Rare Scythian silver plate from the 4th century BC. C. found in a grave

An ancient Scythian silver plate depicting various deities was discovered in a tomb in western Russia, shedding new light on the nomadic equestrian empire that spanned Central Asia and parts of Eastern Europe and existed from the 8th century BC. C. until the second. century after Christ.

The plaque was found in a necropolis in the Ostrogozhsky district of Russia’s Voronezh region and consisted of 19 burial mounds. The site, known as Devitsa V, was discovered in 2000 by an expedition called Don Expedition from the Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and its excavation began in 2010.

Excavation of the mound in question, Mound 7, revealed a wooden tomb built with 17 large oak pillars dating from the 4th century BC. Archaeologists found the skeleton of a man between 40 and 49 years old and several other artifacts in the tomb, but the most notable discovery was the silver plate, which measures 34.7 cm by approximately 7.5 cm. The plaque shows various deities, first among them the goddess Artimpasa, who was generally associated with fertility, power over sovereignty, and priestly strength, as well as being an androgynous goddess of war, fertility, and vegetation.

Artimpasa was the Scythian variant of an Iranian goddess that the ancient Greek historian Herodotus equated with Aphrodite Urania, an epithet for the Greek goddess Aphrodite that refers to her highest and spiritual aspects. It is presented on the plate surrounded on both sides by the figures of winged griffins with the heads of eagles.

The tomb in which a silver plaque representing various ancient deities was discovered in the Voronezh region of western Russia. (credit: INSTITUTE OF ARCHEOLOGY RAS)

Archaeologists suggested that this involved a cultural mix of traditions between Asia Minor (the goddess herself) and Ancient Greece (the griffons). These kinds of mixed representations were found many times during excavations in other Scythian areas, indicating a religious synthesis between their geographic neighbors: the Persian Empire to the southeast and the Greek / Roman empires to the west.

“The find has made an important contribution to our concepts of Scythian beliefs,” said Don expedition leader Professor Valeriy Gulyaev. First of all, a particular number of gods are represented at the same time in an article. Second, it had never happened before that an element with represented gods had been found so far northeast of the main Scythian centers, “he said.

In addition to the silver plate and other small gold hemisphere plates, they found an iron knife, a horse rib, a spearhead, and three javelins. Along with the burial, the team also uncovered horse harnesses, six bronze plaques in the shape of wolves, the jaw of a young bear, a molded goblet, and several black-glazed vessels.


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