The treasures of Nomadic Tribes
“Silk Road” linking the eastern side and the western side of the vast Eurasian continent can roughty be divided into three routes. One is the “Oasis Route” linking the east and the west by passing along oasises dotted throughout the desert, another is the “Maritime Route” linking different ports by the sea, and the last one is the northernmost “Steppe Route” passing through a vast expanse of steppe.
Among these routes, the existence of the Oasis Route is well known in Japan because of the image of the Xuan-zang story, desert cities such as Dunhuang and Turfan. However, the route which was developed the earliest and used most frequently was, as a matter of fact, the Steppe Route. This is partly because the distance between the East and the West is shorter as the route used is more septentrional providing a geographical advantage. Another important reason is that this vast steppe zone served as the key point for mounted nomads. As the case of the Genghis Khan Empire shows, horse-riding people often occupy a vast expanse of territory in a short period of time. This is followed by intensified comings and goings of people and flourishing trade.
This exhibition covers a steppe zone extending in the southern part of the U.S.S.R. and to the north of the Caucasus (Kavkas) Mountains. The first race which took power in this vast steppe was Scythians (7th to 4th century B.C.), followed by Sarmatians (3rd century h.c. to 3rd century A.D.). They originated either in the Altai or Kazakhstan regions and had a unique art style with designs of animals. However, as a result of their encounter with the Greek on the coast of the Black Sea and their contact with the orient culture during their expedition to Mesopotamia, they created a new culture by fusing the eastern and western civilization.
This exhibition, centered around the newest findings obtained as a result of excavations of relics of the horse-riding people and the neighboring (reck colonies, displays 220 cultural heritages which are shown for the first time in Japan. Some of the items exhibited here have had far reaching impacts in Japan. They contain, however, many unknown points and they are important subjects of a comprehensive scientific investigation of the UNESCO which started in 1989. In this sense, this exhibition will provide precious data and information for the future study on the Silk Road.
This exhibition has been realized through the cooperation of four museums in the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic (Rostov, Azov, Krasnodar and Stavropol’), Institute of archaeology and other related entities in the Soviet Union which sent precious items in their possession, Orient Corporation and The Japan Racing Association which provided us with financial assistance as well as all the other related institutions and agencies which have provided their generous cooperation and assistance, and we would like to express our most sincere gratitude to all these entities.
Equestrian Peoples in the World
As a common knowledge in the history of the world, “civilization” has been considered synonymous with “agricultural city-state civilization.” Such “civilizations” began with production of grain and formation of settled villages. Based on these, various productive technologies developed, trade routes with neighboring states were opened, and economy was strengthened. At the same time, social and cultural conditions improved, resulting in the formation of cities where rigid hierarchical society coexisted wtih traditional, indigenous culture. Gradually, legal as well as writing systems developed, religious beliefs started to vary, and sciences and history began to be studied. All these led to the formation of a so-called “civilization.”
Peoples who established such agricultural city-state civilization did not acknowledge others as civilized, unless they had achieved the same level of cultures, and considered them as barbarians. In China such barbarians were called Yi-di or Wan-yi, while in ancient Greece and Rome they were known as “Barbaroi” or “Nomads.” They were discriminated and held in contempt by the “civilized” citizens of the agricultural city-state.
However, it is interesting to note that “Fathers of History” in both West and East, Herodotus of ancient Greece and Sima Qian of ancient China, paid much attention to the equestrian peoples.
Herodotus in his Historiae and Sima Qian in his Shiji both wrote for the first time about Scythians and Xiongnu who at that time inhabited the western and eastern regions of the great plain of the Eurasian Continent. Their accounts were detailed and quite extensive: “Scythian and Xiongnu peoples had formed nomadic-states. They did not have walled towns and fortresses, but dwelled in covered waggons, moving from place to place. They made a living by cattle raising. They were warriors skilled in horseback shooting. It was almost impossible to defeat them, as they would retreat deep into the grassland when they confronted superior forces. They would charge only when it was to their advantage. On the other hand, they increased their wealth by invading agricultural city-state regions, or by demanding tributes from foreign states.”
Herodotus, who travelled extensively in the Orient to collect historical materials, even praised these people as “the wisest on earth.” Eater historians in the East and the West, however, typically held a biased view from a historical perspective of the agricultural city-state civilization, and repeated to consider the equestrian peoples as uncivilized, illiterate barbarians who would satisfy their worldly desire by force.
Let us carefully examine the historical facts concerning the nomadic peoples in each historical phase of the East and the West. We should also look into the related tribes who mainly engaged in grazing and subsidiarily in farming, or those who practiced both hunting and farming. The equestrian peoples began their military activities in the grassland where they lived, or in the neighboring mountains. The size of the group could vary from large to small. In a surprisingly short period of time, they increased their size at a rapidly accelerating rate into a huge military force, or into a multitribal group, under powerful leadership. They established a huge nomadic state in the great plain. They invaded the states of agricultural civilization, absorbing and subjugating various indigenous peoples, and built their own dynastic state. They not only adopted and succeeded the existing agricultural civilization but also incorporated a variety of cultures of the neighboring multiracial peoples to develop a truly international, global civilization. It is no exaggeration to say that they made epoch-making contributions to the development of mankind in the later world.
To name a few examples, the ancient empires of Persia, Kushan; Arab-Islamic empire and Mongolian empire of the medieval period; the Qing empire of the Manchus of the modern age. These were examples of international empires, where different races, languages, and religions coexisted to create international communities.
Such large-scale empires were not the only cases. Some equestrian peoples, including nomadic people or half-farming halt-grazing people, gained power and spread in many directions to establish kingdoms. They each developed their own culture. Some of the Fuyu people, for example, who rose in the Sungari River valley in Manchuria, set up Koguryo kingdom along the Tongjia-jiang River. Some other people moved to the south of Korean Peninsula to found Paekche, Kaya, and Wo of Jin kingdom. In the northern Europe, Vikings (Normans) went south to set up the Duchy of Normandy and the Kingdom of Britain. The Normans also spread to Sicily Island and Russia and conquered the indigenous people to establish their rule. These examples are historical facts that show how equestrian peoples came into power in various regions of the world and contributed to the development of each civilization.
It must be noted here that the equestrian peoples can be divided into two categories. One consisted of nomadic equestrian people, while the other included those who mainly engaged in grazing with subsidiary farming, or those who practiced both grazing and farming, or hunting and farming. The first category of nomadic equestrian tribes inhabited the inner Eurasian Continent where great plain spread for thousands of kilometers. As nomads, they showed no interest in the possession of land itself. They lived in tents and moved from place to place. They did not form settled villages or cities for themselves. The second category of equestrian tribes who practiced the combination of grazing and farming, or of grazing and hunting, were interested in the farming land or hunting ground. They also showed preference to city-state culture. They tended to migrate to live close to the farming city-state civilization. Apart from farming and grazing, they also practiced trading, or participated in military activities as mercenaries. Taking advantage of the internal problems of these agricultural city-state civilizations, such as impoverishment and disturbances, they made armed intervention and eventually established a so-called conquered dynastic state. Frequently they set up their small- scale city-states near agricultural areas. They took in refugees from these farming villages, as well as political, racial, and religious refugees who had suffered oppression and fled into their city-state. The city-state under equestrian peoples leadership was an exciting, international society. The tax rate was extremely low. People were given jobs according to the merit of talent. Public peace was maintained and economic activities were supported by the state. They had no racial or religious discrimination. Every citizen was entitled to enjoy freedom.
Starting from such small city-states under their leadership, the equestrian peoples gradually expanded their territory by taking in more and more local farming population. Then they moved their base to the center of city-state civilization. Eventually they transferred their capital to occupy traditionally important sites of the agricultural city-state civilization that had the seat of the central government or fortresses (for example, Xian, Luoyang, and Beijing in China; Damascus, Baghdad, and Istanbul in the West Asia), in order to reign over a vast dominion.
As mentioned above, the Fuyu people who had gained power along the Sungari River in the Heilong-jiang, established the kingdom of Koguryo along the Tongjia-jiang River in the Jilin with its center in Huanren. Then they advanced eastward to transfer the capital to Hwanto in the mid Abrok River valley. Further they moved to Pyongyang in the lower Taetong-kang River valley in Korea (Lelangjun in the Han and Jin dynasties), to dominate as a powerful state in the Northeast Asia. During Later Han and Jin dynasties, the Toba people, who had branched off from the Xianbei people active around Xing-an- ling mountains, went down south from the Mongolian Plateau and founded a small city-state at Chengluo near the Great Wall in a corner of the Ordos Desert during the Six Dynasties period. They transferred their capital to Datong in Shanxi where they sought support of Han Chinese scholars and Buddhist masters to form a spiritual unity with the Han Chinese. They further proceeded to settle in the capital of Luoyang in Henan (the city in Northern China as well-known as Xian since the Zhou and 1 Ian dynasties). The great Khan of the Mongols first set up the capital in Kharakhorum in Northern Mongolia, next in Dolon Nor in Southern Mongolia, and finally in Beijing to establish the great city of Khanbalik. All these were examples of the equestrian peoples’ achievement.
The origin of the emperors of the Yamato State, like Koguryo, can be traced back to the Fuyu people of the Sungari River valley. They went down south to the Korean Peninsula and founded the Jin kingdom in the state of Mahan during the period of the Three Han States (Mahan, Byonhan, and Jinhan), ruling most of the Southern Korea. During the Three Kingdoms period, they moved the capital to Kaya (Imna), unified Tsushima, Iki, and Nortnem Kyushu, and eventually transferred the capital from Kawachi to Yamato to establish the Yamato State, uniting Wa and Han states.
Likewise in the West, Macedonian Greeks and Yuezhi Iranians migrated from place to place. The former built their capital in Babylon, the latter in Gandhara. They both prospered as a great multiracial empire.
In the Eurasian Continent, from the Daxinganling mountains in the east, through the Himalayas, Karakoram, and Hindu Kush mountains in India, to Iran-Anatolian Plateau and Carpathian mountains in the west, various regions saw the development of internationally composite civilizations of the equestrian peoples. They characteristically had the mobility of the people engaged in grazing and farming, or hunting and grazing. They founded multiracial, multicultural conquered dynastic states. Their rulers were oriented to the city-state civilization.
