Gold of the Scythians

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Brooch from Kazakhstan depicting two fighting horses
The bimaran reliquary from Afghanistan is often viewed as a Graeco-Scythian work.

Under the title “ Gold of the Scythians ”, a collection of archaeological finds from Scythian graves ( Kurgane ) was shown in various museums around the world . In addition to body jewelry (neck, arm and finger rings), thousands of patches made of thin gold sheet in relief were found, which mostly served as garments, but were also attached to tapestries and other textiles for decoration.

Gold mining

Little is known about Scythian gold mining. Some information on the origin of the raw materials is historically handed down by Herodotus (484–425 BC) in his Historien (Book I and IV). In the region around Krasnoyarsk and Daurien , gold panning was discovered at the beginning of the 20th century , which is assigned to the Scythians. Since gold deposits are not known either in the northern Pontic region or in the neighboring areas to the north, it is usually assumed that the gold was acquired by the Scythians through trade or captured on military expeditions. In the case of the Greco-Scythian goldwork, it is assumed that it was not made by Scythian goldsmiths , but that it is commissioned work.

Raw material sources

The sources of raw materials are previously thought in the following regions:

  • Transylvania , where the Agathyrsen tribe, related to the Scythians, settled. They are mentioned in historical sources for their enthusiasm for elaborate gold jewelry. The gold in this region was mainly extracted by leaching.
  • Caucasus , especially the Colchis , home of the Medea (legend of the Golden Fleece ). Here, too, it is believed that the gold was extracted from soap deposits .
  • Kazakhstan and Altai Mountains . The Altai is also associated with the "golden griffins" known from ancient mythology . In Smeinogorsk in the 18th century a miner who had an accident in antiquity was discovered, in the immediate vicinity of which there was a leather sack containing minerals containing gold . In this context, the caravan route mentioned by Herodotus , which is said to have led from Olbia (Black Sea) to Inner Asia, is also of importance . A particularly large gold mining center is located in northern Kazakhstan (especially the areas around Stepnjak, Majkain and Bestjube). A large number of mining findings and finds document gold mining there as early as prehistoric times. Since many of the old digging sites are still worth mining today, most of the findings have been destroyed by modern mining.

See also


  • Berthild Gossel-Raeck; Ralf Busch (Ed.): Gold of the Scythians. Treasures from the St. Petersburg State Hermitage . Wachholtz, Münster 1993, ISBN 3529018457 . (Exhibition catalog)
  • Renate Rolle (Ed.): Gold of the Steppe, Archeology of Ukraine . Wachholtz, Neumünster 1991, ISBN 3529018414 .

Web links

Commons : Art of the Scythians  - Collection of images, videos and audio files