Sunday, July 31, 2016

Wild Boar In The Art of Ancient European & Eurasian Tribes: SCHYTIANS, Part 1 - Divlji vepar u umetnosti drevnih evropskih i evroazijskih naroda: SKITI, 1. Deo

>>> Last several months, I've been studying arts and crafts of ancient tribes that lived across the waste area: from Balkan and southern-eastern Europe, over Ukraine and Russia to Central Asia and even further. I wanted to see if there is any continuity and similarities between the arts of "different" cultures and to figure out where to look for its' origins, so I started my research from as early as from mesolithic and neolithic age. I have tried to conduct my own comparative research and looked for things like pottery and ceramic figurines, tombstones and burial sites, textiles, scripts, and, of course, jewelry.

While the overall picture now looks less foggy to me, I still have to do a lot more of research, to be able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. As I learn and discover, my attitudes are constantly changing, primarily in regard to what I have learned earlier in my life. For example, as an art student, during the history of art classes and by reading mainstream literature, that was most of the time the only one available. 

Picture 1: TORQUE (GRIVNA)
Gold: cast, forged, chased. Diam. 17.3-19 cm ;

Meotian Culture.  Late 4th century BC;

Karagodeuashkh Barrow, Kuban, Krasnodar Region (formerly Giaghinsky District of Kuban Region);

Russia (now Ukraine);
>>> In a digital era, resources are far more richer and diverse, and that can be very tricky too, since you must be able to distinguish from what looks like (more) true from what does not. Therefore, my own experience tells me not to rely solely on textual resources, but also to actual artifacts (or the photos of them). They tell the most accurate story, especially if you look for hundreds of them. As you virtually "travel" around the net, from one culture to another, you start noticing tremendous similarities, that are yet to be figured out if they are accidental or they have the same source, the one from the most distant time. But one thing I can be sure about is that some of the cultures or past civilization that we considered to be primitive (NOTE: by "primitive" I don't mean to suggest anything derogatory; on the contrary, I am a great fan of primitive arts and cultures, ancient and modern ones!)  were much more spiritually and materially advanced than we ever thought. I'd like to cover that issue in some other, separate post. 

The reason I make such a long introductory to this post is because I plan to write more posts on this theme. That way I can use this one as a referral post. It also might look awkward that I don't start right from the beginning, like from Mesolithic time, because people used to make primitive forms of jewelry then, and even earlier. But my last impressions are about depictions of wild animals, like wild boar in the art of many ancient tribes, to mention just a few: Etruscans, Trachians, Dacians, Scythians, Sarmatians, etc. 
Of hammered sheet gold, the boar facing left, with legs bent under, its tail curled over his haunch, thick ribbed bristles running down its back and hindquarters, ridged ruff under its chin and belly, its fur indicated with cross-hatching, long tusk protruding from its lower jaw, small bulbous eye and neat narrow ears held back against its body, the reverse with three attachment loops
2 in. (5.2 cm.) long
Source: Christie's
>>> I have started with Scythians, because my impression is that they were the most numerous ones. And here comes the first trouble in a form of how to describe who were Scythians?  It would take a separate and huge post to do this the proper way. I'll just say that there are many discrepancies, coming from various sources and scholars, each of them supporting their own theory about this tribe. The most common one is that they were the dominant nomads of Eurasian steppes between 7th century BCE to 4th century CE. Mainstream information are coming from ancient Greek sources, like the one from Herodotus, who claimed that Scythians have had: "...neither cities nor forts, and carrying their dwellings with them wherever they go: accustomed, more over, one and all over them, to shoot from horseback: and living not by husbandry but on their cattle, their wagons the only houses they possess, how can they fail of being unconquerable, and unassailable even?"

