The Red Kaganate

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First Century Sarmatian Belt from Astrakhan

Materials for this article come from Fedorov-Davydov, G.A. The Silk Road and the Cities of the Golden Horde, Zinat Press, Berkeley, Ca, 2001. The book may be ordered directly from Zinat Press - http://www.csen.org/Pubs_Sales_Reviews/Zinat%20Publications.html.
Photographs provided by Zinat Press and used by permission.

These are items from the rich tomb of a first century Sarmatian chieftan or priest, found near the village of Kosika, on the west bank of the Volga, 100 km above Astrakhan.
If I understood the relation between text and illustrations correctly, all of the items discussed below were related to the belt.

All are at the Astrakhan Historic Architectural Museum as of the time of book publication.

Two part Belt Buckle
Metal work is gold - forged, soldered, stamped, chased, and inlaid with colored stones and glass.

Length: 7 - 7.1 cm
Width: 3.1 - 3.4 cm
Height: 2.3 cm

Museum Inventory number: KP 35529

NOTE: In the book, both photos are described as different views of the same plate. However, looking at what seem to be slight differences between the objects shown, I believe the description is an error and the two photos are of the two separate plates.

Center animal is a hedgehog. There are two snakes along the sides with tails knotted together behind the hedgehog. Two griffin heads in front of the hedgehog (viewer's right on the image).
"At the back, each buckle has a soldered vertical plate, forming a small container with hinged lids".
Also at back, "an aperture for attaching to a belt and a hook for fastening."

Regarding the "small container" and the hedgehog, Fedorov-Davydov says:
The buckle plate "served as the base for a small vessel that was soldered to the buckles' inner side. These vessels may once have contained incense, sacred herbs, or liquids used in rituals. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that it was customary among the Scythians to carry a vessel containing a sacred beverage on their belts. This practice apparently was also known among the Sarmatians and other Iranian tribes of the Eurasian steppe, and the hedgehog-shaped vessels affixed to the gala belt's buckles were designed to carry some such sacred beverage in front of the wearer. Depictions of hedgehogs are known in the art of Siberia and Central Asia at around the same time." (page 15)

Two Belt Ends

Cast gold with soldered drawn wire and cloisonne.

Length: 5 cm
Width: 1.4 cm
Depth: 0.4 cm

Museum Inventory number: KP 35538
NOTE: The inventory number may be incorrect, as it is the same as that listed for the "zoomorphic finial" (see below).

"Aperture on one end for inserting ...leather belt and prongs for fastening the plate to the other end." (page 148)
NOTE: Judging from image -- perhaps the description should have the aperture and prongs at the same end.

NOTE: It is infered from context that these and the buckle belong to the same belt harness (perhaps pendant strap ends). But this is not clear.

Four "ornaments from a harness"

Cast gold with soldered drawn wire.
There is a boss on the front and a loop on the back.

Diameter: 4.7 cm
Height (or depth): 1.3 cm (excluding loop)

Museum Inventory number: KP 35603, 35604, 35605, 35606

NOTE: It is infered from context that these plates belong to the belt harness. But this is not clear.

Whetstone finial

Stamped gold, shaped as a predator's head. Flat deocrative stones had been mounted in the ears and eyes. There is a suspension ring at the top.
The stone itself is a "greyish-yellowish-greenish stone of jade type".

Length: 21.2 cm
Width: 2.1 cm

Museum Inventory number: KP 40921

NOTE: It is infered from context that this item belongs with the belt harness. But this is not clear.

Finial for a bone object

A gold cylinder with one end capped with a plate and the fragment of a bone object inside.
Plate is forged and hammered and decorated with drawn wire soldered on.

Diameter: 1.7 cm
Height: 5 cm

Museum Inventory number: KP 40675

NOTE: It is infered from context that this item belongs with the belt harness. But this is not clear.

Finial of "zoomorphic form"

Forged, stamped gold with soldered wire and cap. Originally was inlaid with stones or glass.
"In the form of a horse head or wolf head ...was attached with nails" (the text does not indicate what this was attached to).

Length: 4.3 cm
Width: 11 cm
Museum Inventory number: KP 35538
NOTE: The inventory number may be incorrect, as it is the same as that listed for the Belt Ends (see above).

NOTE: It is infered from context that this item belongs with the belt harness. But this is not clear.

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