The Art of the Scythians

The Interpenetration of Cultures at the Edge of the Hellenic World


Author: Esther Jacobson
This volume considers the art of the Scythians of the northern littoral of the Black Sea, as that art was expressed in gold, silver, bronze, and bone. Appearing by the seventh century B.C. at the edge of an expanding Hellenic world, the history and art of the Scythians must be considered within a context that recognizes the sources of Scythian culture in the Eurasian Steppe as well as the historical contingency of West Asia and the Greek colonies. By approaching the understanding of artistic traditions in terms of an evolving process, rooted in an archaic steppe culture but ultimately shaped by the confrontation of Near Eastern, Hellenic and Hellenistic tastes, this discussion goes beyond the traditional location of Scythian art as a subset of Greek goldwork. Particular consideration is given to the gradual transformation of object types and styles, from their reflection of archaic zoomorphic representations in carved bone, wood and bronze, to traditions expressive of Hellenized tastes and sensibilities, in gold and silver. By examining in detail individual objects, as well as classes of objects, this volume articulates a specifically Scythian stylistic and iconographic tradition, and a specifically Scythian contribution to the working of precious metals, related to but ultimately distinguishable from the goldworking traditions of Achaemenid Iran, late Classical Greece, and the larger Hellenistic world.
This volume offers substantial bibliography relating to the extensive research on Scythian art, archaeology, and history, published in the Russian and Ukrainian languages over the last 150 years.

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Esther Jacobson, Ph.D. (1970) in Art History from the University of Chicago, is the Maude I. Kerns Professor of Oriental Art at the University of Chicago. Her publications on Chinese art, on Chinese and nomadic cultural interchange, and on the art and culture of the early Iron Age nomads of Eurasia and their Bronze Age predecessors include her recent book, The Deer Goddess of Ancient Siberia, A Study in the Ecology of Belief (Brill, 1993).
All those interested in the Scythians and related early nomadic cultures of Eurasia, in Hellenic and Achaemenid historical and cultural traditions, in ancient jewelry, and in the ancient working of precious metals.