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BRAMA, September 28, 2000, 10:00am EDT



The Ukrainian Museum
203 Second Avenue (bet. 12th & 13th Sts.) New York, NY 10003
Wed. thru Sun. 1-5PM (212) 228-0110
e-mail: UkrMus@aol.com * www.ukrainianmuseum.org

SCYTHIAN GOLD

One of the largest and most comprehensive exhibitions featuring extraordinary Scythian gold objects will open in New York City on October 13, 2000 at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Entitled Gold of the Nomads: Scythian Treasures from Ancient Ukraine, the exhibit will be on view through January 21, 2001. This gold bounty is the legacy of ancient nomad warriors who had settled the modern-day Ukrainian plains from about the eight century B.C., thereby linking the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean world with the cultures of Central Asia.

For this exhibition over 170 exquisitely crafted gold objects, many of which will be on view for the first time, having been excavated within the last decade, have been assembled from museums in Ukraine. Dr. Ellen D. Reeder, the Deputy Director for Art at the Brooklyn Museum and the curator of the exhibition explained: "Many of the recently excavated objects in the exhibition constitute a new chapter, even a new book in the dialogue between the ancient Aegean worlds, the ancient Near East, and the steppes that extend from north of the Black Sea as far at the Altai Republic near Mongolia." She went on to say that these finds open a new frontier in the archaeology and a "window to a mysterious, vanished culture."

Early this summer the Brooklyn Museum organized an orientation meeting for representative members of the Ukrainian community and other ethnic communities in the tri-state area with the aim to promote this exhibition The featured speaker at the meeting was Dr. Reeder. Anticipating an informative session only, the expectation of the participants were rewarded a hundred fold. Dr. Reeder presented an excellent introduction to the exhibition in a lecture supported with slides. She spoke warmly of her travels through Ukraine and shared some experiences she had in undertaking the monumental task of organizing this show. Her enthusiasm for the Scythian project was evident but it was her "infatuation" with Ukraine, its history and its people, that made this event especially endearing to the Ukrainian audience.

The Ukrainian Museum and the Ukrainian Institute of America, working together, have invited Dr. Reeder to repeat her lecture/slide presentation for the Ukrainian community. The event is scheduled for Thursday, October 5th at 6:30 PM, and will be held at the Institute, 2 East 79th Street. Tickets are $10.00 per person and a reception will follow the lecture.

This is a unusual opportunity to hear Dr. Reeders mesmerizing lecture, which takes the listener on an exciting journey to a fascinating ancient world and shows how it is being continuously discovered in our day, one precious object at a time. Here will also be a chance to once again appreciate our bountiful native land that for thousands of years has nourished wondrous civilizations, witnessed their demise, and kept the tangible remains of their existence safely protected deep beneath the earth.

The Scythians were one of the peoples from among these civilizations, who in the distant past inhabited the lands north of the Black Sea for about four hundred years. They are believed to have come from central Asia in the region of the Altai Mountains. For unclear reasons they began a massive migration westward around 1000 B.C., finally settling in the land that is present day Ukraine in about the seventh century B.C. Their arrival displaced another ancient people, the Cimmerians. The evidence of the Scythian migration and their life on the Ukrainian steppes is supported by such undisputed sources as the writings of the Greek historian Herodotus and other historians, but most of all by the numerous archaeological evidence.

There are wonderful stories relating the origins of the Scythians, although mostly they fall in the myth category. Among those mentioned by Herodotus is one presumably told by the Scythians themselves: "They (meaning the Scythians) descended from Targitaus, whose father was Zeus and whose mother was the daughter of the local Borysthenes (Dnipro) River god" This bit of information is from an essay "Scythia and the Scythians" by Dr. Lada Onyshkevych, which is the opening essay in the catalogue "Scythian Gold", a 352-page publication, accompanying the Gold of the Nomads exhibition. This catalogue, beautifully illustrated with photographs of objects shown on exhibition, offers an enormous amount of historical and scholarly information, detailing the recent excavation finds and new research, which greatly expand the understanding of the Scythians. The publication is edited by Dr. Reeder and will be available at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

The Scythians were people whose fascinating lifestyle is deduced from the evidence unearthed in archaeological excavations into their magnificent burial tombs, kurhany. There are more than 40,000 kurhany, ranging in height from ten to 50 feet. These massive mounds rising in the flatness of the steppes have yielded a plethora of gold artifacts, both decorative and utilitarian such as jewelry, weapons, and ceremonial objects. This allowed scholars to piece together how the Scythians dressed, what were their customs and traditions. Their warrior-like nature, the cruelty and grandeur of their lifestyle, their love of horses and the characteristics of their religious beliefs are better understood as archaeologists analyze the finds in these ancient burial mounds.

The Scythians were very rich based on the volume of gold found in the kurhany. Their wealth, according to scholars was based on their domination of the wheat trade with the neighboring Greeks. At the height of their power in the fourth century B.C. the Scythians held reign over the vast agricultural communities in areas embracing most of modern-day Ukraine and the plains of southern Russia.

Warriors and businessmen, the Scythians were also astute patrons of the arts, as disclosed by the quality of work on the gold objects they saw fit to bury with their chiefs and warriors. Some objects were made by the Scythians themselves and reveal an association with art in the central Asian steppes, but for the most part, they were commissioned from Greek workshops in Greek cities along the northern coast of the Black Sea (the Bosphoran area). The variations in styles in the art objects point to the contribution of artisans of diverse origins in addition to the Greeks, such as Italians and Macedonians.

The reason for the demise of the Scythians is perplexing. They were well established, prosperous and in control. Some scholars believe that worsening climatic conditions as well as overgrazing by cattle may have contributed to their downfall. The most reasonable theory is that the Scythians, wealthy and secure in their interaction with the Greeks, probably became too complacent, neglecting their vigilant edge to withstand the encroaching Sarmatians, a nomadic peoples, not unlike themselves.

This showcase of the exquisite Scythian gold masterpieces is on loan from the Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine, the State Historical Archaeological Preserve of Ukraine and the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, which houses the largest collection of archaeological finds in the country, numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

The exhibition was organized by the San Antonio Museum of Art in Texas and the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, Maryland and is curated by Dr. Reeder in collaboration with Dr. Gerry Scott III, Curator of Ancient Art at the San Antonio Museum of Art. The exhibition has already been shown in San Antonio, Baltimore and in Los Angeles and its continuing tour itinerary includes showing in Canada and France.

For lecture information: the Ukrainian Institute of America - 212 288-8660; The Ukrainian Museum - 212 228-0110.

Marta Baczynsky
Public Relations
The Ukrainian Museum


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