MAIASP. 2023. No. 15
The vessels of the “
Among the finds of silver vessels from the nomadic burials of the Lower Don and Lower Volga regions of the Middle Sarmatian period, a group of vessels of different shapes stands out, which are united by the decoration technique. The images are made in a planar manner, the contours are executed by long incised lines. Images, as well as ornamental friezes are gilded. At the turn of the 1980s — 1990s, when I was preparing the publication of vessels from Kosika, it was obvious to me that this group of vessels is a unique collection, which, according to a number of features, could have been made in a nomadic environment especially for their nobility. According to the inscription on the basin, which mentioned a certain Ampsalakos, who made it, I conditionally designated this group of vessels as the works of the “Ampsalakos school”, later on making certain adjustments to the chronology of the work of this workshop, but without refusing to single it out.
In none of the works published in recent decades, in
which the vessels from Kosika are attributed to the
products of the Parthian workshops, there is not a single parallel with the
Parthian silver vessels (!). Either the authors are not aware of these, or they do
not consider it necessary to substantiate their attributions. On the
other hand, the desire to attribute these vessels as Parthian products is
quite in line with the trend, if not to deny the possibility of the existence
of artisans-toreuts and their workshops in the
nomadic societies, including the Sarmatians, then
to cast it into serious doubt. The researchers who take such positions demonstrate
ignorance of the widely known facts about the development of crafts, including
metalworking, in the nomadic societies of
This work is an attempt to update, taking into account new finds, publications and attributions that have appeared in the last almost thirty years after the publication of my article in 1994.
How can the appearance of the vessels under discussion be reconstructed?
is no reason to consider them all as imported. Noteworthy is the combination
of ornamental motifs characteristic of the toreutics
of the Seleucid-Parthian circle. At
the same time, such important components as the composition of the
decoration, the size and correlation of individual elements of the rosettes,
the primitive execution of ornamental motifs, in particular on the frieze
with shoots of floral ornament or on the rosettes, allow us to say that the
craftsman who made these vessels (Kosika, Verbovskiy), was, of course, familiar with the works of toreutics of the Middle East, Western and Central Asia,
but did not see their prototypes and did not understand the meaning and role of
the elements and composition of the decoration, belonging to a different
culture. However, this does not
automatically mean that the vessels in question necessarily came from the
Against the general background, a jug from Vysochino stands out, in which the level of decoration is higher, and the repertoire of images is much more diverse, many of which are characteristic of the Seleucid-Parthian toreutics. However, even here the images are made inaccurately, the lines are often duplicated, the figures go beyond the friezes, and from all the rich technical repertory of the Middle and Near Eastern toreutics, the master preferred the cutter. Statics and primitivism are especially striking in the depictions of human figures in the fishing scenes.
One way or another, the jug from Vysochino, which was altered with the addition of a
zoomorphic handle (like imported luterion
from Novoaleksandrovka), for the nomads of the
Lower Don was, of course, an imported item. At the
same time, the shape of this jug, which has no prototypes in Western or
On the whole, the jug from Vysochino
can be regarded as an intermediate link between the works of toreutics made in the workshops of the Middle East or
The above-mentioned features of the images on the vessels from Kosika give grounds for both chronological conclusions and assumptions about the origin of the craftsmen. As for dating, the entire range of parallels indicates that the assignment of vessels to the 1st century BCE is quite justified. There are certain differences in the rendering of similar images and their details on the vessels from Kosika, Verbovskiy, and the collection of S.I. Grigoryants and the level of skill allows us to assume the work of different craftsmen. Against the general background, a certain negligence in the rendering of details on the goblet from Verbovskiy is striking. This makes it possible to assume not only the manufacture of the vessels under discussion by different craftsmen, but also at various times in frames of the mid-1st century BCE —first half of the 1st century CE.
This reconstruction, based only on the analysis of the forms of vessels, subjects, decorative motifs, forms and techniques of execution of decorative elements without taking into account historical reconstructions, nevertheless, is in perfect agreement with the reconstruction that I originally carried out and, of course, under the influence of reading and interpretation of the inscription on the basin from Kosika.
Key words: Asian Sarmatia,
Lower Volga, Lower Don regions, interfluve of Don
Received March 7, 2023.
Accepted for publication March 22, 2023.
About the author:
Treister Mikhail (