegedly for adherence to other people’s traditions and gods, although in fact the essence of the conflict was, in all likelihood, in some dynastic quarrels. In the last third of the VI century BC. e. Scythian arrows (European or Asian) appeared in Athens, and their images are often found at this time in the paintings of the Attic vessels.
But the most famous event, once again involving Scythia in the sphere of world politics, occurred at the end of the 6th century BC. e. Between 515 and 512 years BC. e. king of the great Persian empire Darius I transferred to the left, Scythian, Danube bank a huge, almost one million (although the number of soldiers was obviously exaggerated by the ancient authors) army. The king also relied on the fleet of certain Greek cities under his control. What were the reasons for this campaign? It is quite obvious that the version of Herodotus about revenge for the earlier offenses caused by the Scythians during the pre-Asian campaigns of the 7th century BC looks somewhat modernist. e. Undoubtedly, there were other, hidden, but much more important reasons for this war. The northeastern borders of the Persian state reached Central Asia, up to the Amu-Darya River, where numerous tribes of nomadic Saks lived in the steppes. Prior to the famous campaign of King Darius to European Scythia, the Persians were already trying to conquer some of the Saka tribes, although this did not lead to significant success. In the year 530 BC. e. King Cyrus II attempted to conquer the Massaget tribe, led by Queen Tomiris. The Persian army was defeated, Cyrus himself was killed. Later, in 519 BC. e. Darius I made a more successful campaign against the Saks, capturing their leader Skunku, but he failed to conquer all the nomads. This area of ​​the empire continued to be one of the most troubled and in subsequent times, which could not but disturb the Persian kings. It is not by chance that it was in the region of the South Urals that numerous discoveries of ceremonial Achaemenid items, primarily vessels, were made. This is evidence of the constant ties of the nomads with the Persian Empire, and the receipt of precious items by them as gifts. They are also in the materials of the Philippine burial mounds.
The campaign of King Darius in European Scythia could simultaneously pursue several goals. First, a bridgehead was created for the future conquest of Greece. Secondly, Darius’s strategic plan could include traversing the Central Asian nomads from the rear, which does not seem incredible given the geographical representations of that time.
Herodotus described in detail and colorfully all the vicissitudes of this military campaign. Without going into a detailed retelling, we point out that the main intention of the nomads was to lure the enemy into their territory, depriving them of provisions and forage, exhausting them with constant horse attacks. Having reached the Azov Sea and the Don, and not once having entered into an open battle, according to Herodotus’ version, one night, leaving the wounded and the camp, Darius escaped from Scythia, only by miraculously avoiding complete destruction and destruction.
It should be noted here that, both in antiquity and in modern researchers, there are other options for reconstructing this war, not so grandiose as in the presentation of Herodotus (for example, in Strabo: Strab. VII, 3, 14). Most likely, in reality, Darius did not go very far behind the Danube, and all the details in describing this war largely reflect the reality of Darius’s previous campaign against the Central Asian Sakas. Indirectly, this is confirmed by the fact that Herodotus, who is well acquainted with Persian history, does not say anything about this important campaign.
4. HERODOTOV. SKIFIA
The victory over the Persians, whatever it was in reality, affected the political situation in the Northern Black Sea Coast itself and became a turning point in Scythian history. Strong nomads, “old Scythians”, supported or replaced by a new one that appeared, apparently from the east at the end of the VI century BC. e. a horde of nomads – carriers of the name “scolota” (it is likely that these “new Scythians” were superseded by the Massagets after the latter clashed with the Persians, as Herodotus writes), began to exert pressure on Greek cities, some of which could even fall under the Scythian protectorate (Olvia, Nymphaeus). Some groups of nomads at the end of the VI century BC. e. penetrated into Central Europe, and at the very beginning of the fifth century BC. e. raided the north of the Balkan Peninsula (Herod, IV, 40). In the material culture of the Scythians, who from the turn of the 6th-5th centuries BC. e. began to actively explore the steppe Black Sea region, new elements of Asian nomadic culture (new type of bridle, images of animal style, certain categories of products) are displayed, best represented by materials of Altai mounds. Along with this, there is undoubtedly the importance of Greek influence, although at the same time the Scythians were also formally avoiding the influence of others.
