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Splendid Horsemen of Scythian-Saxes Epoch

13 August 2014
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The boundary between the 2nd — 1st and the beginning of the 1st century BC at the Eurasian space of arid zone was marked by an important event — the formation of nomadic forms of cattle-breeding economy. A new economic activity caused essential changes almost in all spheres of material and spiritual life of cattle-breeders. 

At the vast steppe spaces since the 9th- 8th centuries BC, might be even earlier, convergent and as a result of contacts, which accelerated significantly, owing to using of a horse as a means of riding on it, there appeared and developed cultures of Scythian-saxes type with common features.
But each of them is distinctive and original in connection with its own historical past and peculiar conditions of their habitat. Under existing wide intertribal exchange, separate innovations and cultural adoptions of this or that people get fast and universal spreading. 

So-called Scythian triad which includes arms, harness and feral style is primarily relates to this and witnessed by archeological materials. Instead of different in the past culture, there appeared a new one, more or less uniform at all steppe space. Nomadic people created the highest art forms designated for not only artistic-decorative design of household articles, but for graphic texts showing, as a special zoomorphic code and a certain set of symbols and plots as well. That was a particular and peculiar symbol system, expressing outlook of Eurasian nomads. In terms of archaeology, the territory of Eastern Kazakhstan is studied unevenly. The division of relics into two groups — northern and southern, according to their territory and corresponding to their ethnographical differences in cultural displays, are confirmed by archaeological materials. The northern group included relics of the Irtysh valley connected by culture with mountain-Altai nomads. And the vicinity near the Zaisan Lake and the Tarbagatai chain drawn to the Semirechie-Southern Kazakhstan area comprised the southern group of relics.

An uninterruptive line of connection in the burial ritual of early nomads in Eastern Kazakhstan with cultures of the late bronze century is reflected by materials of the Kurtu necropolis — one of the most well-known early Saxes relics of the Kazakh Altai, situated in the picturesque valley of the river Bukhtarma. Ground constructions looked like small circles made of river stones, which contained not deep pits with burials in bent position on the side, with a head directed to the north-west, hi the lean-to there was found a horse skeleton, horny three-holed psaliis, which date the whole complex between the 9th — 8th centuries B. C. Some occasional findings, Maiemer and Maiemer 2 are referred to the initial formation stage of the Saxes’ cultural complex. In the ground construction of the last, the double circle with the grave under the first one was noticed. Bone quiver fastenings, six bronze and one bone arrow-heads of arrows were found too. Arrow-heads are different forms — bushy, two-paddled and symmetric-rhombic they were all widely — spread in early Saxes’ relics in the 8th — 7th centuries BC.

Early Saxes’ complexes were found at necropolises Zevakino, Izmailovka, and Kuruk 2. Occasional findings near Kamyshinka, among of which there were images of cat that were wrapped in the ring, are belong to them. 

The materials of one of the “tsar” mounds of early Saxes time (8th −7th centuries BC) of necropolis Shilikty 2 (mound Baigetobe), studied by A. T. Toleubayev, can be referred to the most outstanding discovery of the latest years.

Under one of the mounds the explorer managed to retrace important constructive elements of burial erection and to find in a very plundered burial place thousands of highly artistic handicrafts of cast gold made in the tradition of early Scythian feral style, serving as a decoration for a tsar ceremonial dress.

Another mound of Shilikty, studied by S. S. Chernikov, is also known by its wonderful gold findings. Golden pendants with pictures of “flying deers” were particularly distinguishing. There are analogies to these things in early Eshkiolmes and Maiemer petroglifs but the most striking compliance could be found among things of the Zhalauly buried treasure from Semirechye.
For the reconstruction of cultural-historical processes, which took place in the region studied, in the middle and in the second half of the 1st century, the exceptional role played the materials of the Berel mounds, which got the world reputation, owing to burials of nomadic elite found there and highly artistic handicrafts made in special manner, peculiar to the art of early nomads-in so-called Scythian-Siberian feral style.

In the biggest mound, № 11 were buried governors — a man and woman; they were placed into a log, cut from the larch trunk and put inside the felling. Outside the northern felling wall there was a burial place of 13 horses.

The details of horse equipment — from a bridle, breast, under tail strap thong, of a saddle — name-plates, cheekpieces, pendants, strap thong dividers — they were made of wood, decorated with carved patterns and covered with gold foil and tin.

Among animal images, placed on horses’ decoration articles, there are cat predators, mountain he-goats, and sheep, elks, predatory birds and fantastic creatures — gryphons; vegetable motives. The peculiar popularity in the art of ancient nomads was the image of a fantastic creature combined of several animal signs.

Along with highly artistic animal pictures, embodied in wood, in materials of the Berel mounds there are works of greatest masters, imprinted in the traditional for a nomad material — thick felt, as well as in woolen threads, out of which genuine masterpieces of ancient art were created — appliques of animalistic images, vegetable and zoomorphic motives.

Perfectly new in the collection of the Berel mounds was a horse figure in a homed mask, apparently made of woolen threads with the help of special device like a hook. The combination of the highest making technology, the original display of a favorite image and the choice of colour range add to this work a peculiar attractiveness.

Animal horns were a sign element of a ceremonial horse decoration which headed masks. Wooden sculptures like mountain he- goat horns have a deep sense and exceed the limits of a usual arts and crafts designation of similar articles. The image of a mountain goat is mutually connected with the rest elements of a ceremonial horse decoration of a supreme leader. It might be connected with an idea of selectiveness of a buried man.

If a cultural belonging of relics studied is determined for the most part as “pazyrykskaya”, then their ethnic attribution is still unclear. 

There is no unanimity in their exact location within the limits of the Altai sub-region and close to it territories of legendary arimasps, “watching over griffons’ gold”, argippeys, issedons and of other probable creators of that culture.

It is extremely important for us that art pieces of ancient nomads served as prototypes of graphic art, arts and crafts of modem Turkic peoples, including the Kazakhs.

The end of the 1st century BC (the 4th — the 1st centuries BC) is characterized by the appearance of new forms of a burial ritual, stated for the first time in relics near Kulazhurga village. At the early stage of this period the dead were put into stone boxes and escorted with burying of a horse or its parts.

The sources of this culture are clearly retraced in relics of the Pazyryk type, i. e. the local tribe group was its creators, at the same time, the researchers note the availability of the Huns’ features in relics of Kulazhurga culture, marking analogies with findings in Semirechye, where peoples lived in the 3rd — the 1st centuries BC going down into the influence sphere of the northern Huns.

At the late stage (the 2nd century BC — 1st century AD) of the Kulazhurgin development culture, it was noticed a similarity in the burial ritual and in the construction of ground and inside grave erections with synchronous Usun relics from Semirechye, that gave the ground for some explorers to state about the infiltration of some population part from the south-east into Eastern Kazakhstan under the pressure of Hunnu. 

In one of the written Chinese sources, it is known about tribes Ughe, who populated the territory from Tarbagatai to the Irtysh in the 3rd -the 1st centuries BC, but the final solution of problems, concerning chronological and ethnic attribution of relics of the Kulazhurga type in the Irtysh valley is still ahead.

The study of relics of the great people migration epoch is topical for finding out of social-political situation at that historical period.


Literature:
Z. Samashev, A. Ermolayeva, G. Kush “The ancient treasures of the Kazakh Altai”, Publisher “Oner”, 2008.

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