Lot 39B: 9th C. Siberian White Bronze Pendant, Men on Sturgeon
October 27, 2016
Louisville, CO, USALive Auction
Russia, Western Siberia, Yamal Peninsula and Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug (District), 8th to 10th century CE. A white bronze pendant or amulet in the shape of three figures with arms crossed standing in front of a large fish (probably a sturgeon). Low-relief incised lines give texture to the body of the fish and shape to the human figures. They wear caps that have been interpreted as being armor. The arms crossed stance is incredibly common, with nearly all known examples of human figures from this period, both men and women, young and old, depicted in this manner. The space between their necks function as twin holes for suspension and this was probably worn as a pendant or sewn onto clothing to create a bright, sparkling effect and a jangling noise. Size: 3" W x 1.75" H (7.6 cm x 4.4 cm)
In western Siberia during the Bronze Age, which there extended into what we in the west think of as the medieval period, there were sanctuaries in the forest where archaeologists and local people have found evidence of bronze and silver smelting, as well as bronze and silver artifacts. These sanctuaries seem to have accumulated, over many generations, metal gifts left to the spirits who patronized them. These sanctuaries played a role in local life into the early 20th century, with many people being afraid of disturbing the ancient metal items within; accounts of archaeological expeditions into the 1980s include much information on what superstitious activities the scientists had to go through before local informants would take them to sites. These objects are rare outside of the Russian world, and nearly all of the information published about them is in Russian. They often include stylized human figures and animal iconography. For humans, there is heavy emphasis in depiction placed on certain parts of the body, like eyes and hands; animals seem to be more naturalistically drawn (although not entirely). The relationship between this kind of a artistic expression and that of the Perm Animal Style (also Permian Animal Style) is not currently known, but they were contemporaneous and geographically close, and have many of the same elements. These people may also have been inspired by the Scytho-Siberians who came before them, and the Vikings who they could have had contact with in the west.
Provenance: Ex-Private LA County collection
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Condition Report: Signs of wear, but design is very clear.