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Scythian Gold from Ukraine
Lecture at The Ukrainian Museum
Scythians, the ancient nomadic people that lived on the
northern shores of the Black Sea from the seventh to about the second centuries
B.C. and their remarkable artistry with gold will be discussed by Dr. Lada
Onyshkevych in a lecture/slide presentation at The Ukrainian Museum. The
event is scheduled to be held on two days: Friday, November 5, 1999 at
6:30 PM in the English language and Sunday, November 7, 1999 in the Ukrainian
language. The Museum is located at 203 Second Avenue, New York, NY. Admission
is by donations and refreshments will be served following the lecture.
Pectoral, mid 4th century B.C. gold enamel. From Tovsta Mohyla, Dnipropetrovs'ka Oblast
This lecture will be the final one in a series, under
the general title "Recent Archaeological Discoveries: Treasures of Ukraine's
Ancient Past," organized by the Museum. Young Ukrainian American archaeologists
and scholars were invited to speak to Museum audiences about the activities
and new developments on such important archaeological sites in Ukraine
as in Kaminets-Podilsky, and Khersones on the Krym (Crimea) peninsula,
as well as about the very timely and exciting topic – Scythian gold.
Dr. Lada Onyshkevych is an archaeologist, with a Ph.D.
in Art and Archaeology of the Mediterranean World, currently engaged as
an Exhibition Project Assistant at The Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore,
MD. Her lecture at the Ukrainian Museum is given in conjunction with the
opening of the largest and most complete exhibition of Scythian artifacts
assembled from museums of Ukraine, to be shown in the United States. It
is organized by The Walters Art Gallery and the San Antonio Museum of Art
in San Antonio, Texas.
The exhibition will open in San Antonio on November 7,
1999 - Jan. 30, 2000; The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, on March 5 –
May 28,2000, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (July 2 – Sept. 24, 2000),
and The Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York City (Oct. 29, 2000 – Jan. 21,
2001). It is scheduled to travel to the Grand Palais, Paris, following
its U.S. tour. An exhibition catalogue has already been published, to which
Dr. Onyshkevych has contributed the opening essay Scythia and the Scythians.
Entitled Gold of the Nomads: Scythian Treasures
from Ancient Ukraine, the exhibition will present 171 works of art,
mostly gold, although there are objects of silver, bronze and ceramic.
The objects are headdresses. bow and arrow covers, vessels, helmets, bracelets,
earrings, diadems, and many others. They date from the 7th through
the 2nd centuries BC, the majority between the 5th
and 4th centuries BC. It will be the first complete exhibition
sent to the United States by Ukraine since gaining its independence in
1991. Many of the objects on exhibit have never been seen here before,
some being excavated since 1975, others as recently as a year ago. Lenders
of these artifacts are museums in Ukraine such as the Museum of Historical
Treasures of Ukraine, the National Museum of the History of Ukraine, the
Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and the
State Historical Archaeological Preserve, Pereiaslav-Khmel'nyts'kyi.
In her lecture Dr. Onyshkevych will include some behind-the-scenes
information on the process of organizing this exhibition, and will provide
background data on the culture, lifestyle, belief, history and the artistic
expertise of the Scythians.
Dr. Onyshkevych explained that much of the information
on the Scythians comes to us from ancient literary sources like the Greek
historian Herodotus, who thoroughly covered the northern Black Sea region
in his Histories, as well as from archaeological evidence. The Scythians
were a nomadic people who migrated from Central Asia to the lands north
of the Black Sea, approximately around the eight century BC. They were
known as fierce warriors and astute businessmen. They controlled the grain
trade, slated for the cities in Greece, between the local agriculture concerns
and the Greek colonists who settled on the shores of the Black Sea.
The enormous profit in this venture allowed the Scythians
to commission or buy extraordinary object made from gold from Greek artisans,
which they lavishly bestowed on the dead of their elite, burying them in
huge burial mounds called kurhany. Dr. Onyshkevych pointed out that
during the height of trade with Greece, around the fifth and fourth centuries
BC, there were thousands of Scythian kurhany in Ukraine. Some of
the most notable are named Tovsta Mohyla and Babyna Mohyla in the Dnipropetrovs'ka
Oblast', Ohuz Kurhan and Bratoliubivs'kyi Kurhan in the Khersons'ka Oblast,
among others. Many of these burial chambers that have contained wealthy
Scythian deceased, yielded not only the precious metal jewelry and other
artifact, but also an enormous amount of information about the life and
times of these ancient people.
The Museum's lecture program is supported in part by a
grant from the New York Council on the Humanities.
For further information, please contact the Museum at
212 228-0110; Fax: 212 228-1947; E-mail: UkrMus@aol.com. Also, we invite
everyone to visit our web site: www.brama.com/ukrainian_museum.