Date: ca. 5th century BC
Medium: Gold, bone silver
Dimensions: 3.48 x6.99 cm
Metropolitan Museum Of Art, NYC;
But new discoveries reveal that Scythians lead a semi-settle way of life, which allowed them to develop crafts, like gold forging and iron forging of high quality. It is more likely that they were a progressive culture, with highly developed skills, including metallurgy and construction, egalitarian gender roles and sophisticated religious practices. It is now even suggested that there were some very large and permanent Scythian cities and that they were nomadic only in the summer. Claims that ancient Greek master-artisans made sophisticated jewelry and other art and crafts pieces for Scythians, doesn't seem to be truth anymore. On the contrary, Russian scholars from the State Hermitage Museum have concluded that a discovery of Scythian gold in a Siberian grave in the summer of 2001, is the earliest of its kind ever found and that it predates Greek influence! The find is leading to a change in how scholars view the supposed barbaric, nomadic tribes that once roamed the Eurasian steppes.

Gold plated ceremonial Scythian sword and scabard from the National Historical Museum of Ukraine and the Museum of Historical Treasures
>>> But let's go back to the depictions of wild boar in the Scythian art. Should we look for the symbolism and where can we find the best references? In mythology, religious practices or even later disciplines, like heraldry? Zoomorphic design (vs Anthropomorphic in ancient Greek art) is predominant in Scythian art. But not just Scythian. However, Scythian stylization of wild animals is among most unique ones. They masterfully portrait their strong body structure and muscles, as well as emotional expressions. One of the Scythian favorite motif is animals in dead combat. Apart from the wild boar, we can also see depictions of other wild animals like: griffins, lions, horses, rabbits, wolves, leopards, stags, eagles, etc. 

Picture 5: Uncountable golden beads shaped in form of wold boar;The royal tomb (Arzhan 2) in the modern-day Republic of Tuva, Siberia
Did Scythians believed that these animals would help them to get victory in a battlefield? Do we have here the earliest images of what is going to be a heraldry in Middle Ages? It is most probably that each of these beast portrayals personify important symbols and have many different meanings. For example, griffins are defenders of the gold, deer embody a beauty, bears are symbol of hard working and work in all. Panther embody the war and blood. Lion is a representation of an enemy.  Some European countries have coat of arms with depiction of panthers or lion's defeat. 
Picture 6: A GOLD FIGURINE OF A WILD BOAR (found in the Khomyna Mohyla kurhan); 

>>> Finally what about wild boar motif? Scythians were praised as great warriors, both male and female. Most probably it was a symbol of a warrior that is not inclined to retreat. Wild boar also stands for the truth, courage and confrontation. Wild boar that represents a nation of warriors means that they should be able to face the truth, even if it means facing their own death. I will mention again a mainstream sources which refer to Scythians as of a bloodthirsty warriors, barbaric and extremely cruel. Here's the quotation from Wikipedia : " The Scythians were notoriously aggressive warriors. They "fought to live and lived to fight" and "drank the blood of their enemies and used the scalps as napkins"........." To me this looks and sounds notoriously exaggerated. They were probably brave warriors, just like wild boars, who fought when there was legitimate reason to do so. Otherwise, they were extremely talented people who deserve to be more studied and to be given an historical role that truly belongs to them, according to their size and to what they have left behind and influence they left on overall humanity. 

To see some more of Scythian stunning pieces, made mostly in gold, please, visit my Pinterest board:

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Photo and textual sources: 


<<< Poslednjih nekoliko meseci bavila sam se proučavanjem umetnosti i zanatstva drevnih naroda, koji su živeli na širokom području: od Balkana i jugo-istočne Evrope, preko Ukrajine i Rusije, sve do centralne Azije, pa i dalje. Želela sam da proverim da li postoji bilo kakav kontinuitet kao i sličnosti, u umetnosti tih "različitih" kultura, kao i da pokušam da otkrijem gde se nalaze njeni koreni, tako da sam istragu započela sa mezolitom i neolitom. Pokušala sam da sprovedem svoje vlastito uporedno istraživanje i pri tom sam razmatrala stvari poput grnčarije i keramičkih figurina, nadgrobnih spomenika i nalaza iz drevnih grobnica, tekstila, pisma i, naravno, nakita.

