Priestess in Golden Tiara with Maenads from Great Ryzhanovka Kurgan in Ukraine

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“In the northern part into which the passage led lay a narrow board 2m. long with a hole to hold the bottom of the amphora discovered by the peasant. Along it were ranged the bronze vessel, the mirror, and a bronze pin. In the w. corner of the southern division was the skeleton of a young woman of weak build in a half-sitting position, one leg bent under the other. She lay upon some kind of woolen stuff under which was a layer of moss. She wore upon her head a golden tiara, with a thrice repeated scene of maenads, well-known Neo-Attic types going back to Scopas, a golden frontlet with pendants’, a long ribbon of gold with rude griffins and palmettes, three gold plates, a pair of gold earrings or temple ornaments shaped like griffins hung from the diadem, four little gold beads, and a big bead of carnelian. Round her neck she had an elaborate gold necklace, upon her belt 21 gold rosettes, on her arms two bracelets, one silver and one gold; she wore eight rings, two seal rings, two sets with gold staters of Panticapaeum, one set with an unworked piece of limestone, and three quite plain. The seals are a winged quadruped and a dagger, and Hercules’ club and bow, both of them suggest coins of Panticapaeum. Across between the shoulders were three rows of the triangles of grains (called wolf’s teeth), points downwards. Upon the rest of her clothing space was found for three big flat rosettes, 44 big convex ones, 21 rayed ones, 47 small convex ones, two small flat ones, 230 large knots, three small ones, 20 silver tubes and two bronze rings. By the skeleton were found in bronze a pail and plate, in silver an object that fell to pieces, a saucer and a fluted cup with three gilt rings and a frieze of dogs round it, a clay saucer, bottle and spinning whorl, a black glazed cantharos (mended) and two bone bodkins… I have enumerated all these things because there is no rich tomb whereof the disposition had remained untouched and was noted down with such exactness. It is not quite normal because it is the tomb of a woman only, but it gives a good idea of how the innumerable gold plates beloved by the Scythians were applied.” (E. Minns, Scythians and Greeks

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Maenads from the golden tiara

The Great Ryzhanovka Kurgan dates to the third century B.C. and is situated in the Cherkasy oblast of Ukraine. There was a very similar burial of a woman with the maenads in the second crypt of the Great Bliznitza barrow in the Kuban area on the east side of the Azov Sea. The whole chapter of the “Cradle of Civilizations” hardcover book is devoted to that barrow.

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