In the case of the genuine nomadic equestrian tribes, the situation was quite different. They limited their range of activities within the plain where it was suitable for a nomadic life. They migrated east and west to build great nomadic empires, but they never moved south to the area of agricultural city-state civilization for the purpose of conquering the existing dynastic states.
On the other hand, equestrian peoples as a whole, whether they were genuine nomads or practiced farming and grazing, shared the same life style, racial characteristics, political system, military strategies, and cultural traits.
Their life style may be characterized as follows. Nuclear family formed the basic unit where man and woman worked together. Women generally engaged in housework and farming or grazing. Men usually took social and political responsibilities: they engaged in military activities, transportation and trading, gathering information, management and transfer of grazing ground, and so forth. Each individual took the initiative for these activities.
Each individual was to decide whether to participate in a raid or to withdraw from it. In the same way, one could join a trade caravan on one’s own initiative. Each member could make his own decision to participate or not to participate in group activites. However, as long as he was part of the group, he had to act under command of the leader. Each member was responsible to take part in an election, project planning and its execution. No one was allowed to abandon the group halfway.
They formed a kind of contract-based society, which can be compared with joint-stock corporations of our contemporary society. In corporations, for example, when business goes well and yields profit, more and more people will invest in stocks because their income raises. The same thing applies to the society of the equestrian peoples. When profit was made in war or trade, increasing the share of each member, more people tended to join the group. As the size of the group enlarged, their territory natually expanded. They could potentially develop into a huge empire. Conversely, their community could disintegrate when members chose to leave at their own will. This explains the rise and fall of equestrian tribes. Some prospered as powerful states, while some vanished completely from history. Their social and economic structure depended largely on the will of each individual.
On the other hand, the life style of the agricultural peoples was based on land and a law of nature. It differed fundamentally from that of the equestrian peoples. The agricultural peoples had land, a permanent natural basis. Their villages formed a sedentary, communal society. Their means of production was cultivation which relied on a law of nature. In China, India, and Egypt alike, people believed in eternity, as the law of nature remained unchanged for thousands of years.
For the equestrian peoples, their rise and fall was almost a daily occurence. They actually witnessed kings suddenly subjugated as slaves, and vice versa. Therefore they formed a group of mutually trusted members and helped one another. They constantly sought knowledge, exchanged information, and made efforts to make the best of the given situation. That was how their propensity for inventiveness and creativity was cultivated. They had to use their brains to lead themselves to civilization. They were not to live like the agricultural peoples who could lead a sedentary life, blessed with natural conditions and culture of long tradition.
Such was the fate of the equestrian peoples. Over a long period of time, they naturally developed a feudalistic society of tribal warrior groups, mechanism of leadership election, and a lineal succession of a royal family. In their society, social rank was not as important as occupation. It was a liberal, democratic society, where there was no discrimination against nationality, social status, or sex. They enjoyed a culture of intellectual flexibility, with multiracial, multilingual, and multireligious atmosphere.
While agricultural city-state civilization was a material civilization with a certain form, the equestrian peoples had a fundamentally different type of civilization which was more of a spiritual type. That is not to say that it was visually unper- ceivable. Their religions (Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam), for example, inspired religious art and architecture. Cities were built with fortresses and palaces. Laws were codified and learning was pursued. Extraordinarily advanced and complex level of their spiritual and material cultures were manifested in arms and horse trappings, or clothes and ornaments that they devised especially to suit their cavalry tactics.
However, most of these objects are now buried deep in the ruins. Even if they have remained on the ground, they have been ignored by the society of agricultural civilization in most cases. It is only in relatively recent years that the civilization of the nomadic equestrian peoples started to draw much attention in the world.
Cultures of the nomadic equestrian peoples have left clear marks in history of both East and West, especially in such activities as military affairs, diplomacy, commerce, and administration, which involved foreign nations. On the one hand, they had a superior talent in planning, organization, leadership, and management. On the other, they had a strong propensity for learning and culture, fostering intellectualism and curiosity. Therefore, they did not bind themselves to the specific environment or tradition. Instead, they spread in many parts of the world, seeking for chances to prosper or to conquer.
A good example in the East was the the Mongolian empire that unified East and West on horseback. In the West was the Islamic empire. Great maritime empires of Portuguese and Spaniards learned from their achievements and expanded their power overseas. In all these cases, their purpose was not to acquire land but to obtain gold and silver, treasures and slaves, as well as special local products. They also sought to explore various parts of the world with different races and natural environment, in order to propagate their religious faith, whether Islam or Christianity, as extensively as possible. What they had in common were the principles of the equestrian peoples: They respected utilitarianism, realism, and open-heartedness. They also had a global perspective.
Overseas activities of the Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Germany in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries tend to be considered as a kind of continuation of the equestrian peoples’ conquered dynastic states. However, the fundamental difference between them was that the equestrian peoples did not overthrow the conquered people and their culture. Rather, they created an international community of different races, cultures, and religions. The equestrian people, even though they were the conquerors, did not exclude themselves from the indigenous population as the privileged class of rulers.
On the contrary, the colonial rule of the European super powers exploited their overseas territories as military bases or economic resources. They merely showed interest in local labor and products. They held racial, religious, and cultural prejudices as excuses to overthrow the indigenous people, in order to establish their own empire of Europeans. Therefore, the European colonial rule was fundamentally different from the nomadic equestrian peoples’ conquest of dynastic states.
In the modern world, it has been criticized that the colonial policy brought about serious consequences. Every colony was not necessarily successful. In some cases, they diminished or destroyed indigenous cultures. They exploited and exhausted natural resources. Colonialism was one of the factors that hindered a normal development of the human race.
In the case of the agricultural races, as mentioned above, their civilization developed in harmony with nature over many years, rather than in confrontation with her. The nomadic equestrian tribes, on the other hand, built either nomadic states or conquered dynastic states, and ruled over the indigenous people, using their long-nurtured talent in military tactics, diplomacy, organization, and management. As productive and cultural activities were left in the hands of the conquered indigenous populace, the equestrian conquerors received the benefits of the existing economy and culture.
Great civilizations in the history of the world (of Persians, Greeks, Kushans, Arab-Islams, Mongols, and Manchus), rich in international atmosphere with multiracial, multicultural, and multilingual peoples, were achievements of the equestrian peoples. They may provide us with invaluable reference materials in the formation of the global community of the twenty- first century.
Three hundred years ago, Peter I of the Russian empire was presented with a great amount of gold objects which were thought to have been unearthed from the western Siberia. As he immediately recognized the artistic, historic, as well as academic value of these objects, he issued an imperial edict of the protection of the buried cultural properties for the first time in human history. He prohibited looting of the buried treasures to prevent them from dispersions. He also constructed the Kunstkammer (the predecessor of the Hermitage Museum of Art) to provide storage. His actions gave an impetus to investigations of the ruins within various parts of Russia. Discovery of kurgans which yielded vessels of gold, silver, and copper with animal motifs (which can be seen in the collection of Peter I) drew much attention and led to the assumption that such kurgans were distributed extensively in the plains of the southern Russia, northern Caucasus, western and eastern Siberia, and western Turkestan.
Studies of kurgans which began in late Romanov period continued after the establishment of the Soviet Union, and investigations of the ruins became more scientific and systematic, resulting in the series of remarkable discoveries of the ancient treasures of the nomadic equestrian tribes. These ancient sites yielded objects used by Scythians, Sauromatians, Sarmatians, and Alans for their nomadic life and military activities, that were also recorded by Herodotus and other Greeks and Roman authors. There were arms, trappings, costumes, as well as drinking vessels for banquet, and elaborate ornaments made of gold.
These objects of highly artistic value were decorated with their unique animal motifs, which embodied their creative imagination, realism, and fantasy. They also revealed their mastery of highly skilled techniques. Discovery of such works of art greatly altered the biased notion of the agricultural people against the nomadic equestrian cultures as “uncivilized and barbaric.”
While the golden civilization of the ancient equestrian peoples was being unfolded by the discovery of the kurgans in the West, the early and middle cultures of the Xiongnu were also found in the East in the inner and outer Mongolia. Objects from the early culture were Ordos bronzes (Suiyuan bronzes), which included arms, chariots, trappings, ornaments, containers, and drinking vessels. Essentially, they were related to those of the Scythians and Sarmatians of the West. The only difference was that most of the objects were made in bronze, and that gold was used sparingly.
The objects from the mid Xiongnu culture were discovered by the Russian expedition of P.K. Kozlov at a group of Xiongnu royal tombs at Noin-Ula in the Toula River valley. The tombs yielded wooden coffins in the style of Han, brocade, lacquer ware, and jades from China, woolen textiles and embroideries from Central Asia or Iran, which were buried with carpets and felt fabrics of the Xiongnu themselves. Some of them can be identified with the objects mentioned in Shiji by Sima Qian, or Honshu by Bangu of the Former Han, in their accounts of the Xiongnu. The unearthed objects exemplified active commercial and cultural exchanges that took place between the East and the West through the plains of Eurasia.
The overall picture of the nomadic equestrian peoples in the plains of the eastern and western Eurasia, which had been vaguely known in literary accounts, came to emerge in actuality. As described above, it became possible to compare the civilization of the nomadic equestrian tribes with that of the agricultural city-state, and to study their correlation. Peter I should be noted for his discover)’ of the civilization of the nomadic equestrian peoples which had spread east and west along the northern rim of the Eurasian Continent.
If it can be concluded that the agricultural city-state civilization originated in Mesopotamia in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates, the civilization of the nomadic equestrian peoples must have originated in ancient Scythia in the great plains of the southern Russia, including the northern Caucasus. It probably was not by accident that these great civilizations developed relatively close to each other and that they both had good facilities of land and water transport. Their geographical proximity made it possible to interact with each other. Civilizations of agricultural city-states and nomadic equestrian states always coexisted in the world’s history. The history of human development has been interwoven with both types of civilization. The encounter of the nomadic equestrian peoples of the southern Russia with Hellenism was an example of such historical development. We are pleased to present this exhibition which introduces some of the newly discovered objects.