Iako mi celokupna slika sada izgleda manje zamagljena, još mnogo toga treba proučavati, kako bih bila u stanju da bar donekle povežem delove slagalice u jednu celinu. Kako učim i otkrivam, stavovi mi se neprekidno menjaju, a pre svega u odnosu na svoja dosadašnja saznanja. Na primer, kao studentu umetničkog fakulteta neka proširena saznanja, u odnosu na ona opšta, stizala su u vidu predavanja na časovima istorije umetnosti, kako i iz tomova i tomova knjiga i enciklopedija koje su u ono doba bila bile deo uglavnom mejnstrim literature, koja je jedina i bila dostupna. 

U doba interneta ti izvori su sada mnogo bogatiji i raznovrsniji, ali i to može biti mač sa dve oštrice, jer treba znati naslutiti  šta je od svega toga više, a šta manje istina. Tako da mi ovo dosadašnje iskustvo govori da se ne treba osloniti samo na tekstualne izvore, već i na realne artefakte, odnosno na fotografije na kojima su ovekovečeni. Oni mogu dati najpreciznije odgovore, posebno nakon što ih pregledate na stotine i stotine. Kako virtuelno "putujete" netom, prelazeći sa jedne kulture na drugu, počinjete da primećujete neverovatne sličnosti, u vezi kojih vam još uvek nije jasno da li su slučajne ili imaju jedan isti izvor, i to onaj iz najdalje prošlosti. Ali jedna stvar u vezi koje mislim da mogu da budem sigurna je da su neke od drevnih kultura i civilizacija koje smo smatrali primitivnim, bile na mnogo višem stupnju razvoja,  kako spiritualnom tako i materijalnom. Ali to je zasebna tema koju bih volela da pokrenem u nekom od narednih postova. 

Razlog zbog koga pravim ovako dugačak uvod  je taj što planiram da pišem još postova na ove teme. Na taj način uvek mogu čitaoce da uputim na ovaj post, umesto da sve ponovo pišem. Takođe, može izgledati čudno što ne započinjem od početka, kao npr. od Mezolita, jer su ljudi i tada, a i ranije, pravili nakit, u malo primitivnijim formama. Ali moje poslednje impresije se odnose na prikaze divljih životinja u umetnosti mnogih drevnih naroda, poput Etruraca, Tračana, Dačana, Skita, Sarmata, itd. 

Započinjem sa Skitima zato što je moj utisak da su bili najbrojniji. I tu sada dolazimo do prve nevolje u vidu nedoumice kako uopšte opisati ko su bili Skiti. Predstaviti ih na verodostojan način zahteva jedan ceo i zaseban post. Samo ću reći da postoje mnoga razmimoilaženja kada su u pitanju različiti izvori i njihovi zastupnici, a svako od njih zastupa neku svoju teoriju. Najčešća je ona koja opisuje Skite kao preovladavajući nomadski narod na području evroazijskih stepa, u periodu između 7. veka p.n.e. i 4. veka n.e. Mejnstrim izvori su najčešće antički grčki, kao npr. onaj od Herodota, gde navodi da Skiti: "...niti su imali gradove, niti utvrđenja, noseći svu svoju imovinu sa sobom gde god da su išli: naviknuti, svi do jednog, da nišane strelama jašući istovremeno na leđima svojih konja: živeći ne od zemljoradnje već od stočarstva, pokretni vagoni su im bili i jedine kuće koje su imali, kako su onda mogli da budu išta drugo nego nepobedivi, šta više i nedodirljivi."