In Scythia in the early V century BC. e. there was a new dynasty of kings, who ruled for a century. Its founder was King Ariapiff, who had three sons – Skyla, Oktamasad, Orik. The fate of Skil, who was born from a Greek woman and became a real Hellenophile, was dramatic. After the death of his father he took the throne, but the love of Greek culture became fatal for him. His brother Oktamasad, based, apparently, on the conservative layers of the Scythian nobility, committed a coup d’état. King Skyl, who fled to Thrace, but was issued by his uncle, the famous king of the Thracian-Odriss Sitalkom, was beheaded. After that, for several decades Oktamasad reigned in Scythia, apparently on friendly terms with his half-brother Orik, with Bosporan and Sindi rulers. Especially active, probably, was a policy towards the Bosporan state, on whose side the Scythians in some cases acted. During the first half of the IV century BC. e. Scythian state strengthened its political and economic positions, which ultimately led to a clash with the most powerful power of that time – Macedonia, King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great.
5. SKIFIA BEFORE AND AFTER ALEXANDER OF MACEDONIAN
The area of ​​interests of both Scythians and Macedonians was in the Balkans, and the initial allied relations quickly developed into an open conflict. At the head of the Scythian horde was the 90-year-old king Atei, partially controlling the Greek cities of the Western Black Sea Coast. In 339 BC. e. In the battle between the Scythians and Macedonians, the latter won, while Atey himself died in battle. True, this defeat did not undermine in the eyes of the Greeks the reputation of the Scythians as invincible warriors. There were other conflicts with Macedonia, there were also diplomatic negotiations. So, after the defeat of Olbia in 331 BC. e. the army of Zopirion, governor of Alexander the Great on Ponte, the Scythians exchanged peaceful embassies with Alexander himself, who was then in Central Asia. Alexander himself was nurturing the plans for the conquest of the Scythians, but the prospects opened to him in the east of the Oecumene, the way out to India, and then death did not allow them to materialize. The Scythians actively participated in the affairs of their Greek neighbors, as evidenced by their support of one of the parties during the civil war on the Bosporus in 310/309 BC. e.
Second half of IV century BC. e. – the time of the highest flowering of Scythia. It was then that huge burial tombs were built for the deceased Scythian lords, containing the richest funeral gifts, which testify to the wealth accumulated by then in the steppes. But the development of Scythia suddenly broke. The culture of Scythia suddenly disappeared without apparent external causes around 300 BC. e. Until now, its finale presents the same puzzle as the beginning, and generates many scientific hypotheses. Usually, either external aggression (a new attack of nomads, this time Sarmatians, from the east) is taken into account, or an unfavorable climate and environmental change, or an economic collapse, or a simultaneous unfavorable confluence of all these destructive factors.
6. SKIFIA AFTER SKIFIA
The disappearance of the “Great Scythia” did not mean that the history of the Scythians itself was interrupted. Apparently, from the end of the III century BC. e. in the Crimea and Dobrudja, new miniature states emerged, the so-called Small Scythia, with new frontiers and political priorities, and possibly with a new ethnic content that absorbed different barbarian and semi-barbaric peoples. For several centuries the Scythians waged wars with Greek city-states: Chersonesos, Bosporus, some Sarmatian tribes (who had fully mastered the former Scythian territory by the second century BC); For a long time Olvia remained under Scythian control. In the Crimea there were several fortresses and a stake of Scythian kings, the most famous of which were Skilur and his son Palak (II century BC). At the end of the II century BC. e. happened one of the most striking events of this period of Scythian history – a highly unsuccessful for the Scythians clash with Diophantus, the commander of King Pontus Mithridates VI Evpator (a formidable and eternal enemy of Rome) who came to the aid of besieged Chersonesus. The former power was finally undermined, but for a long time the Scythians continued to play a role in the history of this region. Only in the middle of the III century AD. E., it is believed that the Scythians were devastated by the defeat of the Goths, who came to the Northern Black Sea coast from the north-west. After these events, the ethnonym “Scythians” continued to exist only in literary works and turned, rather, into a common name, denoting barbarians in general. The ethnos itself ceased to exist, although the Iranian peoples related to it survived and maintained their traditional culture, which is in many ways close to the Scythian, for a long time, almost to the present day. Especially important here is the history of Ossetians in the North Caucasus and their famous epic “Narts”, which reflected mythological ideas and ethnographic realities, including the Scythian era.
