The Saka 'Animal Style' in Context: Material, Technology, Form and Use

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Amir, Saltanat 

jats:pThe Iron Age Saka population of the eastern Eurasian Steppe is considered one of the earliest of the Scythian groups to emerge at the beginning of the 1st millennium BCE, consequently producing some of the earliest expressions of ‘animal style’ art. Recent excavations of burial mounds (kurgans) in the East Kazakhstan region have provided invaluable data on the depositional contexts of such objects. This paper combines contextual archaeological data and visual analysis with data on the chemical composition and technological production (through X-ray fluorescence and optical microscopy) of some of the gold artefacts from the Eleke Sazy funerary complex in East Kazakhstan. It is demonstrated that the positioning of wearable ornaments within undisturbed archaeological contexts can give vital information about their form and function, while evidence of production techniques and use-wear indicate the time investment and status the objects may have held. It is concluded that the Saka engaged in a complex process of design and execution of their art, depicting many different elements of the natural world. Further research is needed into understanding Saka lifeways and belief systems in relation to large-scale processes of climate change, land use, time, and society from securely dated and well-documented funerary and domestic archaeological contexts.</jats:p>


Peer reviewed: True

Funder: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

Funder: University of Cambridge Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme and Magdalene College Student Research Bursary

Saka, Scythian, animal style, archaeological science, Iron Age, hare
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AHRC (AH/V011685/1)