From Silk Road to International Cooperation
Silk Road is a historical phenomenon which passed a long way of development and which possesses its own destiny. The most intensive trade relations that existed really along this road coincided on the whole with the medieval time. However, already during first centuries A.l). on the Lower Don and in the Steppes of the Lower Volga and of the southern Cis-Ural region as well, appeared Chinese goods, which together with abundant imported Roman artefacts could be regarded as traces of the fact that here lay tracks of the Great Silk Road. Commercial caravans carrying varied goods, among which Chinese silk was far from being the sole item, traversed the deserts of Central Asia, crossed high mountain ranges, and brought to Europe those fruits of high cultural development which were yielded by the peoples of East Asia. Although many lives were lost on this road, it opened a path from East to West, provoked interest in the East for the West. Then, via this path departed European travellers, who returned with primary information on the East Asian peoples and cultures which had little resemblance to the European ones. The names of Marco Polo, John de Plano Carpini, and William de Rubruquis are not solely related to the history of geography, they are the property of all mankind.
Long-term history of such a big historical phenomenon, like Silk Road, commenced in profound antiquity, probably still in the neolithic period. From this time it is possible to date the beginning of big scale human migrations from West to East, i.e. from the European Steppes to the Steppes and deserts of South Siberia as well as of Inner Asia. Now there are a lot of evidences, disclosed by archaeologists and palaeoanthropologists, for the human migrations from West to East, and the amount of those evidences is growing, in the course of contemporary researches. Ancient ethnic map of the Steppes in Eurasia was in principle different from the modem one and we are now only beginning to reconstruct its contour. Nevertheless, an important historical conclusion is already visible now: Central regions of Eurasia were chiefly inhabited by the people of Western origin. This significant process went on still in later periods. In Tuva, the Cis-Baikal region and Mongolia, we are unveiling people of the Europeoid type even in Middle Age.
Human migrations from East to West through the Steppe corridor started considerably later, and whereas first waves took place apparently no earlier than the boundary between 2nd and 1st mil. B.C., they got substantially intensified to the beginning of our era. It is interesting to note that penetration of the Mongoloids to the West was initially quite sporadic, while their cultural influence was quite intense: The powerful Karasuk culture in South Siberia and Central Asia bears clear witness to it. Later on, however, demographic pressure from the East had increased and went on increasing also during 1st mil. A.D. This finally brought about the inclusion of Central Asian and South Siberian territories into an enormous Mongoloid area of Eurasia. The great migration of peoples gave birth to a subsequent recarving of the ethnic map, and an eastern culture tradition as well as a Mongoloid physical type were in part introduced with this migration even to Central Europe, hence for this period it may be fair to speak about an immense influence of the East on the West.
On a background of human migrations and of military collisions caused thereby, and against a background of emergence and fall of new cultures as well as of short-lived political formations, trades were in progress. Merchants went on with their caravan trips, striking commercial bargains and bringing back unfamiliar goods with them. Those who had been speaking in various languages before, came to be accustomed to understanding each other. Having learned to understand, they began to observe each other more precisely, looking for similarities and striving to explain differences.
Thus, firstly in tragic military collisions, and then in subsequent peaceful contacts, there came to be formed mutual understanding, which was to make Silk Road nowadays a symbol of ideological interrelations between West and East. This mutual understanding compels us, people of the modern world, to look along Silk Road, to look for examples of political, cultural, and language contacts, to discover from those contacts any instructive historical lessons of the past. The famous poetic contraposition of West and East, which belongs to a great poet Kipling [Rudyard Kipling] and which was a historical reality during the last century, is becoming more and more a beautiful literary image. Speaking still in different languages, each one of us inevitably feels in mind the necessity to shift to one language, i.e. a language of respect and trust.
I am profoundly convinced that the exhibition “The Treasures of Nomadic Tribes in South Russia” represents an outstanding phenomenon on the way to establish this language.
In the 8 th to 1 st centuries B.C., inhabitants of the vast steppes of the Eurasian continent, from the lower reaches of the Danube River of Eastern Europe in the west, to the highlands of Northern China in the east, completed the change from their past primitive agricultural, settled life to a nomadic life. The vast plain resembles a sea in the sense that it links distant areas, and the moving groups of nomads, on horseback and in covered wagons, played the role of a fleet of vessels. As a result, contacts among remote races were strengthened, with exchanges of materials and ideas constantly taking place. Further, numerous cattle and other domestic animals were concentrated in certain nomadic clans, with division of level starting within tribes or tribal combinations. Among the gold arts and crafts of Sarmatia (3rd century B.C. to 2nd century A.D.), which form the basis of the current exhibition, almost all were discovered in the tombs of nomadic chieftains.
Before the Sarmatian Age, there was an era called the Scythian Age, or the Scytho-Saka Age, or the era of nomadic horsemen called the Scytho-Siberian Age. In this era, a widespread culture unprecedented in the history of mankind was formed. There were the three elements, common to this culture; weapons, saddlery, and animal designs (animal style). The characteristics of the weapons were the arrowhead in the shape of a triangular wing or a trigonal pyramid, and the dagger (.akinak) with the sword guard shaped like a butterfly with wings spread out, or in the shape of the kiney. Of their saddler)’, the bit put into the horse’s mouth and the cheekpieces amazingly resemble those used throughout the areas of the Scytho- Siberian world. Third are the unique animal designs used on the saddlery, weapons and personal ornaments. Besides these, kurgan (tumulus), along with its spacious tomb chamber, also has much in common with the tombs of this world. I feel that tumuli ancient mound-shaped tombs in the Korean Peninsula and in Japan (such as the ancient Fujinoki tumulus in Nara) are also somehow related to the kurgan of the Scytho-Siberian world. It may be mentioned that the characteristics of the Sarmatian gold arts and crafts are that they inherited and changed the designs of this Scytho-Siberian world and then added polychromy (multicolored decoration) by inlaid red and blue precious stones.
Generally, the arts and crafts of nomads have borrowed characteristics. Many were imported from distant centers of civilization such as China, the Orient and areas of Hellenism, or were objects, hand-made by the order of nomad noblemen, by skilled craftsmen of neighboring races. As evidence of this, the groups of relics excavated in the area surrounding the great plain from the end of the 17th century to the present can be cited. In other words, there are quite a lot of similarities between the relics discovered from the kurgan of the nomads of the plain, including the Sarmatians, and those from the surrounding areas. I intend to compare those arts and crafts, but before that, I must cite the main groups of relics from the area surrounding Sarmatia.
Main groups of relics from the area surrounding Sarmatia
The treasure of the Oxus, which is kept at the British Museum, is a valuable collection discovered somewhere on the bank of the great Oxus River (Amu Darya) in Central Asia in 1877. The exact site is not known. The most convincing explanation mentions the remains of the castle in the capital, Takht-i Kuwad. There exists the remains of the Takht-i Sangin Shrine where numerous magnificent relics of the Greco-Bactrian Period were recently discovered. The groups of relics belong to the period of sometime around 600-300 B.C., and it is said ‘ it they were treasures offered at the shrine during a period of 200 years. Most are gold and silver figures, containers, bracelets, necklaces, rings, plaques with figures of humans and animals depicted on them, coins, and so forth—about 200 items. It is assumed that the relics were hurriedly hidden under the floor of the shrine when Alexander the Great attacked.
Peter I Siberian Collection
With the migration of Russian farmers to West Siberia from the end of the 17th century to the first half of the 18th century, excavations of gold relics from the kurgans of this area were made during the slack season for farmers. In the beginning, the Russians in the Ishini River basin engaged in this work, but this gradually spread to the east and ultimately to the area between the Ob River and the Irtysh River. They left for the plain, organizing a party of 200 to 300 persons and utilized the sled road just before it thawed. When they reached their destination, they were divided into groups according to the size of the targeted large kurgans to work. The reason for this was to protect themselves when they were attacked by the Kalmyk and Kazakh, who considered these kurgans the tombs of their ancestors. Mixed in with the bronze and iron relics, gold products of 2 to 3 kg were sometimes discovered. It was a Dutchman, N.K. Witsen (1641-1717), who first directed his attention to gold relics from the kurgans in Siberia. He obtained a considerable number of these pure gold relics from his acquaintance living in Russia, and in the second edition of his book “Northeastern Tartarie” (first edition 1692), he showed 4 pages of illustrations. However, the collection was put up for auction after his death, and the present whereabouts is not known. The Russian Czar, Peter I, became acquainted with Witsen and took an interest in the gold relics from Siberia. In 1716, a Ural factory owner, A. A. Demidov, presented the gold items he collected to the Czarina in celebration of the birth of the Crown Prince. The Czar saw this and ordered the Siberian governor, M. Gagarin, to collect these types of relics. The first group of the collection was delivered to the Czar in 1716, and by the order of the Czar, the collection numbering 250 objects, weighing a total of 30 kg, was kept by the Kunstkamera (the present Anthropology and Ethnology Museum building), the first museum in Russia. It was transferred to the Hermitage Museum in 1859 and has been kept there until the present. The objects in the collection are, without exception, gold products such as, belt ornaments, various ornamental plaques, and personal ornaments (necklaces, bracelets, rings earrings, and so forth). S. Rudenko, who conducted a full-scale research on these, considered that most of the objects in the collection dated from the 6th to 4th century B.C., with some dating back to the 7th century B.C., and down to the 2nd century B.C.
(C) Ruins (Group of ancient Pa/.yryk tombs and group of ancient Ulandryk tombs) of the Pazyryk Culture
The group of kurgans of the Pazyryk culture in the South Siberian mountainous region of Altai exists on a plateau approximately 2,000 meters above sea level. The kurgans were first investigated in 1929 by a team headed by U.S.S.R. archaeologist, S. Rudenko, in the vicinity of the Village of Pazyryk at the Great Ulagan River basin of the Altai Mountains. Rudenko excavated several kurgans of stone masonry work of diameters of 24 to 68 meters and heights of 1.75 to 4.1 meters. Although gold and silver objects had all been stolen, numerous relics just as valuable were discovered. It is said that after the ancient tombs had been built, water drifted into the coffin chamber and froze, allowing wood, leather, felt, fabrics, which normally would have decayed, to be preserved perfectly intact. In particular, wooden and leather saddleries, a wooden 4-wheeled vehicle, Chinese silk fabrics and a bronze mirrors, West Asian carpet and felt dating from the 5th and 4 th centuries B.C. were magnificent. In some of the wooden objects, gold foil flaws were noticed. These relics are kept at the Hermitage Museum.