Scythians, this Asiatic by origin, but became a European people, had for many centuries a significant impact on the culture and history of their close and distant neighbors. They were the first in a long chain of nomadic tribes known to us, which, with a periodicity of 200-400 years, rolled along the Great Steppe Corridor to Europe (the last such a powerful wave were the Mongols in the 13th century). Nevertheless, the culture of the Scythians does not, perhaps, equal to itself among the steppe cultures of all epochs, either by its inherent vivid identity, or by the resonance it produces.
Filippovskie mounds and animal style

The most unique finds of the 1 st Philippine mound, which put this monument in the category of the most outstanding archaeological discoveries of the last decades in Russia, undoubtedly are figures of deer, impressive for their extraordinary size and complexity of artistic solutions and technical performance. Until now, nothing like this has been found in the barrows of the early nomads of Eurasia. The more interesting is the task of determining their place among works relating to the cultural phenomenon, which was called the “Scythian-Siberian animal style.” By this name we mean not so much the actual style as a complex of certain formal attributes and devices, but rather an image-symbolic system filled with mythological content. This system involves the use of a kind of zoomorphic code designed to convey the most significant worldview positions. The commonality of the world view and religious beliefs, the unity of the economic order, the way of life and ideology, and the mobility of the nomadic population facilitated the possibility of integrating separate elements of culture and norms in art into a foreign ethnic environment and created the preconditions for the creation of a single cultural phenomenon that gave rise to vivid and expressive art.
Animal style was an integral part of the world of Eurasian nomads, organically entering all the spheres of nomads’ existence and accompanying their life and death: decorating weapons and horse equipment, clothing and ritual utensils, belonging to funeral rites and tattoos are full of animal images. Images of animals appear in the form of separate figures and as elements of complex compositions, most of which convey or imply scenes of torment, symbolizing the confrontation of two principles – life and death.
The Scythian-Siberian animal style is an original artistic phenomenon, based on its own system of artistic language, and has a very special significance in world culture. However, the genetic roots and active contacts with the nomads of the cultures of the peoples of the Ancient East, especially Iran, left their imprint on the formal characteristics of their art. The influence of Iranian art in one form or another can be traced in pictorial monuments almost throughout the territory of the spread of the animal style of the Scythian era.
Filippovskie finds are divided into three groups according to stylistic characteristics, which connect them with different local variants of the Scythian-Siberian animal style: the first of them represents obvious analogies with the art of nomads of Kazakhstan and the Trans-Ural region (forges with images of camels, bronze harness, hemispherical object, akinak) ; the second – demonstrates the connection with the Kuban animal style (deer and psaltery); the third group closest to zoomorphic images of Altai (images of predators, griffins, wild boars). At the same time, it is important that all three groups, despite the multidirectional trends, are not heterogeneous and are marked by common features that allow them to be viewed as a single cultural phenomenon, unlike imported things whose origin is undoubtedly associated with Achaemenid Iran and which represent an independent group of art products from Filippovka.
Perhaps it is difficult to find another monument of Scythian time, where the animal style would be represented by such a variety of scenes and zoomorphic motifs, showing the highest degree of decorativeness and sophistication of lines and silhouettes. The largest number of objects from Filippovka is associated with images of deer, extremely varied in composition, poses and foreshortening of figures, species and age characteristics (as indicated by the shape of the horns and the number of their appendages). Among them there are images of males with huge stylized horns, culminating in the heads of birds of prey, inscribed in a bizarre pattern of branched horny processes, turned into ornament. However, on small plaques and fittings of blood vessels there are heads or figures of roe deer, young deer or females, whose horns have only a few appendages. The compositions of the figures are very diverse and demonstrate both the natural poses of, for example, a standing or lying animal, as well as artificial ones, subject to the requirements of placement in space, conditioned by the shape of the object being decorated. In this case, violations of the anatomical structure and reduction of the image are allowed, allowing reproduction, for example, of only the head and forelimb of the animal or unnaturally to turn the back of the body. Any zoomorphic image in the animal style system plays the role of a sign and carries certain information. Stylization and convention are one of the main means in the formation of the visual system of the transfer of zoomorphic images in the art of early nomads. Accentuation of individual parts in different ways (color inserts, graphic ornament, additional zoomorphic elements) and intentional hyperbolization of some parts of the animal constitute an important feature of the artistic language of the Scythian-Siberian animal style.
