6 July - 1 October 2007
Under the Sign of the Golden Griffin. The Royal Tombs of the Scythians
An exhibition by the German Archaeological Institute (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut) and the Museum of Pre- and Early History (Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte in collaboration with the Exhibition Hall of the Hypo Foundation for Culture in Munich (Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung) and the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg.
The Scythians and the nomadic peoples related to them were the dominant historical force on the Eurasian steppes of the 8th to 3rd cent. BC. In a worldwide first, our exhibition "Under the Sign of the Golden Griffin. The Royal Tombs of the Scythians" now brings to you the rich legacy of these horsemen in all its full diversity - presenting their history and their culture, all the way from their early ranges along the Yenisei River up to the very doorstep of Central Europe. A spotlight is turned on the far-ranging relationship already existing between Asia and Europe long before the famous Silk Road ever came into existence. The centrepieces of the exhibition include not only the most famous of the lavishly furnished princely tombs from different regions but also the fascinating discoveries of recent years.
In his book "Histories", Herodotus, a Greek historian, tells of the "Land of the Gold-Guarding Griffins", said to lie somewhere in southern Siberia. In 2000-2003, the German Archaeological Institute and the State Hermitage, Saint Petersburg, carried out joint excavations in this very region. A burial mound was excavated in Aržan, in the "Valley of the Kings", close to the border between Russia and Mongolia. The rich contents, including thousands of golden objects, are rated as one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of recent years. The find may actually be compared in importance with the tomb of Tutankhamun.
The permanently frozen ground of the high Altai Mountains yielded further spectacular finds: Above all, it is the tattooed mummies unearthed here which capture the imagination of the observer. The well-preserved clothing, the magnificently decorated horse furniture, and other artefacts of wood, textile and leather all add to the fascination. As these objects are made from perishable materials, it has never before been possible to put them on public exhibit to such an extent.
Huge burial mounds called kurgans dominate the vast expanses of the Eurasian steppe. They were raised above the tombs of kings and princes laid to rest with elaborate ceremony and magnificent golden grave goods. The exhibition presents the most outstanding of these burials, ranging from the "Golden Man of Issyk", in Kazakhstan, a member of the Sakian culture, to Sauromatian finds from the south of the Ural Mountains and to the grandiose objects recovered from Kurgans lying to the east and west of the Black Sea.
In addition to presenting the archaeological remains of the Scythians, the exhibition also takes a close look at modern excavating techniques, and at recent findings of natural sciences and anthropology. These fields increasingly contribute sensational insights, reconstructing the fascinating architecture of the tombs, the natural surroundings of the steppe nomads, or researching questions of nutrition, kinship and disease among the Scythians.
The exhibition would not have been possible without the cooperation of our many partners: Museums and institutions from Germany, Hungary, Iran, Kazakhstan, Romania, various parts of Russia and the Ukraine joined in planning and organising this project. They include institutions whose singular objects have never before been displayed to the public in Germany.
Museum for Pre- and Early History
Deutsches Archäologisches Institut