Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Sarmatian Gold: The Mysteries of an Extinct Civilization

Filed under: cultural,history,intellectual,Russian — 01varvara @ 00.00

An exhibition entitled The Gold of Sarmatians has ended at the State Historical Museum in Moscow. Ancient jewellery incrusted with turquoise and corals, ritual cups and weaponry… The centrepiece of the exhibition was a pectoral badge of Sarmatian royal power, depicting a hunting scene. The so-called “beast style” is prevalent in Sarmatian decorative art; it used real and mythical animals, such as griffons, panthers, and elk… The sharp-pointed beaks and claws of totems symbolising the might and strength of the Sarmatians were designed to protect them during hunting and combat… Ornamented totems were made for horses too. The Sarmatians were born horsemen; as a result, their heavy cavalry was virtually unstoppable.

All the exhibits on display were unearthed by archaeologists over the fifty years in an area north of the Caspian Sea, a tiny portion of the vast kingdom that was controlled by the Sarmatians from the 6th century BC until the 4th century AD. A nomadic people speaking an Iranian language, the Sarmatians migrated from the river Tobol in Siberia up to the borders of Western Europe. The Sarmatian civilisation is surrounded by mystery and legends. With no traces of gold mining on Sarmatian territory, where did all the Sarmatian gold come from? Some historians assume it to be partly war booty and partly tribute paid for guarding the northern part of the ancient Silk Way between Europe with Asia.

Vyacheslav Plakhov, the exhibition’s curator, told Voice of Russia, “The nomadic Sarmatian state greatly influenced various events around the world. Amongst the exhibits, there is a gold bowl with the inscription, “A Gift to the Skeptukh (the Sarmatian king) from the Armenian Tsar”. The Sarmatian master Apsalak left his signature on the bowl. The 2,000-year-old artefact is material proof of data recorded by ancient authors”.

Research of Sarmatian burial sites in Russia began in the late-18th century. Russian scientists disproved a widespread myth about a Sarmatian Amazon tribe. Archaeologist Leonid Yablonsky said, “Like any myth, this one has a grain of truth. Female tombs with weaponry and horse furniture account for between 9 and 12% of the tombs in a burial mound, which shows that women could indeed take part in military actions and were fine equestrians. But, we have never found a burial site containing female tombs only”.

The Sarmatian civilisation existed for a whole millennium. Most modern people inhabiting the banks of the European rivers Don, Dnepr, Dnestr, and Danube, will be surprised to learn that the names of these rivers originated from the Sarmatian word that means “water”. The last distant descendents of the Sarmatians, the Ossetians, a people living in the Caucasus, have survived until contemporary times.

16 July 2008

Tatiana Zavyalova

Voice of Russia World Service


Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: