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The Treasure of the Golden Horde

Belt Fittings with a fragment of the strap

13th century

Great Mongol State or Ulus Juchi

Silver cast in a rigid mould, hammered, chased, gilded and nielloed

The belt was one of the characteristic attributes of Mongol horseback culture. This example probably originally consisted of 65-70 elements. Each of the elements indicated the warrior's degree of valour and a belt was therefore a sort of "service record". The surviving 29 items of the set are decorated with images of fantastic creatures, notably dragons. In these images we can detect parallels with the art of China. In the Chinese tradition dragons are a symbol of imperial power, wisdom and power, including the male power in nature. Only the emperor himself and his closest relatives had the right to use the emblem of a dragon with five claws. Depicted on this belt are three-pawed dragons, a motif that the Mongols acquired from the Khitan state of Liao (916-1234) to the north-east of China that had been subservient to the Mongols since the 12th century. In the Mongol culture dragons were heraldic symbols of Genghis Khan, the head of the state, and of the senior military elite, the guard. The emblems representing the "emperor" and his guard became established between 1204-06 and 1217. Belts of this type date from the time of the formation and flourishing of the single Mongol state. They belonged to the elder generation of the officer corps of the Juchids who arrived in the European part of the steppes around the middle of the 13th century. In the late 14th century belts of this kind disappeared.
It is interesting to note that the belt has been repaired. The obverse of the clasp is decorated with a niello image of a monster, half-animal, half-bird. This motif is known from two-section bracelets and kolty (headdress ornaments worn on the temples) made in pre-Mongol Rus'. The style of the design and the niello indicate the work of a Russian craftsman.
The set of belt fittings was found at the Krasnoyarskoye archaeological site in the vicinity of Astrakhan.




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