Can ancient artifacts help humans to learn and understand about ancient cultures? The answer is yes. Through the artifacts, we are able to understand the day to day life, culture, and religious beliefs.
We have learned so much about the Sumerian culture through the clay tablets. However, clay tablets were written in cuneiform scripts but our ancestors left the key (In case of cuneiform it is, Behistun inscription) for us as well to decode their language.
The same happened with the Egyptian culture. Thousands of artifacts discovered in archaeological excavation and through Rosetta stone, we learned to decipher the hieroglyphics and finally learned so many things about ancient Egyptian culture.
The biggest victory we got through these artifacts is, they helped us to resolve the myths and legends as well. Here are 7 top oldest artifacts found in Russia which will let us understand more about Russian culture.
Mezin Paleolithic Bird with Swastika – 13000 B.C
If you want to see just how deeply rooted the swastika pattern, a good place to start is Kiev where the National Museum of the History of Ukraine has a small ivory figurine of a female bird.
Made from the tusk of a mammoth, it was found in 1908 at the Paleolithic settlement of Mezin near the Russian border.
On the torso of the bird is engraved an elaborate pattern of joined up swastikas. It’s the oldest identified swastika pattern in the world and has been radiocarbon-dated to an astonishing 15,000 years ago.
Shigir Idol – 9500 B.C
The Shigir Idol is the oldest known wooden sculpture in the world made during the Mesolithic period, shortly after the end of the last Ice Age. The wood it was carved from is approximately 11,500 years old. It is displayed in the Sverdlovsk Regional Museum of Local Lore in Yekaterinburg, Russia.
- The sculpture was discovered on January 24, 1894, in the peat bog of Shigir.
- It was extracted in ten parts. Once combined the sculpture was 2.8 meters high. However, reconstruction suggested that the original height of the statue was 5.3 meters.
- The top portion is head with a face with eyes, nose, and mouth.
- The body is flat and rectangular.
- Zigzag lines believably depictions of human faces and hands.
- Scholars noted that the Shigir Idol’s decoration was similar to that of the oldest known monumental stone ruins, at Gobekli Tepe in Turkey.
Scholars have proposed various theories about the carvings’ meaning which explains this sculpture as the creation myth, the navigational aid/map, the mythological creatures such as forest spirits or perhaps used as a warning not to enter a dangerous area.
Bull Standard 2500 B.C
This spectacular gold bull was discovered in a large mound (kurgan, same as archaeologist find in the Valley of the Kings) near Maikop in the northern Caucasus region of Russia, in 1897.
The rectangular burial chamber contains the skeleton of an elite, a probably royal male wearing several superb necklaces and a conical diadem of gold hoops that were decorated with gold rosettes.
A number of silver tubes found in the tomb are thought to have been supports for a curtained canopy over the body, or freestanding standards.
To four of these hollow rods were once affixed this gold bull, its twin, and two silver bulls.
The bull was cast using the lost wax process for an explanation of which, with a vertical hole left through the center of the body to accommodate the silver tube.
The inclined head is decorated with incised concentric circles between the inward curving horns, and incised lines also represent the mouth, nose, eyes, the fur above the hooves, and the hair of the tail.
The style of the bull is suggestive of Mesopotamian sculpture during the third and early second millennia BC (see the kneeling Bull with Vessel).
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Panther Plaque 640 B.C
This seventh-to-sixth-century BC gold panther plaque cast in high relief is characteristic of animal style depictions of feline predators. Few characteristics are:
- Its body is coiled with a dimension of 10.9 x 9.3 cm.
- The head and tail meeting and the legs curled within the circle of the body.
- The paws, facial features, and decorations on the tail appear stylized as rings.
- This gold plaque originally had colorful inlays, possibly turquoise.
The plaque would have been attached by three loops on its back to a garment or a leather item such as a belt, bridle, or scabbard. A superb example of Scythian Animal Style art, the panther exhibits exceptional beauty.
Coiled Panther, Curved Panther-means the eternal movement of the universe, symbolizing the process of rebirth of life, giving its owner an unusual vitality.
Golden Pectoral – 400 B.C
The Golden Pectoral from Tovsta Mohyla is an ancient Scythian treasure discovered in a burial kurgan at a site called Tovsta Mohyla in 1971.
The golden pectoral or breastplate is thought to have been ordered by a Scythian chieftain, made either by the native Scythian artisans, as some modern scholarly opinion maintains, or as usually thought, by ancient Greek metalworkers. The pectoralis made of solid 24-carat gold, with a diameter of 12 inches (30.6 cm) and weighs just over 2.5 pounds (1150 g).
It is in the shape of a crescent and can be stylistically broken down into three sections.
- The top section, which is widely agreed to be the main focus of the piece, reflects Scythian daily life.
- The middle section is believed to represent a Scythian connection to nature.
- The third section is thought to represent the Scythian belief in the cosmos and their mythology.
Due to the delicacy of the element in the middle section, elements were chosen to solder on a solid gold plate which serves as a backing for structural support.
Vessel Showing Scythian Life – 375 B.C
Scythian art before the sixth century BC is dominated by zoomorphic motifs
and only very rarely depicts human beings.
This chased electrum (a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver) vessel was excavated from the kurgan (burial mound), near Karch on the northern shores of the Black Sea, in 1830 By the fourth century B.C.
In the scene shown here, the left-hand figure appears to be extracting a tooth from the mouth of his companion.
The shape of this vessel shows Classical influence as does the chased guilloche and tongue pattern decoration on the lower part of the body. The figures, however, are unmistakably Scythian. The vase is an excellent example of the strong hybrid style of the region.
Pazyryk carpet – 350 B.C
The fourth-century B.C Pazyryk carpet is the oldest surviving pile carpet known, buried in Barrow 5 at Pazyryk in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia, dated from the 5th to the 3rd century B.C.
The Pazyryk rug was found in 1949 in the grave of a Scythian nobleman in the Bolshoy Ulagan dry valley of the Altai Mountains in Kazakhstan. The Pazyrykrug had been frozen in the ice and it was very well preserved.
The once bright red, blue and green dyes have now faded, but even so, the carpet glows with life. The central field of schematized lotus-bud rosettes is surrounded by five successive borders showing fantastic
- Fallow deer or elk
- More lotus-bud rosettes
- Riders and their horses
- Alternating between a mounted rider and a human figure walking beside his horse
- More eagle-griffin motifs.
One interpretation of the horse-and-rider border suggests that it depicts a funeral procession, perhaps for the chieftain buried with this rug.
The wool carpet contains an average of 225 knots per square inch, totaling more than 1.25 million knots which is unusual as per modern carpet art.
The excavator of the carpet saw Achaemenid Persian influence in the piece, citing resemblances between these horsemen and relief carvings of mounted processions at Persepolis.
Although it is the oldest known, its exceptional workmanship indicates that the techniques of carpet weaving were well understood by this time.
Death mask 300 A.D
This rare and distinctive female death mask, dated to the third or fourth century AD, comes from Oglakhty burial VI, grave no. 4, in the Khakassia Republic of southern Siberia.
The complexity of detail needed to identify its find location is indicative of the nomadic nature of the steppe people who created it.
The function of the mask was to prevent the return of the deceased to the world of the living as an evil spirit, as well as to capture permanently the living image of the dead person.
I hope you read something new today and liked these ancient artifacts. Share your views in the comments section below.
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