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BRAMA, Mar. 1, 2000, 9:00am EST

Gold of the Nomads:
Scythian Treasures from Ancient Ukraine

At The Walters Gallery ( in Baltimore, Maryland, March 7 - May 28, 2000

Immerse yourself in a time exotic and savage, when fierce Scythians thundered across the vast southwest Asian steppe. Like the ancient Egyptians, these invincible nomads sent their dead into the afterlife adorned with fabulous golden treasures. Their burial mounds in present-day Ukraine have yielded an archaeological treasure trove of golden weaponry, thought to have been lost for eternity.

See over 170 of these exquisite treasures, many only recently excavated and shown for the first time in the United States. A free audio tour tells the thrilling stories of the ancient Scythians and their legacy of gold.

Gold of the Nomads showcases ancient gold treasures of the Scythians, the fierce, nomadic horsemen who roamed the European steppe from the seventh to the third centuries BC. These proud warriors, who grew rich on trade with the Greeks, commissioned lavish gold objects for adornment, ceremony and battle, drawing on their own ancient artistic traditions and employing the finest Greek goldsmiths of the age.

Featuring over 170 objects from the Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine, Kyiv (Kiev); The Institute of Archaeology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Kyiv; and the State Historical Archaeological Preserve (Pereiaslav-Khmel'nyts'kyi) Gold of the Nomads will encompass the largest and most comprehensive collections of Scythian gold objects ever assembled for an exhibition. Many of the objects included in the exhibition were only recently unearthed and will be seen for the first time outside Ukraine in this exhibition.


San Antonio
Museum of Art
November 7, 1999 -
January 30, 2000

Walters Art GalleryMarch 5 -
May 28, 2000

Los Angeles County
Museum of Art
July 2 -
September 24, 2000

The Brooklyn
Museum of Art
October 29, 2000 -
January 21, 2001

Royal Ontario Museum
February 18 -
April 29, 2001

Nelson-Atkins Museum
of Art, Kansas City
May 27 -
August 11, 2001

Grand Palais, ParisMay 27 -
August 11, 2001

NOTE: Check the Brama Community Calendar for exhibition tour updates.

The Scythians
The Scythians flourished more than 2,500 years ago in what is present-day Ukraine and are among the most fascinating of the great warrior cultures that dominated the steppes for centuries. They originated in the central Asian steppes sometime in the early first millennium, BC. After migrating into what is present-day Ukraine, they flourished, from the seventh to the third centuries, BC, over a vast expanse of the steppe that stretched from the Danube, east across what is modern Ukraine and east of the Black Sea into Russia. Invincible for nearly four centuries, the Scythians were a people of great military skill and unrelenting ferocity. They were also extremely influential patrons of the arts, and left behind an extraordinary legacy of both ruthless conquest and lavish artifacts. Gold of the Nomads offers visitors a rare glimpse into the lives of these great warriors, whose brutality was matched only by their passion for exquisite ornament.

Buried Treasures
Much of what is known about the Scythians has been uncovered through archaeological excavations of their burial mounds, known as kurhany. Ongoing explorations of kurhany continue to recover an astonishing wealth of gold and silver objects, ranging from horse trappings to armor, weaponry, jewelry and ceremonial adornment. Early finds of Scythian gold artifacts in the 1700s were so stunning that Catherine the Great ordered their systematic study, launching what became the field of Scythian archaeology. Some of the most extraordinary finds were uncovered only in the last two decades, and excavations continue on an ongoing basis to explore some of the more than 40,000 kurhany still unexcavated in Ukraine.

Many of the works of art are in the animal style associated with the central Asian steppes, while others reflect influence from ancient Near Eastern cultures. Still other objects reveal a fusion of the animal style with Near Eastern motifs and Greek iconography and style. Rich evidence of this sophisticated, artistic dialogue constitutes an intriguing new frontier in archaeological research.

Exhibition Highlights
Gold of the Nomads showcases a broad range of objects that have been excavated in the last two decades and have never been seen in the United States. These virtually unknown masterpieces include a gold helmet bearing scenes in relief of Scythian combat, the style of which is clearly influenced by Attic Greek red-figure vase painting of the 5th century BC; a nearly foot-high object that is thought to have served as a finial, covered with intricately intertwined animal combat scenes; and a sensational series of recently discovered gold cut-out plaques from a gorytos (bow and arrow case), with winged dragons depicted in a blend of the animal and Near Eastern styles and a leafy-footed, scaly, bearded man who looks to be part Scythian, part Assyrian.

The story of the Scythians and Scythian art is also a story of interaction with the Greek world, which eagerly purchased grain, furs and amber from the Scythians. Profits from this trade brought Scythians the wealth to indulge their taste for elaborate objects ranging from torques to horse decorations. Magnificent gilded bronze Greek vessels discovered in a bog 300 miles up the Dnipro River testify to the extensive commercial and cultural ties between the peoples.

When the Scythians at last abandoned their nomadic lifestyle for the prosperous, settled life which trade had brought them, the door was opened for the invasion of a hardier nomadic tribe, the Sarmatians. The exhibition will close with several superb Sarmatian gold objects, including a torque, a dolphin brooch and a pendant, as a reminder of how intriguing and how still little known are the cultures, objects, and artistic styles of this part of the world.

A major 352-page volume published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc. and edited by Ellen Reeder accompanies the exhibition, with essays by Reeder, Esther Jacobson (professor of art history at the University of Oregon), and Michael Treister (former curator, Pushkin Museum, Moscow). The sumptuously-illustrated volume showcases the Scythian treasures with original collections photography, including many images which are published here for the first time. Presenting newly excavated works of art as well as important new scholarship, Scythian Gold is a landmark volume for the study of Scythian art and culture. Alex Castro, who designed the exhibition, also designed the catalogue.


Check The Walters Gallery website for ticket pricing, reservations and other information.


Gold of the Nomads is organized by the Walters Art Gallery and the San Antonio Museum of Art.

The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities. The Baltimore presentation is made possible by the generous support of:

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