For a period of approximately 20 years from 1968, V. Kubarev, a young anthropologist of Novosibirsk, excavated 42 frozen ancient mounds on the Ulandryk River bank near the boundary with Mongolia. There were not large kurgans like the ones Rudenko had excavated, but small kurgans of about 3 meters diameter. Judging from the artefacts from the excavation, they belonged to the same Pazyryk culture, and excavation clarified matters that could not be determined from large kurgans. In the summer of 1990, kurgans were investigated at Ukko, on the boundary with Mongolia in the Altai Mountains, and large-scale excavations are scheduled for the future. These relics are kept at the museum of the Archaeology Research Institute in the Siberian Branch of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences at Novosibirsk. The Pazyryk Culture belongs to the 5 th century to 1st century B.C.
(D) Tillya Tepe
Six ancient mounds were excavated at the outskirts of Shibarghan in the northern part of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union-Afghan Joint Archaeology Investigation Team, headed by Soviet Union archaeologist V. Sarianidi, from the end of 1978 to early 1979. Almost all items excavated were gold relics such as ornamental pendants, necklaces, clasps, weapons, rings, golden crowns, ornamental plates for attaching to garments, and so forth-approximalely 20.000 gold objects and two Chinese mirrors. Judging from several coins discovered in the tombs, the relics are considered to date from some time around in the middle of the 1st century A.l). The depth of the tomb was approximately 2 meters, the length 2.5 meters, and the width 1.5 meters. The body was buried, placed in a wooden coffin
with gorgeous personal ornaments.
The whole area of Shibarghan where Tillya Tepe is located was an important point on the Silk Road. From its position, it was at one time the territory of Parthia and at another lime the territory of Greco-Bactria, but basically it is considered to have been the territory of Parthia. What race left this group of mounds? There is a hypothesis that the Yiie-chih clan, which is depicted in the “Shih-chi (Chinese History)’’ and in “Han-shij (The History of Hans)”, moved west and a family of the clan left the mounds after overthrowing Greco-Bactria. However, for this hypothesis, the period is a bit late, so it appears that it would be appropriate to think that it was a powerful person of the Saka Parthia family, which was overthrown by Kushan during the unification of the Kushan nation. These tombs were accidentally discovered during the excavation of the Bronze Age remains. There were no indications on the surface of the ground. Judging from the magnificence of the favorite possessions of the dead, it is considered that for a short period prior to the downfall of the local power at the site, the body was buried during the night in secret by the family in fear of theft of the treasures. Further, amoung the Tillya Tepe objects excavated, relics with inscriptions in Greek, Chinese, and Kharoshti were included and attention was directed to it as being the first remains where the letters of the East and West met.
2 An attempt to compare some Sarmatian Relics
(A) The shape of the dagger sheath
As one commentator, E. Alekeeva, also points out, the shape of the dagger sheaths discovered at C.orgippia and Azov well resemble the Pazyryk culture dagger sheath (wooden, 4th century B.C.) discovered at the ancient mound of Ulandryk and that (gold) discovered at the ancient Tillya Tepe mound. Those resembling the Ulandryk type were also found in the ancient Ograkhti mound in South Siberia and the ancient Kokeri mound (said to have belonged to the Huns). Also, the same is depicted on the relief of the stone coffin of Antiochus I (reigned from 280-261 B.C.) located at Arsameia in Southwestern Anatolia. Following this, the same shape of dagger sheath was seen on a silver dish (3rd century A.D.) depicting the kings of the Sassan dynasty. It is clear from the illustrations that this type of dagger sheath is worn, tied to the right thigh with cords passed through its four holes. The Evenki tribe in Siberia also wears their knives (the shape of the sheath differs) tied to their right thight. The scholar of ancient Eurasian history of art, Katsumi Tanabe, considers that in the Altai region of Central Asia, “the dagger was influenced by the Akinak type dagger used by the Iranian race, such as Scythian, Median, and Persian, which spread to the Iranian nomads in Central Asia, the Sarmatians and the Parathians, who advanced to South Russia, the Iranian highlands, and Mesopotamia, thus spreading to these regions.” Further, this type of dagger sheath is not worn by people in general in the Parthian culture zone, but is firmly established as a dagger for use by people (royalty and nobility) in special positions and was inherited by the Persian Sassan dynasty. I “A Study of the Dagger of the Sassan Dynasty King” (1985)1. To be sure, it can be considered that this type of dagger sheath was invented by an equestrian people who wear pants and constantly mount and dismount horses, which spread to the direction of the Orient. As seen in the famous West Asian carpet dicovered from the Fifth Pazyryk mound in the mountainous region of Altai, the relation between Altai and the Orient was already close in the 5th century B.C.
(B) Motif of Monster Protecting Sacred Tree or God (or king)
With regard to the design showing a lion on both sides of
a sacred tress, L. Rempel, a scholar of Central Asian history of art, residing in Tashkent, explains in his book “The Chain of Ages” (1987) that it is a motif showing the lions protecting the sacred tree. From such views of Rempel, the gold ornamental belt plate in the Siberian collection of Peter I also has a design of a lion protecting the sacred tree. Rudenko offers the same interpretation. This design spread further to the East and is also seen on the bronze belt oraments (as indicated by Shu Takahama) of before and after the birth of Christ, which were excavated at Tung-chin Province in Ningxia, China.
The head of the “Dragon” on the pendant called “The Kind and the Dragon” by Sarianidi, the excavator who discovered Tillya Tepe, very closely resembles the head of the monster in the aforementioned Siberian collection. It can be considered that the design was changed a bit, replacing the sacred tree with the king (or the goddess). Further, the design of the necklace excavated from the Kurgan of the No.10 Kobyakovo mound, which was displayed at the current exhibition, is also interpreted as a motif showing half human/half animal monsters protecting the king (or the god) in the center. Also, the technique depicting the detail of the human figure with precious stones inlaid in the gold, utilizing the technique of openwork, is the same as in the case of the “King and the Dragon.” I wonder if these two were both produced in Bactria.
(C) At the ancient Khokhlach mound near the city of Novocherkassk of the lower reaches of the Don River, a gold crown (1st century) with a vertical ornament was discovered in the 19th century. Besides a goddess figure, a deer, bird, and tree were depicted on this gold crown. Examples of trees and birds appearing in vertical ornaments on gold crowns and gold copper crowns are also seen in Tillya Tepe (1st century), the good Sabong-chpng mound in Kyongju, Korea (mid-5th century or early 6th century,) and the ancient Fujinoki mound in Nara (late 6th century). (Also, such ornamentation is seen in the headgear of the “Human golden figure” discovered from the Issyk-Kurgan near Alma Ata, but the style on the headgear is not vertical.) Although it is difficult to directly link the aforementioned four examples, what is common to all is the idea of worship of gold, trees, and birds. Sarianidi, the archaeologist, mentions that the gold crown of Tillya Tepe and the gold crown of Khokhlach both may have come from Bactria. Further, Takayasu Higuchi, who actually saw the gold crown discovered at Tillya Tepe, which is kept at the Kabul Museum, mentioned, “A crown closely resembling the shape of this gold crown existed in the period of the Three Kingdoms in Korea. The gilted bronze crown of the Kokuryo Period excavated in Pyongynag and the gold crown excavated from the tomb of Pekche’s King Muryong at Kyongju in Korea also had the vertical ornamentation”
(D) Necklace Design
Both the gold necklace discovered at the Elizabetovskaya necropolis and the gold necklace (4th century B.C.) of the Siberian collection, displayed at the current exhibition, have a lion’s head at the end. Similarly, the bracelet (3rd to 1st century
B.C.) displayed at the current exhibition, which was discovered at the village of Dinskaya and the Oxus treasure bracelet (No. 124 in Dalton’s book) both have a lion’s head of similar design at the end. It is clear that this design originated in the Orient.
(E) Chinese Mirror
The shape of the Chinese mirror (1 st century B.C. to 1st century a.d.) displayed at the current exhibition, which was discovered at the ancient Vinograd village mound, closely resembles the mirror with linked arc pattern excavated in North Kyongsang Province in Korea (Illustration 30-59 in Takayasu Higuchi’s “Ancient Mirror”). These two seem to have come from the same place. Generally, the Sarmatian culture is divided into the early period (2nd-lst century B.C.), middle period (1st—latter-half of 2nd century A.D.), and the latter period (2nd-4th century A.D.), but A. Skripkin points out that the Chinese-style mirror makes its appearance in the Southern Russian Plain during the middle period of this age. Also, the appearance of the numerous animal designs inlaid with turquoise are of about the same period. The mirrors displayed at the current exhibition, such as the two-faced mirror, the mirror with the inscriptions of “Longevity” introduced by Matsuji Umehara in 1938 and kept at the Vladikavkaz (Ordzhonikidze) Museum, and the three-faced Chinese mirrors discovered at Tillya Tepe in 1978 all have linked arc pattern. These are relics that perhaps were made in the Central Plain of China and spread to the West area through the Dzungaria Basin. The Soviet Union’s scholar, Lubo-Lesnichenko, pointed out that this route had existed since before the Han dynasty and called this “the Western Route to the North to South Route.” “Western” here means west from China. Where could the gold objects discovered from the Sarmatian tombs have come from, many of which at least can not be considered as having been made by the Sarmatian tribes who were nomads? Even if they were nomads, not all members led nomadic lives but there is a good possibility that there were some craftsmen who lived settled lives. Accordingly, some might probably have been made by Sarmatian craftsmen. However, for example, the gold crown of Khokhlach, the necklace and dagger sheath discovered in the village of Kobyakovo must have been made at some other area and imported. Sarianidi places great importance on Bactria as the place where old art objects come from, hecause it is the place where the Oxus treasures and Tillya Tupe relics came from.
Taking the researches of Sarianidi and K.F Smirnov into consideration, I presume that most of the gold arts dating from the Scytho-Siberian Age and the Scytlw-Sarmatian Age were made in two central areas—Bactria and the northern shore of the Black Sea. The origin of designs is, of course, another question. It is considered that the designs were also interchanged between these two centers. Many of the golden arts might have changed hands by trade, or as trophies. After all, the incorruptible gold objects can be seen as the products of the unfinished dreams of men, fated to return to dust.