Another significant characteristic of the art of the Eurasian nomads of the Scythian epoch is the widespread use in the animal style of images of fantastic creatures, fantastically combining the features of quite real and recognizable animals, despite the pronounced stylization, forming a kind of “synthetic” image, acting as a kind of ideogram. Thus, a tiger can be endowed with deer horns, and the body of a predator unexpectedly ends with the head of an antelope; the muzzles of camels have a predatory grin or resemble an eagle’s beak. The bestial images on the objects from the Philippine burial mounds show the whole range of techniques peculiar to the art of the nomads of Eurasia, and at the same time its extremely original and decorative local version, rich in graphic ornamentation and distinguished by the smoothness of the lines and the finesse of the compositions.
Nevertheless, the visual decision of deer from the 1 st Filippovskiy mound is quite comparable with the numerous “deer” images presented in the Scythian time monuments from other territories. Among these analogies are primarily deer from the regions of the North Caucasus and the steppe Ciscaucasia, as well as Southern Siberia and the Altai. For example, the so-called “pommel” in the form of a deer head from a burial ground near the village of Ulyap in the North Caucasus, which in reality is probably part of a large wooden deer figure covered with gold laminated upholstery, directly associates with Philippine figures in many characteristics. In addition to the contour of the eye, similarity is also captured in a constructive way: inserted ears and horns; gold plate plates, using cloves mounted on a wooden base; a combination of gold and silver in one product. It is pertinent to note that the practice of making wooden figures of hoofed animals with gold and silver covers existed on the territory of Southern Siberia (Khakassia) for an extremely long time: in the medieval burial grounds of the 7th-8th centuries AD, e. finds finds of wooden figures of rams with gold and silver plates.
Among the signs of Philippine images of deer stand out: static figures, hypertrophied elongated hump-nosed muzzles, transmitted with a clear violation of natural proportions, giving them a resemblance to a wolf; direct setting of the short neck; the architectonic dominance of branched horns solved in the form of complex helical symmetrical compositions. The volutes of the reindeer antler processes are treated in some cases in the form of heads of birds of prey or griffins. A similar technique is observed in the art of the ancient nomads of Altai. Attention is drawn to the combination of the same features in the Kuban bronze psalias from the village of Elizavetinskaya.
Among the Kuban archaeological finds in general, there are extremely many analogies to the Philippine deer. Thus, a bronze nalobnik plate from the horse headband demonstrates a complex zoomorphic composition combining the heads of deer in different angles. The central part of the composition is occupied by proto deer of very elongated proportions and an emphatically decorative solution: the deer antlers are deployed frontally in the horizontal plane; the rhythmic row of symmetrically arranged shoots includes stylized heads of griffins, creating a complex openwork pattern of the whole construction. Openwork is emphasized by graphic design: all details are outlined by smooth linear contours.
Numerous images of predators from the 1 st Filippovsky Barrow find the closest analogies both in the east – in the monuments of Southern Siberia, and in the west – in the region of the Kuban. Massive gold necklaces from the Stavropol treasure have at the ends of the figures of predators, ornamental decoration of the surface and proportions resembling the zoomorphic handle of vessels from Filippovka. Tiger, tearing a deer, on the handle of one of the vessels from Filippovka, is very similar to a tiger on a gold belt girdle from the Siberian collection of Peter I. A camel on the same plate evokes associations with the images of this animal on a gold hemispherical lacework from Filippovka similar to bronze cone-shaped items with zoomorphic images from Southern Siberia. Unique finds of objects of animal style in Filippovka are strongly connected with the entire culture of the Eurasian nomadic world and take their own logical position reflecting the ethno-cultural situation of the middle of the I millennium BC. e.
