Abstract/G. G. Korol'. THE ART OF MEDIEVAL EURASIAN NOMADS. ESSAYS = .. . / .. . - .; : , 2008. - C. 327-328. - ( ; . V). - ISBN 5-202-00239-4.

     The book is the outcome of many years of research and analysis of Eurasian nomad art of the end of the 1st - beginning of the 2nd millenniums AD, based on numerous archeological finds - small toreutics, represented mainly by belt ornaments for equestrian warriors (bridle and belt sets of non-ferrous metal), and also by decorations on equipment and weaponry (saddles, belt and saddle bags) and clothes. Most of the items in question have characteristic shape and decor. They reflect the Early Medieval Eurasian style of decorative and applied art, which has been named "steppe ornamentalism". It is characterized by geometrized floral ornament which prevails over other types of decor: zoomorphic, anthropomorphic, and sometimes geometric motifs.

     Stylistic affinity (in the broad sense) in the decor of small toreutics comprises regional peculiarities, which can be observed both throughout major state formations (Khazar Khaganate, Bulgaria Volga, Ancient Rus in Eastern Europe; Kyrgyz Khaganate, the Kimak-Kypchak ethnic and political formation in the Sayan-Altai, or Southern Siberia) and within their local territorial entities, reflecting the ethnic and cultural traditions of the population and its relations with the outside world. Decorative features can be relatively simple and easily recognizable (e.g., mid-8th - 9th cc. materials from the Khazar Khaganate and materials from Sayan-Altai cultures of the mid-9th - beginning of the 11th cc), or complex, indicating the functioning of various production centers within a major region (e.g., Ancient Rus culture of the 10th - 13th cc). In both cases, decorative features supply information about the prevailing influences of artistic traditions from neighboring and even far-away countries and peoples. Tradition is understood as a steady complex of interrelated elements which influence each other.

     Decorative and applied art is considered as part of folk art, another aspect whereof is oral tradition, epos first and foremost. The present work formulates the factors which reveal the development patterns for decorative art and epos; defines these general development patterns for the two branches of art, and reveals a certain affinity of their stylistics and images.

    The essays deal mainly with materials from two major regions, - the south of Eastern Europe and the Sayan-Altai (Southern Siberia). Research was concerned primarily with the structural elements of decor which give the opportunity to correlate decorative art with the spiritual aspect of social life. Anthropomorphic decor is the most important structural element in this respect. The author correlates decorative "topics" primarily with epos (Nart epos for the south of Eastern Europe, Turkic epos for the Sayan-Altai); also with mythological and religious heritage, rituals and other aspects of the traditional culture of the peoples descended from the Medieval inhabitants of the territories in question.

    It is interesting to compare anthropomorphic decor from two major Eurasian steppe regions and the piedmonts, to reveal their common and individual features. Other codes of decorative art are considered as well, on the example of Sayan-Altai art. Zoomorphic and floral codes of visual art are compared with corresponding codes of verbal art (on the basis of academic publications of epos of peoples from different regions in the Sayan-Altai: the Altaians, Khakassians, Tuvins and Shors).

     The author identifies and analyses serial groups of small toreutics from the Sayan-Altai. These comprise the most popular decorative compositions and motifs, which are encountered quite frequently in all the regions of the Sayan-Altai. Some of the motifs are symbolic and go back to Buddhist iconographic prototypes which are widely used in Manichean art. Starting from the time of the Uighur Khaganate (745-840 AD), Manicheanism penetrated the territory in question; the fact that it found favor with the Khagans played an important role in the development of a syncretic decorative art in subsequent periods. Identifying the semantics of the motifs, and the reason why they became the most popular ones, also allows to correlate material works of art with the spiritual life of the societies which used the objects in question. The most popular patterns of floral and geometric decor are used for analyzing the development and modification of traditions, revealing the roots of Early Medieval art, identifying the features that show, first and foremost, the historical and cultural relations of the local peoples, and the main directions of these relations.

     Another important aspect of the book is that it brings together the main results of an integrated study of belt ornaments, which included research into decorative features, morphology of the items and production technique, including metal composition. This was a joint study with L.V. Kon'kova, whose article on the Tyukhtyaty hoard, the eponymous site, tables listing the metal composition, the main observations and conclusions is an appendix to the present book.

    The chapter about the two major collections of the items under investigation - the Tyukhtyaty from the Minusinsk basin in the Middle Yenisei (stored in the Minusinsk regional museum) and P. K. Frolov's collection from the Altai region (first third of the 19th c; stored in the Oriental section of the State Hermitage, St. Petersburg) - is of interest from the point of view of source studies. The collections differ as to origin, yet the structure of their material is similar. For the first time, the decor of belt ornaments from these collections has been studied and analyzed in detail against a wide background of Eurasian analogies, known to the author from museum collections and publications.

    Besides illustrating the stages of the research, the herein presented material is a first publication of little-known, and sometimes unknown items. Much attention is given to those; the author investigates the sometimes complicated stories behind the artifacts, and elucidates some of the "scientific myths". One should also note the appendix which contains the original tables of V.V. Radlov's handwritten Album (1861), stored in the St. Petersburg Museum of Ethnography and Anthropology (the Kunstkammer) named after Peter the Great.

    The book shall be of interest for both specialists and readers interested in the history of Medieval nomads of steppe Eurasia and adjacent territories.

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