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Decorative Ornament
Scythian, ca. 4th century B.C., Bronze, L: 8 cm

The Scythians were a nomadic tribe that lived in Eurasia from 9th to 4th century B.C.. In the peak of their power the territory extended from Carpathian Mountains in the West to Ordos at the Yellow River and Southern Siberia in the East. A conflict between nomadic tribes in Central Asia stimulated a great migration of all nomadic people. In result from 2nd century B.C. to 4th century A.D. the Scythians were pushed out from Central Asia to move to the north-western and central part of South Asia - to Sogdiana, Bactria, Gandhara and Kashmir. In the 1st century B.C. the Scythians established the Indo-Scythian kingdom in Gandhara and the Indus Valley, and expanded their territory conquering north-western India. However, in the beginning of the 1st century A.D. they were defeated by another nomadic power, the Yuezhi called also Saka - the founders of the Kushan Empire, and have fallen under their control.
The Scythians who were organized in clans and a base for their living was hunting and herding, gave symbolic meaning or even worshipped animals from their surroundings. Representing animals in art of the Scythians resulted in so called “Animal Style” spread all around vast area of the Eurasian steppes and in production of numerous gold and bronze adornments which main motives were animals. Whether the animals were symbols of clans, or they were admired and hold in esteem for their traits - a stag or a horse for the swiftness, a boar for the power of the attack by charging, a wolf or a puma for the power of fangs and claws, a bird of prey for the rapid predation - is left to the imagination of the audience.
This ornament in shape of a recumbent stag was a garment clasp or a harness decoration. The animal is depicted in a stylized way suggesting a puzzle picture. Especially the antlers look as consisting of coiled snakes. A tip of the muzzle resembles rather a beak of a bird. A body of the stag is depicted with simple beauty of elegant curvilinear design contrasting with straight slim lines of bent legs.

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