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"Gold of the Nomads: Scythian Treasures from Ancient Ukraine"
2000-07-02 until 2000-09-25
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Los Angeles, CA,
This exhibition of approximately 165 works of art comprises the finest Scythian gold objects
from the Treasures of Ukraine Museum and the Archaeological Institute in Kiev. Although small
groups of Scythian objects from Ukraine have been seen in several European cities over
the past few years, this exhibition is the largest and most complete ever assembled from the
Scythian material in Ukraine.
The Scythians were a nomadic people who originated in the central Asian steppes sometime
in the early first millennium, B.C. After migrating into what is present-day Ukraine, they
prospered from the fifth to the third centuries, B.C, through trade with the Greek cities on the
Black Sea coast.
Scythian graves and burial mounds continue to yield an astonishing wealth of gold and silver
objects, many of which are in the salled animal style associated with the central Asian steppes.
Other objects reflect influence from ancient Near Eastern cultures, and still other pieces are
either strongly in the Greek style or exhibit an intriguing blend of Greek and animal style
elements. Many of the recently excavated objects in the exhibition constitute a new chapter,
even a new book, on the interrelationships of the ancient Aegean world, the ancient Near
East, and the steppes that extend from north of the Black Sea as far as the Altai Republic
near Mongolia. Objects in the exhibition include the celebrated gorytos (bow and arrow case),
with relief scenes very close to the iconography and style of fifth century Athens that some
level of Greek involvement in its creation is an inevitable conclusion.
Other famous pieces include two great gold scabbards and swords bearing scenes of animal
combat, and the foot-high gold plaque worked in a cutout technique and destined for a
horse’s head, which bears a hunting scene that finds its closest parallels in the art of the Asian
steppes. A very large proportion of the pieces in the exhibition have been excavated since
1975 and thus will be seen in the United States for the first time. These virtually unknown
masterpieces include a gold helmet bearing scenes in relief of Scythian combat; the style is
clearly influenced by Attic red-figure vase painting.