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Information for the following came from the article "A Belt of a Noble Warrior from Sarkel" by T. I. Makarova, S. A. Pletneva.
It was part of a collection of objects which had all been packed in a clay kitchen pot in the South Western corner of the fortress. In the pot were two belts, a number of coins, and some jewelry.
The coins found in the "treasure" date between 907 and 954. The whole had been burned, the pot burst and what remains of it are the base and charred remains of padding straw. Both belts had been tightly wrapped and the charred remains of the leather remained in position.
Sarkel was one of the principal defenses of the Khazar Kaganate. It was taken and burned in 965 by Svyatoslav Igorevich of Kiev. The treasure was thus deposited at some point between 954 and 965, possibly in connection with that last battle.
This belt was no wider than 2 cm (a little over 3/4 inch).
The parts of this belt are all silver, gold plated, and highlited with chern (a blacked silver treatment) in incised lines.
The decorations are all of a unified design which may be divided into three "sub-styles".
There are two end plates, both likely used on the pendant straps, one in each of the first two styles.
The plaques may be divided into 5 types:
They have a sort of double image -- looking like faces when seen in one way and like trees when flipped around.
A final object in the set is a cylindrical, flattened tube (see full belt image, center pendant strap of the three to the viewer's right). It is a folded sheet decorated only on the "face" - the half that faces outwards. One edge has two holes, one at top the other at bottom, which were used to attach the sheet to the belt, after which it was folded around for the second edge to meet the first. The decoration consists of borders and a center strip of simple slashes with two S-shaped "branches" in areas framed by these borders (one in the upper, another in the lower).
While some of the difference may be due to the extra plates (presumably uncovered after the article was written), the conceptual difference created by some of the changes is not necessarily waranted.
The main belt is indeed the same as proposed, as are the number and location of pendant straps. Differences are in the details of pendant strap arangement. I will describe the arangement proposed by Makarova and Pletneva, highlighting the differences with the photographs.
According to the proposal, the two straps to the viewer's left had held a small purse riveted below the last plaque. As such, the number of plaques for the two straps was equal. It was proposed that two plaques were placed on the main belt (as in the photographs) and then four were suspended on each of the two straps (for a total of eight pendant plaques). The photogrpah shows one more plaque on the strap at the viewer's outer left than its neighbor.
Makarova and Pletneva were of the opinion that the five plaques and end plate with the heart-shaped tree trunk design were the original set of plates which the warrior owned as a young man. This theory was backed as these six plates were uniformly more worn than the rest of the belt. They theorized that the original buckle and buckle plate had been too worn out to retain.
The three "cirular holed" plaques were, according to Makarova and Pletneva, obtained at a third point in the belt's life, together with the cylindrical tube.
In the museum's reconstruction, the five plaques of "the warrior as a young man" were mixed with the three "circular holed" plaques and cylinder, which had marked the warrior as a grizzled old general, on the central of the three straps to the viewer's right, while the youngster's end plate was retained in the rightmost strap -- now at the end of five of the "long face" plaques obtained during the warrior's middle age.
Silk Road Designs - http://www.oocities.com/normanjfin/silkroad
Where Author is specified, Copyright is retained by Author with express permission for use by "The Red Kaganate" organisation. Where Author is unspecified, Copyright is retained by Norman J. Finkelshteyn.