The Scythians of the Caucases and the Northern Black Sea Steppes
The Scythians, who spoke an Eastern Iranian language, inhabited the steppes of South-East Europe in the 7th—3rd centuries B.C. By the 3rd century A.L)., however, this vast area was reduced to a part of the Crimean Peninsula and the lower reaches of the rivers Dnieper and Bug, the so-called Scythia Minor.
Ancient Oriental documents yield but limited data on Scythians. Nevertheless, we have a certain amount of evidence from Assyrian. Greek and Roman records. Herodotus, the Greek historian, gives a good account of Scythia and its people in his narration about the great campaign of the Persian king Darius I against the Scythians circa 514 B.C. He touches on the borders of Scythia, the Scythian way of life, customs, religion, trade routes, tribal life and order and tribal interrelations.
Herodotus describes Scythia as a square area bordered by the rivers Danube in the west and Don in the east.The Scythian world and Scythian ways were known in the adjacent Greek trading cities along the north shores of the Black Sea, where most Greek authors of the 5th—4th centuries B.C. collected the information on the Scythians.
Recent archaeological excavations reveal numerous archaic Scythian monuments in the Caucasian steppes. However, the 5th and 4th century authors exclude the Caucasus from the Scythian domain. According to M.I. RostovUeff, this fact was due to the shift of the political center of the Scythians to the northern steppes above the Black Sea in the 6th century B.C. In rebuttal, certain researchers (namely M.N. Pogrebova and D.S. Rayevsky) assume that the bearers of the earlier Scythian culture, i.e. those who inhabited the steppes of the Northern Caucasus and undertook expeditions to Asia, cannot be identified as the Scythians known to Herodotus.
The Scythian and Hellenistic versions of the legend of Scythian origins collected and recorded by Herodotus deal with the area north of the Black Sea. The Scythian version of the legend says that the first human being was Targitaus, the son of Zeus and the daughter of the Borysthenes river. Targitaus had three sons. Kolaxais, the youngest of the brothers, becomes the first ruler of the Scythians after he comes to possess the golden plough with a yoke, battle-axe and bowl, gifts fallen from the heavens. These objects were kept as sacred relics in the greatest of Scythian kingdoms after the realm had been divided by Kolaxais between his sons. According to the Hellenistic version, Heracles drove the bulls of the three-headed monster Geryones to an uninhabited land where he met a snake-legged goddess who forced him to marry her. Their youngest son, Scythes, attained the Scythian throne after standing a test.
However, Herodotus himself believed in the third version which says that the Scythians came from Asia. After being repulsed by the Massagetae, the Scythians crossed the river Araxes and invaded the land of the Cimmerians who fled without fighting. Driving the Cimmerians across the Caucasus “that they had on their right side ” the Scythians came to the Middle East Furthermore, there is another version of the legend which touches on the early settlement of the Scythians. Diodorus Siculus, a 1st century B.C. author, who, according to M.I. RostovtzefF, used an earlier source, says that “the Scythians inhabited an area near the river Araxes in insignificant numbers… but in ancient times… they had a country at the foot of the Caucasian Mountains, in the plains on the shore of the Caspian Sea and the Maeotian Lake (Azov Sea), as well as other areas up to the river Tanais (Don)”.
In this land Scythes, son of Zeus and the snake-legged goddess, from whose name derives the name Scythian, was born. His descendants, Pales and Napes, had become ancestors of two ethnoses. Palians and Napians, who. acting jointly, conquered the country beyond the Tanais river up to Thrace and then turned in the opposite direction, spreading their rule up to the Egyptian river Nile”.
In spite of the discrepancies between the legends recorded by Herodotus and Diodorus, both touch on the presence of the Scythians in the steppes of the Northern Caucasus from the very beginning of their emergence on the historical scene. Diodorus, however, mentions that the Caucasus was an area of consolidation of the Scythians, since it was inhabited by the conquerors (Scythians) as well as the defeated, possibly the Cimmerians (A.M. Khazanov). Yet Herodotus considers it an area the Scythians merely passed through on their way from the Pontic steppes to the Middle East
In the European steppes the beginning of the 1st century B.C. became an era of transition not only from the Bronze to the Iron age but from settled economy to the nomadic cattle-breeding as well Subsequently the migration of huge population masses intensified.
I lorse breeding and the emergence of military units indispensable for the protection of cattle and conquest of new territories made the strain of warlike activities an innate trait of nomadic nature, especially with regard to the social layer of men-at-arms. Considerable migrations of people of the Iranian stock from the Volga area to the steppes north of the Black Sea and the Caucasus took place at the late Bronze Age. These processes were superseded by similar movement of smaller bands of nomads, especially warriors, aiming to ransack the tribes they assaulted and defeated. The fact that both Herodotus and Diodorus maintain that at first the Scythians had not been numerous probably reflects the distinctive traits of the progress of a small group consisting primarily of warriors. These warriors, having conquered the Caucasus and the steppes north of the Black Sea, made up the warrior elite amid the tribes whose main activity had been agriculture and cattle breeding. Although they had no deep influence by these tribes, the natives were quick to conceive the advantages of war-gear brought by the Scythians. The Scythians themselves showed interest in sustaining the bearers of the Koban culture, inhabitants of the Central Caucasus, and the Maeotis, inhabitants of the western Caucasus, since they were producers of such valuable goods as bronze war-gear. bronze vessels and earthenware, agricultural products. The Caucasian steppes with intersected landscapes provided fodder for the cattle in winter without long trips. The environment also promoted the transition of commoners to a quasi-sedentary life but the elite kept on their nomadic ways. This assumption is based on finds from the barrows of Scythian warriors (circa 7th—6th centuries B.C.) known as men-at-arms burials, having under the embankment but one grave, excavated in certain steppe valleys of the Caucasus (the barrows of Krasnoye Znamya, Kelermes, Ul’, Novozavedennoye II, Stavropol, Cvardeyskoye, Stepnoye, Kost- romskaya etc. cemeteries).
Artifacts characteristic of the Scythian culture were found in these burial sites amid the aboriginal funeral inventory. Warrior graves with purely Scythian war-gear can be identified. Anthropological evidence is indicative of the existence of a physical type differing from, that of the aboriginals among the warriors (Ullubaganaly II cemetery). There are two types of interment in the Kuban river basin, i.e. mound and ground graves. The former type is characteristic of Scythian burials while the latter of the Maeotic ones. L.K. Galanina, the excavator of the Kelermes cemetery’, explains these facts as the result of the existence as early as in the 7 th century B.C. of a Scytho-Maeotic military alliance headed by the Scythian nobility.
Judging from the Scythian monuments found in central Ciscaucasia, the relations between the Scythians and the locals start as early as the late 8th-early 7th centuries B.C.
Already in the beginning of the present century the wealthiest barrows of the Scythian elite (circa 7th—5th centuries B.C.) were excavated in the Kuban steppes near the Kostrom- skaya stanitsa (cossack village), Kelermes and Ul’ (N.I. Veselovsky & D. Schultz). The excavations there are currently in progress (A. Yu. Alexeyev & A.M. Leskov). The unearthed artifacts are indicative of the concentration of wealth among the high ranking Scythian warriors. Many of the luxury items can be traced to exquisite Asian craftsmanship and some, e.g. scabbard and sword-hilt faced with stamped gold plate found in the Kelermes barrow, were obviously custom-made for the Scythians by an Asian artisan.
Near the grave of a noble Scythian there usually is an interment of numerous horses, being a symbol of the wealth of the deceased. In one of the UP barrows carcasses of more than 400 horses were found. Barrow cemeteries designed exclusively for the Scythian elite were found in the central Ciscaucasia near the villages Krasnoye Znamya and Novozavedennoye in the Stavropol region (V.G. Petrenko) and near the village Nartan in the Kabardin-Balkar Republic (V.M. Batchayev).
Despite the burial sites being looted, evidence was found that the deceased belonged to the elite horsemen who served as men-at-arms for a warlord or king. The king’s burial mound was immense and filled with various attributes of both social and religious authority.
Judging from the above-mentioned facts, one may safely assume that the center of archaic Scythia (circa 7th—6th centuries B.C.), including the major establishments of Scythian leaders and cultural centers of the Scythian kings, was situated in Ciscaucasia. Raids into Middle-Eastern countries must have been launched from here. Early Assyrian chronicles mention the presence of Scythians in the Middle East in the 70s of the 7th century. Herodotus refers this as well.
It is recorded that the Scythians under the king Ishpakai, in alliance with the Mannai, fought the Assyrians. Yet Esarhaddon, the Assyrian ruler, succeeded in forming an alliance with Partatua, the ruler of the Scythian kingdom Ishkuza (its localization still remains a matter of controversy), and joined the Scythians in their war against the Medians and the Mannai. Consequently, the Scythians established their rule in Asia under the reign of Partatua’s son Madies, and “imposed a tribute on many nations.’’ Furthermore, the Scythians raided and looted some areas, an act considered a standard practice in those days. According to Herodotus, they had ruled that region for 28 years until supressed by the Median king Kiaxares who turned upon them, killing some and routing the rest back to Scythia.
The presence of the Scythians in the Middle East deeply influenced their culture. They tried to imitate the manners of Asian kings and went on to adopt not only their symbols of power but also the elements of the warcraft and weapons.
From this period come chariots decorated with so-called top-pieces found at the barrows of the Ciscaucasia. M.I. Rostovtzeff notes that the form of the Scythian top-pieces bears the impact of the influence of the Hittite, Assyrian and Transcaucasian specimens.
V.A. Ilyinskaya discovered, while analyzing the designs on the top-pieces, that the animal motifs depicting bulls, deer, eagles, griffins, horses, birds and emblems of the sun were somehow related to the Sun cult and the concept of fertility. The beam of a chariot found in the barrow I of the Krasnoye Znamya cemetery bears an image of the goddess Ishtar. This motif is believed to be an imitation of the one designed on the chariot belonging to Ashurbanipal.
The horse harness, armour, helmets, pectorals, diadems, earrings as well as some concepts of Asian religions, were adopted. The Scythian pantheon consisted of seven deities, including the renowned Tahiti (identical to H<>stia), the goddess of fire. The cult of fire as the sacred substance is well attested in the Iranian Zoroastrian tradition. There is a clear relation between this goddess and the king as the sacred ruler of the Scythians (D.S. Rayevsky & S.S. Bessonova).
