Facing of a wooden vessel

Created: Iran. 5th - early 7th century

Found: Pereshchepina Complex. The environs of Poltava near the village of Malaya Pereshchepina

This sort of exquisitely finished gold cover for a wooden object was a very typical practice for all the nomadic peoples of Eurasia in the early Middle Ages. The thin sheets of metal are splendidly preserved and precisely repeat the shape of the lost vessel. This beaker was part of the Pereshchepina Hoard, the largest-ever find of nomad treasures from the 7th century, which is displayed in the Treasure Gallery of the Hermitage. In the decoration we can make out a motif of repeating palmettes “growing” from a central diamond shape. The base was covered by a sheet of metal bearing a rosette, while the little ring-shaped handle soldered onto one side would have had more of a decorative function. The nomads evidently prized this gold covering as it bears traces of having been repeatedly repaired. At some point, a craftsman turned some of the pieces of metal upside down, apparently failing to grasp the meaning of the depiction.
One of the palmettes differs from the others. It springs from the lower edge of the sheet, and wavy lines extend upwards from its branches. This is a schematic depiction of the Burning Bush from the Old Testament. It is not clear whether a Christian or Jewish symbol is intended. In the former case, it would reflect the influence of Byzantine art, in the latter, an early manifestation of Khazar Judaic symbolism. It should be noted, though, that Dictamnus albus – dittany, gas plant or fraxinella – a plant producing abundant volatile oils that can be ignited by the slightest spark was well-known to the steppe-dwellers and may have also engaged their own imagination. The nomads’ folk tales and legends formed under the influence of the mythology of various peoples, introducing new figurative motifs, from which it is possible to observe the interpenetration of ideas and a unique dialogue between different cultures.


Facing of a wooden vessel


Epoch. Period:

Archaeological site:

Pereshchepina Complex





height 9,2 cm

Acquisition date:

Entered the Hermitage in 1914; transferred from the Imperial Archaeological Commission; formerly in the treasures of Khan Kubrat

Inventory Number: