Saturday 5 February 2011
Source: The Day Weekly Digest.
Scientific debates on the origin of the biggest artifact once found in the steppe’s burial hills, the precious Scythian pectoral from the collection of the National Museum of Historical Treasures, are still continuing. It is known that the spectral analysis of metal from the massive royal adornment had shown a significant difference from the handiwork of all known jewelry centers of antiquity. Donetsk researchers have elaborated a daring hypothesis: the pectoral was produced by the local craftsmen from gold that was mined exactly in the Donbas.
Archaeological findings show that yellow metal was being smelt many centuries ago in the so called Bakhmut valley and near the Naholne tableland. The remains of high-quality, as for those times, smelting furnaces and foundry accessories were excavated there. There are even more “young” historical arguments. As the professor of the Donetsk National Technical University Borys Panov says, at the beginning of the last century the legends about the gold mines of Scythian rulers provoked a risky venture by a local entrepreneur Glebov. Having persuaded the state treasury that his project was realizable, he managed to receive a huge credit in the amount of three million tsarist rubles. The entrepreneur invited foreign specialists and with their help he built several mines and a processing plant near the modern city of Krasny Luch. But, after obtaining 8 kilograms of gold and 16 kilograms of accompanying silver from the ore, Glebov went bankrupt.
Scythians and gold
From the seventh to the 3rd century BC, an Iranian group of related nomadic tribes dominated the vast sweep of grasslands that stretched from the Carpathian Mountains in eastern Europe to Mongolia, more than 4,000 miles away. These fierce warriors, known as the Scythians (Rostam of Shahnameh was a Scythian), lived in the saddle and traveled light. At the same time, astonishingly, they were among the ancient world’s most extravagant art patrons.
The most elite of these warring tribes had a discriminating eye for good design and the wealth to indulge it. By the 5th century BC, they were important patrons of master goldsmiths living in cities on the northern shores of the Black Sea. Since the Scythians believed, like the Egyptians, that they could take their wealth with them into the afterlife, we’ve been able to learn about their culture from their tombs. Thousands of these burial sites, or kurhans, punctuate the table-flat Ukrainian landscape, and they have yielded a wealth of treasures, including priceless masterpieces of solid gold.