The Hermitage collection of Scythian antiquities is renowned worldwide, its nucleus consisting of finds from burial complexes in the Crimea, Kuban basin and in the valleys of the Dnieper and Don rivers.
The most attractive feature of the collection is the abundance of articles of applied art from a variety of schools and trends, with objects created in the Scythian Animal style, and items made by Greek craftsmen or imported from Oriental countries and the nearby Classical centers to the North of Black Sea and intended for Scythian noblemen.
According to Scythian tradition, alongside a dead chief the tribe buried his wives, servants, armour-bearers, grooms and horses, and these burials thus contain numerous artifacts, from weapons and harness to everyday objects and a multiplicity of personal adornments.
Most valuable of all is the ‘Scythian Gold', often lavishly decorated with precious stones. Two gold shield emblems in the forms of a panther and stag – the Kelermes Panther and the Kostromsky Stag (from burial mounds in the Kuban area, 7th century BC) – are true masterpieces, which have come to symbolize the achievements of Scythian craftsmen. These two animals were hugely popular during the Scythian era and appear on many objects.
No less remarkable are the articles from the burial mounds of Scythian chiefs (5th to 4th centuries BC), executed in the Graeco-Scythian style and decorated with scenes from a Scythian heroic epic: the gold comb from the Solokha burial mound; gold and silver vessels from the Kul-Oba and Chastye barrows; a silver amphora bearing relief representations of scenes from Scythian life (Chertomlyk burial mound). The detailed images on these pieces make it possible for us to picture the appearance of the Scythians, their clothes and weapons.
Rich tombs beneath tumuli and ancient settlements in the area of the forested steppes, inhabited by the tribes subject to the Scythians, have also yielded hand-made clay vessels, farming tools, utensils, arms and armour and objects associated with the working of bronze and iron, both imported and of local production.
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