In the light of this, the presence of the closest analogies to the objects of the animal style from Filippovka in the monuments of the Altai, Western Kazakhstan and the Kuban region is especially important and interesting, which suggests that the nomads can penetrate from the east into the western regions of the Scythian world – to the Northern Black Sea coast and to the North Caucasus and the existence of direct contacts between European Scythians and the tribes of the Southern Urals.
Deer and Scythian Gold
One of the main subjects of the images in the original art of the early nomads was the deer, who lived in the vast expanses of Eurasia. For the Scythian-Siberian “animal style” nomads of the Eurasian belt of the steppes, stylized images of strong and fast animals in certain poses, performed with the help of specific techniques, are characteristic. “Animal style”, as a rule, was used in the design of weapons and horse bridle. Images of the “Scythian” deer are known throughout the Eurasian steppe zone. Animals are shown mainly in two poses: standing or with bent legs, neck extended forward and head lifted. Images of such lying or “flying” deer, some of which are made on so-called deer stones, were distributed in the Kuban, Northern Black Sea, Voronezh forest-steppe, found in Central Europe, the North Caucasus, the Pamirs, Kazakhstan, Western Siberia, Minusinsk Basin, Tuva, Mongolia, Transbaikalia and in Ordos. All of them are very close to each other.
Images of deer appear in the “Scythian world” in the VII century. BC. e. Only in certain regions they are characteristic for the Bronze Age. One such area is the North Caucasus, where in the Bronze Age in the Koban archaeological culture, images of these animals, stylistically lacking in common features with the Scythian image of the deer, were quite common. Nevertheless, Scythian images, hitting this territory, found here a well-prepared soil for development (see: NL Chlenova, Scythian Deer, Materials and Studies on Archeology of the USSR No. 115, M. 1962).
It is amazing to perform in the “animal style” scenes of predation by predators (eagle, griffin, bear) of ungulates, in which both fantastic and realistic features are combined. Among the magnificent works of art of the ancient nomads there is a horn plate from the burial ground of Pyatimar I, which is kept in the State Historical Museum. On this plate, belonging to the best specimens of the Savromatic carved bones of the heyday of the bestial style in the first half of the 5th century. BC. E., depicts a scene of struggle between two predators and an ungulate animal (possibly a deer).
In the art of the early nomads of the Eurasian steppes, various materials were used – wood, bronze, bone, but gold was one of the favorite and sought-after. Not without reason, even the origin of the Scythians, according to one version of the “father of history” of Herodotus, is associated with this metal: “… The first inhabitants of this country were a man named Targitai …, and he had three sons: Lipoxais, Arpoxaes and the youngest Colaxais. In their reign on the Scythian land, golden objects fell from the sky: a plow, a yoke, an ax and a bowl. The first saw these things older brother. He hardly came up to pick them up, as gold burned. Then he stepped back, and the second brother approached, and again gold was embraced by a flame. So the heat of flaming gold drove away both brothers, but when the third, younger brother came up, the flame went out and he carried the gold to his house. Therefore, the older brothers agreed to give the kingdom to the younger “(Herod, IV, 5).
Love of Scythian gold became a household name. Speaking of the wealth of the Scythian kings, Herodotus notes that silver and copper are not used at all – only gold. As G. Borovka wrote, no other culture of antiquity, even the “golden Mycenae”, can compete with Scythia in the abundance of gold. The richness of the gold of the Scythian barrows indicates the existence of large sources of this metal in the east, most likely in Kazakhstan and in the Altai mountains. Herodotus reports that “in the north of Europe, apparently, there is a lot of gold. How it is mined there, I also can not definitely say. According to the legend, one-eyed people are kidnapped by griffins – arimaspas “(Herod. Ill, 116). This information was obtained by Herodotus from the epic poem of Aristea Proconesskii, who first wrote about “guarding gold vultures”. Mythical creatures with a lion’s body, snake-like neck and eagle’s head – griffins – are known in both Greek and barbarian art. It is no accident that even a symbol of the capital of the Bosporan kingdom – Pantikapaia – was a griffin. Mentioned by the ancient authors of the Ripaean Mountains is, according to the opinion of various scientists, either the Urals or Altai Mountains. It was in this region that the masterpieces of the Filippovsky and Pazyryk barrows were created.
