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Silver Plate Showing Scythian Goddess Unearthed in Russia

Scythian goddess
A silver plate intricately carved with figures of a goddess was found in a grave of a Scythian warrior in Russia. Credit: Russian Academy of Sciences

An intricately-engraved silver plate showing a winged Scythian goddess was recently unearthed in Russia as part of the grave goods buried in the tomb of a warrior.

Although the man’s grave had been looted in antiquity, its roof had later caved in, ironically saving what was left from the depredations of grave robbers over the centuries.

Archaeologists who are excavating the site under the auspices of the Russian Academy of Sciences state that the plate shows the fertility goddess Argimpasa surrounded by other mythical creatures.

The silver plate, measuring 13.6 inches (34.7 centimeters) long and 3 inches (7.5 cm) wide     shows Argimpasa along with griffons and other animals. She appears to be wearing what is likely a crown.

Plethora of figures on object is “evidence of fusion of cultural traditions between Asia Minor and Ancient Greece”

Researchers say they are still trying to understand what other creatures depicted on the piece of silver might be, but there are definitely “winged eagle-headed griffons” and other creatures with paws all around her.

The existence of the griffons and the other figures, the archaeologists say, is “evidence of a fusion of cultural traditions between Asia Minor and Ancient Greece.”

Although researchers believe that the oblong plate may have been a burial good for the warrior, very few such silver plates have been found in the many other Scythian burial sites that have been excavated up to now.

Valeriy Gulyaev, the archaeologist with the Russian Academy of Sciences who led the research team, said in the statement that there is “great work to be done on studying and interpreting such an unusual divine figure.”

He added “The discovery has made an important contribution to our concepts of Scythian beliefs. Firstly, a number of deities are depicted at once on one item. Secondly, it as the first example of an object found so far away from the main Scythian centers.”

Scythian object shows Argimpasa, goddess of fertility and war

The ancient cemetery where the warrior’s grave was located is in the Ostrogozhsky district of southwest Russia. The plate depicts Argimpasa, a goddess associated with human and animal fertility, as well as war. The plate was located a bit further away than other grave goods found there, far from the warrior’s body.

Archaeologists believe the plate dates back to between 900 B.C. and 200 B.C., when the Scythians, a semi-nomadic people who were noted warriors and horsemen, dominated the region.

The Greek historian Herodotus wrote several times of the Scythians, noting in his work “The Histories” that “None who attacks them can escape, and none can catch them if they desire not to be found.” The Scythians were famed for their intricate gold jewelry and artwork, which depicted many different themes including warriors, goddesses, horses and other objects, including abstract patterns.

Archaeologists discovered the grave of the warrior, with his skeleton lying alongside that of another person. The warrior was in his forties when he died, they stated. There are a total of 19 burial mounds, or kurgans, in the cemetery.

Other objects discovered by the team include semicircular Bronze cheek plates, a goblet, a jar, bone pendants, and the jaw of a bear, which may point to the existence of a cult of the bear that could have been part of the belief system of the warrior.

The discovery of the rib bone of a horse may hint at what the archaeologists say could have been a “ritual food offering” at the time of the man’s burial.


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