Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Steppe Right Up for This Golden Show; @Thestandardarts in Association With

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Steppe Right Up for This Golden Show; @Thestandardarts in Association With

Article excerpt

EXHIBITION SCYTHIANS: WARRIORS OF ANCIENT SIBERIA British Museum, WC1 ben luke IN THE great British Museum shows dedicated to ancient civilisations and cultures, we expect what that explorer of Tutankhamun's tomb, Howard Carter, described as "wonderful things". In this remarkable exhibition dedicated to the Scythians, the nomads who occupied the so-called Eurasian steppe stretching from northern China to the Black Sea, there's much that glisters. But this being a show of an essentially Siberian people, it features exhibits, many lent from the Hermitage in St Petersburg, which have been preserved in the permafrosts of a famously inhospitable region.

Some objects are remarkable for the fact that they survived at all. I gasped when I realised that two chalky-looking lumps, next to a leather bag decorated with elegantly coiling vegetal or animal forms that once contained them, were in fact 2,300-year-old chunks of cheese. The bag was probably attached to a saddle. And to talk of Scythians is to talk of horses as much as peoples. Horses were buried with their owners, complete with their riding gear. Some were at least as well decorated as their riders. One beautiful fragment of a horse chest strap from the third century BC features a decorative procession of lions elegantly rendered in felt and surrounded by a frame of fur and gold foil. Horses also provided Scythians with meat, milk and clothing.

So who were the Scythians and what did they look like? They were a diverse group of migratory tribes who spoke Iranian dialects and interacted, and sometimes battled with, their many sedentary neighbours in that vast Eurasian corridor. They didn't write anything down, but there are plenty of accounts by scribes from Greece, Persia and elsewhere.

The gold plaque pictured on this page, which has become the emblem of the exhibition, features a bearded horseman brandishing the end of a spear. …

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