International Scientific Conference "Archeology of the Arctic"
November 19-23, 2017

Ornitomorphic idol on eneolithic ceramics (West Siberian Polar region)

O.S. Tupakhina

SPI YNAO  Arctic Research Center, Salekhard




Unlike other known sites of the Neolithic-Bronze Age period in Western Siberia the Eneolithic settlement Gorny Samotnel - I was quite rich in sculptured images on ceramics. These included numerous 3D images of fur animals,  owls, waterfowl and partridges, bears, elks, one wolf and a seal [Tupakhina, 2012. P. 161-165;  2016. P. 204-211]. A separate series was made up of human images in the form of faces, or in one case a figure embracing a carinated vessel. The images were readily recognizable with the exception of the strongly reduced ones, and were made in the high relief style. Of a particular interest in this connection was a fragment of a vessel collar with a low relief figure of a mythological creature, the so-called ornitomorphic idol. A massive body of the figure was crowned with a semblance of a head. The arms were stretched horizontally and bent in the elbows pointing down. The space between the arms and the body was ornamented with the impressions of small semi-circular stamp with a sharp working edge.  It may be assumed that these impressions represented the bird's feathers. The lower part of the figure was missing, only a small fragment of the right leg was in place. The height of the preserved part of the sculpture was 5.6 cm, the width – 5.2 cm, the height from the wall of the vessel – 0.4 cm. The sculpture of the vessel apparently was not unique, it would have been logical to assume the existence of similar images along the length of the  collar perimeter. 

The very fact of the discovery of a unique image of the Eneolithic (the end of the 4th-3rd millennium BC) in the West Siberian Polar region posed many questions.  In Western Siberia this type of images in the form of bronze and iron cast items was characteristic for the later periods - Early Iron Age and the Middle Ages. V.N Chernetsov in his analysis of the ancient rock images of the Ural drew attention to the birds drawings in heraldic attitudes, which was similar to the ornitomorphic bronze idols' attitudes [Chernetsov, 1971. P. 79]. The silhouette similarity in the cast items was identified in  the Itkul culture sites in the highland-forest Trans-Ural [Victorova, 2002. P. 90, Fig. 1]. We may also add to this group the graphic images of the bicorn anthropomorphic creatures in the Ural petroglyphs [Chirokov, Chairkin, 2011. P. 134. Fig. 106] and on the Ayat culture ceramics dated as the Eneolith-Bronze Age period (3rd-2nd millennium BC) [Ibid. P. 130. Fig. 101]. On the earlier periods items from the neighboring territories the population of which could have participated in the formation of the Gorny Samotnel culture, no like images have been found. Thus it may be preliminarily presumed that the appearance of an ornitomorphic idol on the Eneolithic settlement ceramics in the West Siberian Polar region was a local tradition.


Victorova V.D. Reasons for the appearance of faces on  ornitomorphic images // Ural Historical Jornal. 2002. – № 8. – PP. 74-92.

Tupakhina O.S. Modeled clay figures of Gorny Samotnel - I settlement // Archeology of the Arctic. International conference. Papers.) G. Salekahrd, 27-30 November 2012. – Ekaterinburg: "Delovaya Pressa" Publishing House, 2012. – PP. 161-165.

Tupakhina O.S. Bird images on ceramic pottery of the Eneolithic in the North of Western Siberia - based on  Gorny Samotnel - I materials // Archeology of the Arctic. – Kaliningrad: P.H. "ROS-DOAFK", 2016. – Issue 3. – PP. 204-211.

Chernetsov V. N. Rock drawing of the Ural. – M.: Nauka, 1971. – 148 p.

Shirokov V.N., Chairkin S.E. Petroglyphs of the North and the Middle Ural. – Ekaterinburg: 2011. – 182 p.

Electronic versions of printed documents