Russia, Western Siberia, Yamal Peninsula and Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug (District), 8th to 10th century CE. A beautiful bronze pendant, with a rounded, looping, central item composed of several individual bronze wires flattened and merged together, with three dangling crow's feet on short chains. There is a high level of detail throughout, including the webbing of the feet. We believe that these items were hung from hunting belts and later buried with their owners. Birds seem to have been very significant in this culture, with their heads often serving as protective features on human figures and their dangling feet often depicted on rustling, jangling artifacts like this one. Size: 2.25" W x 4.3" H (5.7 cm x 10.9 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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