According to Herodotus, the Scythians had no fixed places of worship, no altars to worship the gods except the god Ares. It is assumed that building of the fire-temple under the barrow of the king in the 7th century’ B.C. in the Stavropol region derives from the Asian tradition.
Scythian art has some distinctive styles related to zoo- morphic, anthropomorphic and geometrical patterns. The geometrical style passed on from the previous era and became a part of Scythian culture. In the archaic period there were not so many anthropomorphic images. In the original Scythian art those images are monumental sculptures carved on monolithic stone poles whose contours resemble those of a human body. In low relief on those stones a warrior bearing a weapon, representing Targitaus-Heracles, the progenitor of the Scythians and the first Scythian king, according to Scythian mythology, was carved. On the imported artifacts human images are repre-
sented as toreutics.
The most expressive and significant Scythian art form is the so-called Scythian Animal Style, an innovative form of early nomadic art. where animal motifs constitute the basis of the iirt. It “thus reflects the archaic forms of social perception where all cosmic and social forces are brought forth by animal designs” (L.A. Lelekov). These images were assumed to have magic power and mythical meaning in the Scythian symbolic pattern of the world (S.S. Bessonova & D.S. Rayevsky). The range of animal motifs is somewhat restricted. Real (lions, deer, eagles etc.) and fabulous (griffins, sphinxes, etc.) animals often appear together in a single design. The animal style was the art style of the Scythian elite class of men-at-arms and the ruling class since this design had been reserved for the warrior cult. Barrows of Scythian warriors (7th century B.C.) near the villages Krasnoye Znamya and Novozavedennoye contained weapons and bridles decorated with animal motifs. A typical motif was that of a feline believed to have originated from ancient Asia.
Returning to the topic of Scythian history, their regaining of strong control over the steppes of the Black Sea in the 6th century B.C. should be noted. They soon had to build a defence against the expedition of Darius 1 and that prompted all Scythian tribes to consolidate against the common enemy. At the late 5th—early 4 th centuries B.C. preliminary conditions were set up for the emergence of a Scythian state with a center located in the Lower Dnieper area. The center of administration and craftsmanship was located at present-day Kamenka village. At the 4th century B.C. the Scythian realm reached its heyday under the king Ateas. Ateas took control over all Scythian territory, extending from the river Danube to the river Don and began the expansion towards the west. It is, however, difficult to speculate on the extent of the Scythian power towards the east. It can be assumed that since the Scythians had been nomads, they aspired to control the intermediary trade center at present-day cossack village Elizavetinskaya founded at the Don delta in the 5th century B.C. Most researchers assume that the multi-ethnic population of the delta were possibly under the rule of either native elite or the Scythians. There is in fact a barrow of such a nobleman discovered by V.P. Shilov among the so-called Five Brothers group of burial mounds, i.e. mound No.8. The arrangement of this barrow and the inventory that includes gold artifacts can be compared with but Scythian royal barrows such as Chertomlyk and Melitopol’.
Peril came to the Scythians from the East at the late 4 th century B.C. The Sarmatians started their move to the west and at the end of the 3rd century. Scythian rule survived but in Crimea and the Lower Dnieper basin. The Sarmatian period opens a new page in the history of nomads in the southern area of what now is U.S.S.R.
The Sarmatians from the River Don to the Ural Mountains
According to ancient tradition, nomadic cattle breeding tribes neighbored the Scythian to the east, on the opposite side of the River Tanais. They used a corrupt version of Scythian as their language and their life-styles were similar to the Scythians as well. To the Greeks they were first known as the Sauro- matians, then later as the Sarmatians. Herodotus terms them as of the Scythian stock as they were descendants of Scythian young men and the Amazones—the mythical tribe of female warriors. The Amazones had left their native Cappadocia and landed on the north coast of the Maeotis Lake (Azov Sea). Since they had set foot on Scythian domain, the Amazones found themselves in battle with the Scythians. Upon discovering that they were facing female warriors, the Scythians retreated, leaving only their young men by the camp of the Amazones. With the passing of time the relationship between the two turned amicable and together they left the Maeotis Coast for the steppes over the River Don.
Herodotus gives a peculiar accounts on the Sauromatians and their traditions in regard to women. Their women rode on horseback, were capable of archery and dart throwing. They even went on hunts together with their men, took part in raids and wore the same clothing as their men. Furthermore, they were not trained for women’s work. Herodotus adds that no Sauromatian woman would marry until she kills at least one enemy. Such was the tradition of Sauromatian women since ancient times.
It is evident, according to legends passed on from Herodotus and Pseudo-Hippocrates, that distinctive rules dealing with their social position bound a Sauromatian women when comparing them to the Scythian ones.
Herodotus mentions that the journey along the land of Sauromatians “takes 15 days, starting off on a north-bound direction from the corner of the Maeotis Lake’*. It is difficult to figure out how far east and north this land was from the Don delta, as information obtained from the manuscripts of ancient authers is considerably controversial. However, relying on the archaeological material we can suppose that the Sauromatians had lived on the left bank downstream of the River Don, in the area between the rivers Don and Volga, also on the lands over Volga.
Nomadic tribes of the South Ural region were related to the Sauromatians by language (much the same way as the Scythian language was akin to that of the Iranian), and by material culture. However, they were not identical and researchers identify them differently. Some researchers refer to them as the Issedons, others as Daai-Massagetaes. while some call them under both these names. The Sauromatians and the Southern Ural nomads inhabited the area between the domain of European Scythians and that of the Asian Sakas. It had determined the characteristic features of the archaeological culture of these people and their connection to the East and West Accordingly, the material culture of the Sauromatian tribes was more coherent to the culture of the Scythians who inhabited the regions north of the Black Sea, while that of the Southern Ural nomads was as such to that of the circle of Saka tribes.
A considerably peaceful relationship was maintained between the Scythians and the Sauromatians through the 6th and 5th centuries B.C. and some human penetrations to the neighbouring territory are evidence of the connections between these two nomadic massives.
However at the end of the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. this situation changes and the balance, although somewhat unstable, becomes disturbed with more Sauromatian crossings to the right river bank of Don. There were Sauromatian monuments (4th century B.C.) erected in the lowlands between the River Don and Severtskii Donets.
By ancient tradition, going back to the 4 th century B.C., the right side of the Lower Don and a part of the northern coastline of Lake Maeotis belonged to the Sauromatians.
The 4 th century B.C. marks the buildup of powerful nomadic tribes’ union in the Southern Ural steppes, the formation of early Sarmatian culture, followed by the beginning of the first total migration of the nomadic tribes to the land of the Sauromatians in the years between the end of the 4 th to the beginning of the 3rd centuries B.C.
These newcomers fortified themselves in the Lower Volga region and assimilated partially the Sauromatians. The others forced out the Sauromatians to the eastern steppes near the Azov Sea and Kuban.
From the cronicles by the authors of the 4th and the beginning of the 3rd centuries B.C. we find the names Syrmatae, Sarmatae and Sarmatia (Eudoxus, Pseudo-Skylax, Theophrastus).
The 3rd century^ B.C. seemed to be a turning point in the history of Azov Sea’s eastern coast inhabitants and Kuban steppe inhabitants. Since that time the ethnocultural and political situation in the region undergoes changes. The Sauromatians forced out from their lands, move southwest and settle in the eastern steppes along the Azov Sea and the right banks of the River Kuban. Little later they appear on its left banks, in the area between the Kuban and I^ba rivers. Undoubtedly, the early Sarmatians. having settled the regions of the Lower Volga and the area between the Don and Volga rivers, took part in this movement together with the Sauromatians. However, this process was not peaceful. It is confirmed by the violent distraction of the Greek colony on the Elizavetinskoe settlement in the 60th years of the 3rd century B.C. (This colony was founded in the Don delta at the beginning of the 3rd century B.C.). It doesn’t matter whether the Sarmatians had destroyed the colony on their way either to the Scythia or to the Azov Sea, it is important that this event indicates the time and nature of their movement. Most of the researchers assume that the nomadic
tribes having settled the Western Caucasus’ steppes correlate with “the Siraces” of the ancient authors.
The Siraces has developed the new territories near the Maeotis of Kuban. Evidently, the Siraces has submitted the latters and incorporated them in their military and political alliance, which had been initiated by the nomads and had a mixed ethnic structure. There were various contacts made, such as economic, political and ethnic, between the local folk and the nomadic Sarmatians. There were cross-cultural influences between them and the Maeotian elite adopted some tastes and traditions of the Sarmatians (adoption of the objects depicting the so-called Animal style, weapons, use of bural mounds etc.). The Sarmatians in turn became to use Kuban ceramic pottery and other objects made by Maeotian craftsmen (mirrors, etc.). That is why in the last periodization this era in Kuban, between the 3rd century B.C. and 3rd century a.d., is referred as the Sarmato-Maeotian period.
At almost the same time, i.e. the latter years of the 4th century to the 3rd century the Sarmatians carried out prolonged raids into the Scythian domain, which then had resulted in the mass migration to the steppes of Northern Black Sea Coast in the end of the 3rd to the beginning of the 2nd centuries B.C. Diodorus the Sicilian writes that the Sarmatians had become stronger and devastated Scythia, killing many Scythians.
The Sarmatians attained strong political power in the steppe region of Northern Black Sea Coast after conquering Scythia and forcing out the Scythians to the Crimean steppes and the Lower Dnieper.
Strabon’s book “The Geography” (which reflects the reality of the period on the border of the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C. or the period between the 2nd century and mid-lst century B.C.) mentions new tribal offsprings of the Sarmatians such as Siraces, Roxolani, Aorsi and Iazyges.
Upon reaching the steppes of Northern Black Sea Coast, the Sarmatians came into the close contact with the local population of ancient colonies such as of the Bosporus kingdom and the Tanais. Experiencing the influences of Greek culture and then the Roman culture, they at the same time exerted their own great influence on the traditions and culture of the Greek colonies population. The powerful, warlike and mobile Sarmatians took part in every kind of war or conflict that occurred between the Bosporus kingdom and Rome. They took part in other wars between the cities of Northern Black Sea Coast, taking the side of one or the another.