Međutim, nova otkrića obelodanjuju da su Skiti vodili polu-sedelački način života, koji im je omogućio da razviju umetnost i zanatstvo, poput oblikovanja predmeta visokog kvaliteta, u zlatu i od gvožđa. Po svemu sudeći oni su ipak imali jednu mnogo napredniju kulturu nego što se do sada mislilo, ovladavši i  visoko razvijenim veštinama poput metalurgije i graditeljstva, a imali su i sofisticiranu religijsku praksu, i  rodno ravnopravne uloge muškaraca i žena. Šta više, postoje i naznake da su postojale i neke vrlo velike i stalne skitske naseobine, poput gradova, te da su oni bili nomadi samo tokom letnjeg perioda. Tvrdnje da su predmete visoke umetničke vrednosti i izrade Skiti dobijali od antičkih grčkih zanatlija, izgleda da baš i ne odgovaraju istini. Naporotiv, ruski naučnici iz muzeja Ermitaž, zaključili su da je skitsko zlato koje je otkriveno u jednoj sibirskoj grobnici, tokom leta 2001. godine, jedno od najstarijih te vrste i da prethodi grčkom uticaju. Ovo otkriće utiče na način na koji naučnici sada gledaju na Skite, koje su do tada uglavnom smatrali varvarskim, nomadskim plemenom koje je nekada davno skitalo evroazijskim stepama. 

Ali da se vratimo na prikaze divljeg vepra u skitskoj umetnosti. Da li bismo u tome trebali da tragamo za nekom simbolikom i šta je to bi nas najbolje uputilo na tako nešto? Mitologija, religijska praksa ili neke čak novije discipline poput heraldike? Zoomorfne likovne predstave (nasuprot antropomorfnim u umetnosti antičke Grčke)  su predominantne u skitskoj umetnosti. Ali ne samo skitskoj. Međutim skitska stilizacija divljih životinja je jedna od najoriginalnijih. Oni su znali majstorski da prikažu snažnu strukturu njihovog tela, mišiće, ali i ekspresiju emocija. Jedan od omiljenih skitskih motiva su životinje u smrtonosnim bitkama. Osim divljeg vepra mogu se videti i prikazi drugih životinja poput: grifona, lavova, konja, vukova, leoparda, jelena, orlova, itd. 

Da li su Skiti verovali da će im ove životinje pomoći da odnesu pobedu u nekoj bitci? Da li se ovde susrećemo sa najranijim prikazima onoga što će u srednjem veku postati heraldika? Skoro da je sasvim izvesno da svaka od ovih zverki predstavlja personifikaciju važnih simbola koji mogu imati puno različitih značenja. Npr. grifoni su zaštitnici zlata, jelen je otelotvorenje lepote, medved je simbol vrednoće i rada uopšte. Panter je otelotvorenje rata i krvi. Lav predstavlja neprijatelja. Neke evropske zemlje u svojim grbovima imaju prikaze pantera ili poraženog lava. 

I konačno, šta je sa motivom divljeg vepra? Skiti su slavljeni kao veliki ratnici, ali i ratnice. Vepar najverovatnije predstavlja ratnika koji nema nameru da se povuče. Divlji vepar takođe označava i istinu, hrabrost i sposobnost za suočavanje. Narod koji je predstavljen divljim veprom tako može važiti za narod koji je u stanju da se suoči sa istinom, čak i ako to znači da gledaju smrti u oči. Ovde ću ponovo pomenuti neke od mejnstrim izvora koji se na Skite osvrću kao na krvožedne ratnike, varvare i ekstremno okrutne ljude. Evo jednog citata iz Vikipedije: " Skiti su bili notorno agresivno pleme. Oni su  ratovali da bi živeli i živeli da bi ratovali. Pili su krv svojih neprijatelja i skidali im skalpove koje su zatim koristili kao maramice."........Po meni ovakve tvrdnje su te koje zvuče notorno preuveličavajuće. Skiti su verovatno bili hrabri ratnici, poput tih istih veprova. Oni verovatno i jesu ratovali onda kada je za to bilo opravdanih razloga. U svakom drugom pogledu, bili su ekstremno talentovani ljudi  koji zaslužuju da im se posveti mnogo više pažnje i izučavanja, kako bi im bilo pridodato ono istorijsko mesto koje i zaslužuju i koje im pripada, posebno s obzirom na njihovu brojnost i ono što su ostavili za sobom, kao i uticaj koji su ostavili na čovečanstvo u celini. 

Da vidite nešto više od zadivljujužih komada skitske umetnosti, posetite moj Pinterest album posvećen Skitima. 

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