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

Probable “oriental” rattle-mirrors shape evolution in the Kulay community territory.

P.I. Shulga

Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, Siberian branch of RAS, Novosibirsk (



Until recently one could hardly imagine there was any connection between the mysterious bronze 'oriental' rattle-mirrors of the 5th-3rd centuries BC [Shulga,2003; Vasilkov,2003; Treister,2012, V.1, P. 121–125]) and various taiga Ob district plaques ornamented with cones and concentric bands.   At the same time a recently discovered new category of artifacts could apparently fill the gap and serve as a connecting element. We are referring here to the large and small bronze disks with cones and bands from the Kazym hoard which where initially interpreted as the rattle-mirrors [Baulo,2016] since some of them seemed to be exact replicas of the rattle-mirrors' reverse disks relief with a central cone surrounded by two hollow bands. Some of these disks also had the characteristic for the mirrors ornamentation and even the "maidens" images. However in the course of their study and comparative analysis it was established that these were not the reverse disks of the composite rattle-mirrors, but a totally new special category of non-functional ritual items. Outwardly similar disks from the Kazym hoard (7 pieces) were almost entirely different from the rattle-mirrors in all significant features. All disks were about 11 cm in diameter, unlike the mirrors, which were 15 cm in diameter. They were not forged but cast, and lacked 'gold plating'. The images on them were carved, instead of embossed. On some disks there was only one (sometimes solid) band, the number of facets varied. In addition two more significant features of the disks should be noted: 1) all of them had images of horses instead of does in a different composition and in another unknown artistic manner; 2) unlike the rattle-mirrors the disks were initially made as items not intended for any practical purpose without handles, hooks, or hollows. According to the preliminary analysis data the engraved disks were made in the east of Western Asia in the 3rd  century BC wherefrom they came north via the Sargat culture territory. 

In addition to the aforementioned large disks with diameters of around 11 cm in the Kazym hoard and other locations there were also small, 5-6 cm in diameter disks (plaques) with a cone in the center surrounded by a hollow band, including the hexagonal one. Some of them replicated the central part of the rattle-mirror with one internal hexagonal band. Apparently they were cast somewhat later than the large disks, and not in Western Asia, but, probably, in the territory of the Sargat culture.

Thus owing to the Kazym discovery we could with confidence follow the complicated evolution path: rattle-mirrors - large engraved disks - large disks without engravings - small disks (plaques) without engraving. In order to make them usable for practical purposes the northern hunters made two opposing holes in each of them. From attrition traces near the holes it may be assumed that the disks and plaques were fixed on some frequently moving base. This could be a top garment as in the Piany Bor ( Chagandin) culture [Gening,1970. P. 58. Fig. 35], a belt, or a standard hanging in the wind.

The described above typological chain was completed in sequence with: 1) simple plaques with a cone and one band (see similar items [Pristupa, Starodumov, Yakovlev, 2002. P. 79; Shirin, 2012. Fig.  7; and others], 2) plaques ornamented with a cone, bands, radial slots, as well as the images of bear heads (see similar items [Baulo,2011. P. 210; Shirin, 2012. Fig. 8; and others], 3) epaulet-type buckles with bear heads images [ Shirin, 2003; and others]. Similarity of these categories of things was already mentioned before [Baulo,2011. P. 210; Shirin, 2012. P. 38]. From this we may presume the existence in the taiga Ob region of a continuous tradition of the use of disks, plaques, and epaulet-type buckles ornamented with cones and surrounded with bands from the 3rd century BC until the 5th-7th centuries.




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