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Norman J. Finkelshteyn

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Belt set from Romanovsky Cemetary 1, Kurgan 1
By Norman Finkelshteyn
Information for the following came from the article "Poyasniye nabori iz kurganov Khazarskogo vremeni mezhdurechya Dona i Sala" (Belt sets from Khazar period kurgans found between the Don and Sal rivers) by A.A. Ivanov, V.P. Kopilov, S.A. Naumenko, which appeared in Donskaya Arkheologia, No. 1 - 2000. No ISBN is listed.
Photographs were provided by the Donskaya Arkheologia magazine and are used by exclusive permission. The online summary of the magazine is provided in Russian and English at

Belt and Purse Plates from Romanovsky Cemetary 1, Kurgan 1


The discussed find comes from one of 56 burial complexes in the small area between the Don and Sal rivers. The vast majority, including this one, are identified as Khazar, dating to between the second half of the seventh and the first half of the ninth centuries.
Ivanov, Kopilov, and Naumenko theorise that these burials, characterised as mounds with narrow, square ditches, show a distinct ethno cultural style in the artifacts and the belt sets especailly may be used to characterise a distinct ethno-cultural group.
This find was a male burial which included a horse and a rich burial inventory. Among the materials were coins dated to 717-741 C.E.

Loop plaque with hinged bracket

"Horseshoe" plaque

Description of the Belt Parts
All belt parts were cast silver with finishing work, decorated with vegetal motiffs.
The buckle, buckle-tongue, and buckle plate were made separately and hinged together. The buckle plate was attached to the belt with three posts.
There are three "horseshoe shaped" plates and two half-oval plates with an open, rectangular frame at the bottom. There is also one "loop" plate with a hinged frame below it -- the main plate of this is a loop, attached to the belt with riveting posts at its back, leaving the loop open (see reconstruction image below -- side view drawing "B").

Plaque with integral bracket
The belt set also included a purse.
There was a two sided buckle with hinged tongue. The purse cover had a "spade-shaped" (for lack of better descriptive) cover plate, attached with eight rivet posts. The bag itself had two brackets (not photographed -- rough stand-in images created for reconstruction to get aproximate scale, with side views drawn not to scale) -- one smaller, deeper one ("D" at reconstruction) and one longer shallower one ("E" at reconstruction). The fastening strap had two small decorative plaques (not photographed - rough stand-in images created for reconstruction to get aproximate scale).

Purse top plate

An oval plate with hinge brackets at its top was found close by the body but does not seem to belong to the belt set.

Belt Layout Reconstruction
I set up the "Belt and Purse position reconstruction" from elements of the above photographs in an aproximation of the likely setup of the belt and purse. The available images were kept to scale. Where images were unavailable, I created very rough stand ins to provide a notion of scale.
The plates are moved closer together than they would have been on the belt.

Belt and Purse position reconstruction
Image doctored from elements in above photographs.

The Belt
I have placed the large "loop plaque" with hinged bracket ("A") based on an assumption of utility on my part. The description of the find is not clear on where it was found.
As illustrated at the sideview diagram ("B"), the plate forms a loop riveted at its back to the belt. I am presuming that this loop was used to hold the belt-end and therefore must have been just to the viewer's right of the buckle. Simpler metal loops have been found in Khazar belt assemblies and have been placed similarly.

One of the "horseshoe shaped" plates was found laying on the buckle itself, as if it was just to the outside of the belt hole at which the buckle was fastened. My reconstruction shows an "X" at the spot of the presumed fastening hole. The "X" is positioned to scale only in relation to the particular "horseshoe" plate it belongs to.
The two other "horseshoe" plates were to the outside of the first one -- to the viewer's right of the buckle. Based on that position, they could have been attached to the outside of the belt strap, as I have illustrated, or they could have been on the other side of the belt -- to the right of the buckle.
A third posibility, if I have placed the "loop plaque" apropriately, is that there was a pendant strap attached to the hinged frame of the "loop plaque" and the second or third "horseshoe" plates (or both) actualy decorated that pendant strap. Later belts in the Crimea have been reconstructed with a pendant strap located just to the right of the buckle.

The two plates with integral brackets were positioned on the body at the right hip (the viewer's extreme left). Straps most likely extended from these to hold the purse. There were no decorations found for these presumed straps.

The Purse
As mentioned above, a "spade shaped" plate ("C") was mounted to the purse cover. There is a hole at the bottom center of this plate. The purse body had two brackets ("D" and "E"). The smaller, deeper bracket ("D") was placed to enter the hole on the cover plate when the purse was shut (see profile graphic "F"). The larger, shallower one ("E") would be just below the cover.

A strap attached to the bottom of the purse, would then be pulled through both brackets, over the cover plate, and buckled at the top. Two plates decorated the strap where it would overlap the cover plate. In the illustration, place holders for these plates are positioned next to the cover plate at their aproximate locations.

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