Scythian ceremonial gilded silver cup from Gaimanova Mogila Royal Kurgan in Ukraine

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“The most outstanding work of Scytho-Classical art found in the Gaimanova Mogila kurgan is a small spherical gilded silver cup, with two flat horizontal handles decorated with rams’ heads. The central design on the cup is a wide frieze in high relief, depicting Scythian warriors. The warriors stand against a background showing an open, stony area and are connected with each other by their involvement in common activities. They are superbly integrated into the form of the vessel. The four major figures are displayed in pairs on the surface of the cup; the other two kneel under the cup’s handles,” – wrote the head of the archaeological works Vasily Bidzilia from the Institute of Archaeology of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences for UNESCO in 1976.

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“On one side of the cup, there are two elderly warriors, engaged in conversation. Long-haired and bearded, they are dressed in rich clothing and carry ceremonial precious weaponry. Their long kaftans, with triangular gussets, are trimmed with fur and embroidered on the shoulders and chest with fantastical designs. Their hairstyles are highly distinctive, and their weapons in particular betoken the highest authority. The mace of the warrior on the right and the two-thonged whip held by the one on the left, suggest that the two men belonged to the elite of Scythian leaders.”

“On the opposite side of the cup, an elderly bearded warrior and a young Scythian are conversing. Their clothing is just as luxurious, their weapons just as costly, but their poses are somewhat different. The young Scythian holds in his right hand a ritual drinking-bowl, and his left hand is outstretched, like that of the elderly warrior. Under one handle of the vessel, a youth on his knees is prostrating himself before a wineskin, while the kneeling figure under the other handle is an elderly warrior, with his gorytos (the combination quiver and bow-case typical of the Scythians) beside him. He has one hand stretched up to his forehead and is gripping something with the other. All the figures are gilded, and only the faces and hands are silver. Each image is individual in style. It is worth emphasizing that this is the first known example of Scythian d├ęcorative art depicting Scythian leaders of the highest rank.”

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