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Scythiens

The Pectoral from the Tolstaya Mogila

 

In 1971 while excavating the Tolstaya Mogila burial near Ordzhonikidze B.N.Mozolevsky, a Ukrainian archaeologist found, among many other subjects of the Greek-Scythian toreutics, an exceptionally beautiful and artistically perfect breast decoration (pectoral), which immediately attracted close attention of scythologists all over the world. Apart from Russia and the Ukraine books and articles with artistic and subjective analysis of the depictions on the pectoral are published in the USA, France, Germany and other countries. Some variants of the pectoral scene interpretations are suggested. The interpretations cross in some aspects. On the whole everybody agrees that the pectoral is constructed on the three-part principle and consists of three levels: upper, middle and lower. It fully corresponds to the general Indo-European idea of the world structure (The Scythians are Indo-Iranians by the language): the Heavens - the Earth - the Underground world. On the lower part of the pectoral three pairs of fantastic griffins and two pairs of real catlike predators tear ungulates: horses, a deer and a wild boar. This scene may be interpreted as an allegory of a sacrifice. It is significant that the bones of exactly the same beasts, eaten during the funeral, were found in the burial. In the middle of the pectoral there is a vegetable ornament with birds, typical for Greek toreutics, which is interpreted as the World Tree symbol, uniting all three worlds. The most meaningful and mysterious scene is in the upper part of the pectoral and specialists, naturally, disagree in their interpretations of it.

In the center of the scene two Scythians, sitting on their heels are manipulating with "the Golden Fleece" - a sheep's skin. Behind them the scenes, which can be called "everyday", are place by an arc. Up till now real depictions of the Scythian women were not known. Here they are shown milking animals. One of them (to the left) holds a typically Greek vessel - an amphora in her hand. D.A.Machinsky thinks the central pair are the Scythian shamans, lost their male qualities (literally - not men). D.S.Raevsky considers this pair to be personages of a myth, not coming to us, and the whole scene to be a symbol of prosperity, which directly depended on fertility and cattle increasing.

 

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