In the Siraces-Aorsi War in 49 a.d. the Siraces were defeated. After this, within a period not later than the third quarter of the 1st century a.d., in the steppes along the River Don. on the Northern Black Sea Coast and along the Danube River a new great nomadic union arose—the Alans. Later the Alans submitted or absorbed all the other Sarmatian tribes. The bural mounds (late 1st- mid-2nd centuries A.D.) filled with riches found in the Lower Don region are believed to have belonged to these Alans. In these barrows were found the objects in the so-called Animal style or feature combinations of animal and fantastic anthropozoomorphous motives which are striking of their multi-coloured polychrome way. There were also many objects found in the Don region burial mounds which may be considered to be of the Oriental production. To name some we have the sword from the burial mound at Visochino, the comb and bracelet from that near the city Rostov-on-Don, Minor Asian red laquered vessels, glass goblets, Chinese mirrors, sword with jade scabbard and brackets and other Asian swords with scabbards.
In contrast, there are also objects which are of Western Italian origin, possibly from Kapua and Pompeii, such as silver and bronze tableware (vessels with lockets excavated from the Sadovyi burial mound, etc.). Things like combs, rich daggers, expensive tablesets, were acquired by the Sarmatians and later the Alans in the form of gifts or as the trophies. On the other hand numerous beads, red laquered vessels, Chinese mirrors and other items were apparently acquired through trade with the East and the West which was intensively carried out on the latter years of the 1st century to the mid-3rd century A.D. Many of the objects came by the way of the Silk Road which undoubtedly must have extended through the region of the Lower Don in which was located the city of Tanais. Strabon writes that “Tanais was a common center of trade for the Western and Eastern nomads as well as that for the sailing from Bosporus along the 1лке” (Azov Sea).
It appears that the well-known Golden Burial Site in Kuban (2nd to the first half of the 3rd century A.D.) belonged to Alans. These rich warriors burials contained the numerous objects imported mainly from East and West Italy.
The authors of the latter half of the 1st century through to the 4th century A.D. frequently mention the Alans. These Alans carried out systematical raids into the Eastern Roman provinces and into the lands behind the Caucasus and were much feared by the aboriginals. They were considered to be savage and indomitable. One of the authors. Aurelius Victor, wrote in the second part of the 4th century A.D. that the Alans were worse than any disaster.
The invasion of the Huns in the latter years of the 4th century a.d. put an end to the existence of the independent unions of the Sarmatian nomadic tribes in the Eurasian steppes. Some had been exterminated while the others had joined the Huns who moved across the Europe with sword and fire.
The penetration of ancient cultures into the northern coasts of the Black Sea is assumed to have begun in the 7th century B.C. These cultures spread wildly from mid-6th century B.C. In the process of the immense Greek migrations, a series of small- and large-scale populated areas starting emerging, in time evolving into megalopolises such as Tyras, Olbia, Cher- sonesos, Theodosia, Pantikapaion, Hermonassa, Phanagoreia, and Gorgippia.
Furthermore, many colonies became formed as a result of secondary colonization—migrations into earlier founded population centers. The megalopolis, Tanais, emerged at the mouth of the River Don in such way.
As a result of such migratory processes, which covered an immense territory extending from the mouth of the Danube River to the Caucasian Mountains, all the way to the coastline of the Azov Sea, the territories of ancient states started becoming established; however, with constant changes in their borders. Such states had in their proximity various local tribes, agricultural settlers, and cattle-breeding nomads, who were all going through various stages of transitions from primitive into self- governing state systems.
Vast territories which included the Eurasian steppes, the Northern Caucasus, and Crimea were inhabited by Scythians, Taurians, Maeotians, and Sarmatians. Those who didn’t speak Greek were referred by the Greeks as barbaroi (barbarians). The appearance of Greeks in the barbarian world started off a closer contact between the variegated language speaking barbarians and the slave-holding Greek and Roman civilizations.
Mutual interrelations and influences consisting of various cultural and ethnic elements increased along with the passing of time. Closer economic, political, and cultural interests started forming among the heterogeneous ethnic groups, consequently leading to an original and unique type of ancient culture.
The ancient civilizations had developed in the Northern Caucasus region for a millennium, i.e. from the latter part of the 7th century B.C. until the Hun Invasion in the 4th century A.D. This fact accelerated the economic and cultural development of Eastern European tribes.
The ancient city of Miletos plays a major role in the establishment of ancient cultures in the Northern Caucasus region. The Greek colonies in the Northern Caucasus, independent from the metropolises, gradually became to represent the basic population of that area; however, there were nomadic tribes around them who came and went. These colonies had to provide themselves with food and other provisions and for achieving this they had to use land in their proximity. Their market capabilities became attractive to the tribes in their vicinity as well as to the Greeks back in the homeland. Practising the same social system as those of slave-holders, the states in the Northern Caucasus differed in terms of political organization. Among them were the polises—self-governing city states—which possessed their own properties and funds. One such city state was Olbia, situated at the mouths of the rivers Dnyestr and Bug. Olbia had grown to become the significant center of trade and manufacturing. It had established itself as a typical Greek polis, as early as the latter part of the 7th century B.C., exhibiting all the social and political significance of such a city state. Olbia was a democratic republic which practised slave trading. The main direction towards the development of this megalopolis was determined by the nature of relationship it had with the barbarian tribes it associated with. In the case of Olbia, the Scythians constituted the main barbaric tribe it was associated with. The rivers Dnyestr and Bug were the main link between the Olbia market and its barbaric trade partners, some of whom inhabited faraway lands.
Another city state which practised the slave trade was Chersonesos, the only Northern Caucasian colony of the Persian realm under Darius I. Situated on the outskirts of what is now Sevastopol. Chersonesos was subdivided into 2 communities, Kerkinitis and Kalos-Limen. It flourished as a big exporter of agricultural produce, namely grain and wine. Later on when the Scythian state in Crimea was established, however, , J lersones lost its identity as a self-governing state.
The consolidated polises on the both sides of the Kerch Straits (in ancient times called the Bosporos Cimmerian Straits) which were founded circa 480 B.C. later emerged as the Bosporos Kingdom with Pantikapaion as its capital. According to some researchers, the main reason for the integration of these polises into a unified state was to secure themselves from the Scythian. The reliance on mutual economic interests was another factor behind this unification.
The Bosporos Kingdom begins territorial expansion in the latter years of the 5th century B.C. in its effort to acquire fertile agricultural land. The victims of such expansion were the cities of Nymphaion (outskirts of modern day Kerch) under the protectorate of Athens, Theodosia which showed persistent resistance and was supported by Herakleia of Pontos, and Sindike which was situated in what is today the Taman Peninsula. The Maeotian tribes of Kuban and Eastern Azov gradually fell victim to the territorial expansion of the Bosporos Kingdom as well. By the end of the 4th century B.C., the territorial expansion of the Bosporos Kingdom had reached its full extent. In the 5 th and 4th centuries B.C., the Bosporos Kingdom began a uniquely- structured rule in its necessity to rule over a widespread territory. Their ruler segmented the realm, each to be governed by his brothers and sons. The cities in Bosporos thus maintained only external elements of polis autonomy, with the ruler possessing all the prerogatives of elite power.
The coastal cities along the Black Sea and in territories of the Bosporos Kingdom took over the role of main grain supplier to the Mediterranean market from Athens by the 4th century B.C. Their markets even came to exhibit abundant quantities of products made by Athenian craftsmen.
New trends in terms of world trade also surfaced in the 4th century B.C. The trade links for the Bosporos Kingdom shifted from Athens, Thasos, and Herakleia and to Rhodes, Kos, Per- gamon, Sinope, and some Egyptian cities.
In contrast, the role of grain exporters by the ancient cultural centers situated on the northern coast of the Black Sea continued to be preserved for centuries.
The Bosporos Kingdom maintained complicated relations with the barbarians throughout the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C. Strabon reports that the Bosporos Kingdom had to pay tribute to some barbarian rulers.
The fall of the Spartokos dynasty of the Bosporos Kingdom takes place consequent to the pressure from the Crimean state of Scythia and the buildup of Sarmatian tribes inhabiting the steppes near the Black Sea. The Bosporos Kingdom loses a great extent of its political independence and becomes part of the Pontos Kingdom under Mithradates VI Eupator. Under the rule of Mithradates the Great, the ancient cities along the northern coast of the Black Sea retain their internal polis system and their autonomy to an extent The wars between Mithradates and Rome exhaust the city states in the Bosporos region and one city, Phanagoreia, instigates a general rebellion. The Pontos ruler eventually commits suicide in Pantikapaion, the capital of the Bosporos Kingdom.
The Bosporos region saw its hard times in the transition period between the millennia. There was political unrest with changes of rulers, some of whom were influenced by Rome. Some rulers attained power aided by local tribes.
Aspurgos takes the Bosporos throne in 10 A.D. and becomes founder of a new Sarmatian dynasty which rules for the next 4 centuries. The Bosporos Kingdom nominally became a vassal dependency of Rome during the initial years of this new era (gold coins minted during this time depict the faces of members of the Roman imperial family). Practically, political matters practised by the Bosporos Kingdom were independent and in the hands of its rulers. These rulers assumed the ostentatious Asian ruler’s title of Great King or King of Kings and asserted the Bosporos cult dynasty. Inscriptions found in Phanagoreia and Gorgippia mention that there were king’s governors and other members of the city magistrate who administered the kingdom. Inscriptions from the 1st century1 A.D. have the names of many magistrates state and city. The Bosporos Kingdom enters its second age of prosperity in the latter days of the 1st century A.D. through to the beginning years of the 2nd century a.d. There were many construction projects carried out in its cities and mighty fortifications were erected. Temples applying the elaborate Corinthian design and residential blocks were built as well.
The ancient states situated on the northern shores of the Black Sea were faced with economic, social, and political crises in the 3rd century A.D. The emancipation of slaves brought about the dependency of labor on the Pelatai (common folk serving the properties).
These were times when pressure from the barbarians was building up and there were large-scale migrations of multi- tribal clusters headed by the Goths and including the Alans. Cities such as Olbia, Gorgippia, and Tanais were being plundered and in flames. The Bosporos throne seated rulers who did not belong to the traditional dynasty. Many small cities and villages ceased to exist by the suppression of the barbarians. In contrast, large population centers, in Propontis and on the shores of the Aegean Sea, which were trade partners of their counterparts along the northern shore of the Black Sea were pillaged and plundered.
The Bosporos Kingdom retains some economic and political stability only in the beginning of the 4th century A.D. and it comes under the Roman protectorate. The Roman emperor Julian received ambassadors from the Bosporos Kingdom in Constantinople.
The Hun Invasion of the latter years of the 70s (4 th century A.D.) terminated the millennium-old development of ancient states situated in the southern steppes (currently within the U.S.S.R. domain). Cities were burned down and left in ruins.
One exhibit of archaeological objects, miscellaneous and in sets, excavated in centers of ancient cultures in the northern shore of the Black Sea, were found to be exclusively from the Bosporos cities of Gorgippia and Tanais. These two cities were most closely situated to the barbarian domain which surrounded their state.
The archaeological research on Gorgippia was started off in 1960 by the Archaeological Institute, Academy of Sciences, U.S.S.R. At present a joint expedition by the Archaeological Institute and Krasnodar State Museum is being undertaken in Anapa. Many archaeological institutions are engaged in the preservation of an open air site of an ancient city in Anapa. The ruins of the ancient city of Gorgippia are situated in the center of the modern resort city of Anapa, which is itself situated on the northern shores of the Black Sea. Gorgippia had an area of 40 hectares and a port from which it exported grain. It is known from 2nd century inscriptions that a shipowner’s association existed there and that its members were united under the Poseidon cult Records show that athletic competition were held there in honor of the god Hermes. Various Mediterranean cults are believed to have existed in Gorgippia. There were temples of worship which exhibited the architecture of the three orders (Corinthian, Doric, and Ionian). Excavations revealed remains of marble and limestone monumental structures. The city’s defence walls and inhabitant dwellings (500-700 m2 each) were investigated. Research is being carried at the outskirts of the city in which were found fortifications, burial mounds, villages, and a necropolis. Hundreds of graves in this necropolis were excavated and tremendous amounts of high quality artistic objects were found. This unique burial complex of the 3rd century A.D. was thoroughly examined in the 1970s. Notable finds include a monumental stone vault with a fresco (contents already robbed in ancient times), a stone vault with carvings, and a grave replete with funeral articles. These three were covered by a mound in the ancient days. Symbols on the fresco and funeral articles suggest that the particular grave was that of members of a chief magistrate’s family who were akin to the ruler of the time. This necropolis reflects the extent of relations between the ancient cities on the northern coast of the Black Sea and the Bosporos Kingdom. Speculation can also be made on the extent of the powerful Sarmatian elite of the time.
The importance of the ancient city of Tanais, the northernmost city under the Bosporos Kingdom, was in no way inferior to that of Gorgippia in the annals of the Bosporos Kingdom. It
was the only ancient city erected in the steppes of the Azov Sea. Founded by the Bosporos Greeks in the beginning of the 3rd century B.C., it was situated at the mouth of the River Don. This location constituted a meeting point for tribal groups of Maeotians, Scythians, and Sarmatians and Tanais became a center of many ethnic and cross-cultural links.
For 7 centuries Tanais was an essential element for the economy and culture of several Eastern European tribes. Ancient chronicles depict the intense trade that was carried out in this city, a fact which is proven by archaeological studies as well. Decades of archaeological research on Tanais have been carried by the Archaeological Institute. Academy of Sciences, U.S.S.R. The excavation site is marked as an archaeological reserve.
Notable to mention is the recent discovery of two bronze statuettes, one Italian and the other West Roman, in Tanais.
The invasion of the Huns into the Northern Caucasus changed the political and ethnic map of that region. During the 5th—9th centuries A.D. the steppes to the north of the Kuban River, the Stavropol Hill, and the Kislovodsk Basin were inhabited by the ancient Bulgars, who descended from the tribal union of the Huns. These Bulgars, whose domain Byzantine refers as Great Bulgaria, had formed strong unity by the 7th century A.D. After the death of their leader Kurt (also referred as Kubrat: 605—665) this Great Bulgaria becomes split into separate hordes, some of which migrated to different lands, namely to Regions in the vicinity of the rivers Don, Danube, and mid-Volga. Some of them stayed in the Kuban and Stavropol areas, where they left some monuments. Objects which are evidence of their presence are found at the Kazazovskii burial site and in Humanrinskii borough, while at the Don Basin such objects are found in their burial sites at Zlivkinskii and Krymskii.
The Khazars, who establish a unity among the Turkic tribes, take leadership in the Daghestan region by the second half of the 6th century A.D. These Khazars, in alliance with the Alans of Central Caucasus, stage a war against the Arabs in the latter half of the 7th century A.D. In the 8th century A.D. the Khazars sieze the steppes of the Caucasus and establish the Khazar khaganate in the occupied region. Khazar domain also came to include a part of Crimea, some areas in East European steppes, and areas in the mid-Volga region. This Khazar khaganate was a multiethnic state, the main population of which constituted Khazars, Bulgars. and Alans. These tribes formed an original culture which is referred to as the Saltovo-Mayaki culture.
The Bulgars settlements at Kuban were near to those of a tribe who were the ancestors of the people called Adygeys (Adyghians) today. These Adygeys inhabited the Northwestern Caucasian Mountains and the coastal areas of the Black Sea. They engaged in agriculture and cattle-breeding. They are well known for their skill in various handicraft; in particular for their flaxen fabric called Tala. According to al-Massudi, the renown Arab geographer who lived in the 10th century’, this Tala was highly appreciated throughout Asia.
The Alans (Alani), who emerged from the Northern Caucasus in the 1st century A.D., became conquered by the Huns. Some of them joined the Huns and undertook in their campaigns in West Europe. Traces of their presence can be found in the annals of France, Germany, Italy. Spain, Romania, and Hungary’. Part of them settled in mountainous regions where they formed an original culture which continued until the 13th century A.D.
The culture of the Alans starts flourishing from the 8th century. Numerous colonies and cities of the Alans were discovered in their former domain, Alania, such as in Upper Djulat, Alkhan-Kala, Rim Gara (Roman Hill), Lower Arkhizkoe, Kyafarskoe, Ilichyovskoe, Pervomaiskoe, and Kunsha. Remains of pagan holy places, Christian churches, and various objects of craftsmanship were found in these areas. In fact, some cities which have evidences of having belonged to the Alans have been found but have yet to be investigated as to what their names were. The city of Maas, which was the capital of the Alania, was found in the vicinity of the present day Lower- Arkhiz. This city is known to have been the center of the Alan bishopric. The cities and villages of the Alania were built close to each other. The Arab geographer al-Massudi writes that a cry of a rooster in the Alan domain would be answered by all roosters within the domain.
The northern branch of the Silk Road, which follows the passages of the Caucasus (Klukhorskii & Sancharskii), passed through what was Western Alania. The Missimeian Road and the Darian Road, mentioned in Byzantine annals, were along these passages. The caravans laden with goods that left China went through Central Asia, the steppes near the Aral Sea, and went along the northern coast of the Caspian Sea. They would then cross the Volga near the Khazav capital of Itil, go through the steppes of Kalmikia. At Stavropol, they entered the Alan domain and passed Alan cities along the river Kuban, Zeler- chuk, Urup, and Laba. They would then pass through the passages of the Caucasus, go through the territory of ancient Abkhazia, and finally reach the Byzantine domain, their final destination. Caravans from Byzantine retracted the same route to go to Central Asia and China. The numerous fragments of silk fabrics found in stone burials in Karachaevo-Cherkessia (Moshchevaya Balka, Lower Arkhiz, Hasaut) are evidence of this trade. Silk in those days was being manufactured in various manufacturing centers which were in China, Sogd, Byzantine, Iran, and Syria.
The grave of an 8th century Chinese trader was discovered at a burial site located in Moshchevaya Balka in the beginning years of the 20th century. Found in this grave were pieces of a Chinese silk drawing, a scroll binding, and an accounting document in which was written—total six,… two thousand coins on the tenth of April. …coins, bought.
The kingdom of the Alans flourished between the 10th and 11th centuries. They formed an early-feudalistic state of which their kings were recognized as the most powerful in Southeast Europe. The Alan kings, in their effort of forming dynasties, intermarried with daughters of their neighboring royalties who ruled Georgia, Khazaria, Byzantine, and Rus. The interest aimed towards Alania was in no way incidental. The steppes of Caucasus were full of warlike nomads (Magyars, Pechenegs, Torks, and Oguz) consequent to the crushing of the Khazar khaganate by the Rus. These nomads made numerous raids on Caucasian states and Byzantine. The poweful Alans had control over the road to the Caucasus region and Asia Minor; they were capable of stopping such raids by these nomads into other states as well.
The Polovtsians (Kipchaks) penetrated into the steppes of the Caucasus region in the 30s of the 11th century. The most distinct monuments left by the Polovtsian culture are considered to be stone sculpture named the kamemaya baba. The kamennaya baba is found on top of burial mounds, reflecting a cult of ancestor worship (the deity of heroes) which was widespread among nomadic Polovtsians. Sometimes this sculpture was made of wood, as those found near the region of Don. A stone one was found in a hole made atop a burial mound in the Beshpagir Village, Stavropol. Two human skeletons were found at both sides of the base of this kamermaya baba. It could be assumed that these skeletons were consequent to human sacrifices.
Studying these kamennaya baba, who were made in the images of both males and females, it is easy to imagine the attire and implements of the people in those days. The female version of the kamennaya baba has all the details of a women’s attire and decor, while the male version is depicted with warrior implements and weapons.
All these Polovtsian statues display Mongolian features. The Polovtsians had migrated from the Volga and Kazakhstan regions to the steppes of the Don and Caucasus.
The Polovtsians were warlike nomads who kept their neighboring tribes in constant fear. They bred cattle, horses, and sheep. They inhabited the steppes in the Don and Caucasus regions until the Tatar invasion. They formed an alliance with the Alans and clashed with the invading Tatars in 1922. Neither side had a decisive victory. A record mentions, “The Alans fought side by side with the Kipchaks against the Tatars: neither of them won.” However, the Tatars later succeed in turning them against one another and finally crush them one at a time.
The Tatar invasion marks the beginning of a new era, the advent of modern ethnography.