The most figuratively reported mythical inhabitants of this region chained to the rock Prometheus (Aeschylus: The Prometheus, 803-807). Warning Io, fleeing from the wrath of Hera to the end of the world, he says to her:
Ostrich-scared be afraid of vultures, Zeus Dogs of the silent! The troops of one-eyed Beware Arimaspov-horsemen,
The gold flowing nomadic Pluton stream!
The pictures of this mythological world were readily represented by Greek masters in far-off Athens, in particular, on the pelicas of the “Kerch style”, found in a number of cities in the Northern Black Sea region. Here, the griffins were depicted next to the Amazons and Arimaspi, and the legendary Amazonian warrior maidens “ride, shoot arrows and rush darts, sitting on horses, and fight with enemies …” – Greek warriors (Hippocrates, About air, waters and localities , 24).
The value of gold for the nomad barbarians was very high – with its help the Scythian, and then the Sarmatian nobility, emphasized its power and wealth. It is no accident that hundreds of gold ornaments of marvelous work were found in the royal barrows. By the way, in the IV. BC. – the heyday of ancient Greek jewelry art – the Northern Black Sea Coast was a real breadbasket of Greece. In exchange for bread flowed into the cities of the Black Sea region, and through them – to the Scythian aristocracy, unheard-of riches, including jewelry of the best masters and gold coins, which later were used as raw materials for jewelry production.
It can be assumed that numerous gold plaques that originate from some rich Scythian burials were made especially for burial rituals and have never been used in ordinary life. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a living Scythian king, whose everyday clothes would be embroidered with hundreds of thin, soft, and therefore fragile and impractical gold plaques. Researchers in this connection do not exclude the existence of a special group of craftsmen-jewelers who served only the needs of the funerary cult and could, for a short period of time, order the relatives of the deceased to produce the necessary gold ornaments (Gulyaev VI, Savchenko EI On the role of gold in the burial ritual of the Scythians Eurasian antiquities 100 years BN Grakov: archival materials, publications, articles, Moscow, 1999). As the SV wrote. Kiselev, “for all the glitter of gold, it often bordered on the props.” Perhaps in the other world, the wooden deer from Filippovka, in reality only covered with gold foil, were supposed, according to the plan of their creators, to become gold and accompany their owner to eternity. There is no doubt that gold, as a noble metal, radiating divine light, was associated with many Indo-European peoples, including Scythians, with ideas of the solar deity. As B.A. Litvinsky, this precious metal symbolizes also the royal power (triad “king” – “fire” – “gold”). “It is likely that when decorating the royal dead, this idea was dominated by a huge amount of gold (gold is a symbol of the tsar, royal power, royal fate and happiness),” he wrote. Thus, gold was identified with the Sun, and the death of the king could be correlated with sunset. The king died with the sunset, and then reborn with his sunrise. Well, gold gave hope for supernatural power, supreme power and rebirth after death.

Golden deer of Eurasia

Since 1998, the Laboratory for the Scientific Restoration of Works of Applied Arts and the Laboratory for the Scientific Restoration of Works of Applied Art from the Organic Materials of the State Hermitage have been carrying out the restoration of unique monuments of the Scythian era – a complex of finds from the Philippine burial mounds in the Southern Urals.
Particular difficulty for restorers was represented by deer figures, many of which were heavily deformed, parts of gold and silver linings and wooden bases were lost. After long searches and experiments, the optimal scheme was found, which provided the solution of the main task – “put the deer on its feet” in the vertical plane.
It was also difficult to reconstruct the bowls, since they only preserved the gold plates, and the wooden base was completely lost. But the configuration and dimensions of the gold coils gave a basis for reliable and reliable restoration of the shape and appearance of the entire vessel. The basics of the bowls were made from composite materials by building them on frames made of steel, brass or copper mesh. After toning on the bases of the bowls, the gold lining was strengthened. The reconstructed cups fit into a whole group of various ceremonial vessels of Scythian time, decorated with images of real and fantastic animals, scenes of torment, cult and hunting subjects.