MAIASP. 2023. No. 15

Mikhail Treister (Bonn, Germany)



DOI: 10.53737/7965.2023.55.50.008

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Pages: 336397

This paper focuses on gold polychrome jewellery originating from the complexes in Western Georgia (Gonio, Makho, Kapandibi, Kldeeti) and adjacent areas (Loo), as well as a pendant with the image of Minerva belonging to the same group, which in early 20th century was acquired by the Rostov-on-Don collector F.S. Romanovich (it is specially considered in the appendix to the article). According to O.V. Sharov, whose opinion was expressed for the first time in 2006, these adornments are included in the group of polychrome jewelry of the late Roman period, which he called the Gorgippia Loo group and dated in 2006 to the 3rd century CE, later to the second half of the 2nd the first half of the 3rd century CE. In part, this characteristic really corresponds to the finds from crypt II/1975 in Gorgippia (but only in part compositions made of granulation, as well as cells with a jagged edge, were not used in their decoration), but the finds from Gorgippia have nothing in common with the jewellery from Gonio, Kldeeti, Kapandibi and Loo under discussion, for which the use of filigree, as in the finds from Gorgippia, is not typical. Accordingly, it is obvious that such an unreasonable term, which denotes objects that are not related to each other, should be abandoned. An analysis of the characteristic features of the shape and decoration of jewellery from Colchis and adjacent areas, as well as a stylistic and chronological analysis of the complexes from which they originate, allows us to come to the following conclusions.

There are no direct reasons to date to the 3rd century CE any of the complexes from Colchis and Loo under discussion. Moreover, the jewellery found in the hoards and burials from Makho, Gonio, Kapandibi and Loo is unlikely to be later than the 1st century CE, and some of these items can obviously be dated even to the 1st century BCE. At the same time, a detailed analysis of the pendant from the collection of F.S. Romanovich gives reason to believe that the coin emblem that appeared on the coins of Caracalla and Geta could serve as a prototype for the jeweler and, accordingly, this allows to date the pendant no earlier than the turn of the 2nd3rd centuries CE.

Thus, it is possible that the workshops that were established in Colchis at the turn of the Christian era and produced in the 1st century CE gold jewellery in a characteristic style, with extensive use of granulation and colored inlays, mainly in sheet cells with a serrated edge, continued to work in this style, at least until the early 3rd century CE, which theoretically does not exclude the later dating of the Colchis complexes within the second half of the 2nd the first half of the 3rd centuries CE. In this regard, I would point out that the combination in the complexes of much earlier imported precious items (in particular, Roman bronze and silver utensils and gems), as well as Roman and Parthian coins of the 1st2nd centuries, including gold ones, which are considered as diplomatic gifts, is in general typical for the rich burials of the necropoleis of Kartli, especially Mtskheta, of the middle / second half of the 2nd early / first half of the 3rd centuries CE.

O.V. Sharov suggested that the manufacture and the style of decoration of the jewellery of the group under consideration originally was associated with the traditions of Arsakid Iran, and some of the items could have been made by craftsmen of Iberia, experiencing in the 3rd century a strong Iranian influence. Also this thesis raises serious doubts, given the absence in Iran not only of close parallels to the forms of jewellery under discussion, but also of combinations of compositions made of granulation with inlays in cells with a jagged edge. Rather, the objects in question should be considered as products of local workshops and not of Caucasian Iberia, but of Colchis (i.e., Western Georgia), also taking into account obvious elements and motifs dating back to the works of jewellery art of Colchis of an earlier period. Noteworthy is the almost complete absence of adornments which could be identified as Roman, unless one could consider the origin of the finger ring and cameo inlay in one of the plaques from Loo. The glass goblet from Loo was probably made in Syria, while the silver cantharus from Kapandibi finds the closest parallels in the design of the handles among the vessels of the Augustan period from Central Europe. Parthian connotations can be traced only in the case of a finial with characteristic pendants and, possibly, a phalera from the Treasure from Gonio, but they also have nothing to do neither with the 3rd century, nor with the workshops of Iberia.

Key words: Colchis, Caucasian Iberia, jewellery, silver, gold and glass vessels, treasures, Roman coins, iconography of Minerva and Gorgon in the Roman art, private collectioning in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century.

Received August 17, 2023.

Accepted for publication August 31, 2023.

About the author:

Treister Mikhail (Bonn, Germany). Dr. phil. habil. (RUS), Independent researcher.