Scythian Designs
Artmagik

The Pazyryk of the Altai were closely related to the Scythian people.

 The Scythians were a nomadic group indigenous to what is now Siberia. Renowned for their creativity, the Scythians were a race also notorious for their cruelty. Herodotus, the Greek historian, devoted half a volume of his History to the Scythians, describing them as evil red-haired barbarians who scalped their enemies, and who measured courage by the number of scalps taken ( one of the Pazyryk mummies the Chieftan of Burial Mound 2 was scalped and his skull crushed).

 Between 1929 and 1949, 1990 and 1995, archaelology excavations in the Altai Mountain region of Siberia uncovered a number of tombs known as kurgans.

These ancient tombs lent their name to the region, Pazyryk, after the local word for 'burial mound'. The kurgans date to around 400BC, and contained extensive artifacts including grave goods and several bodies known as Ice Mummies, which were superbly preserved the result of deliberate embalming and having lain in the frozen ground for almost 2500 years.

Grave robbers have looted many of the valuable artifacts.

Scythian Pazyryk Ice Mummies are rare, only five mummies were known until the 1990's, since the 1990's four more have been discovered.

The Pazyryk Burial Mounds date to the 5th-3rd Centuries BC.

Two Ice Mummies a male and female were found in Pazyryk Burial Mound 2 excavated in 1947-8 

Two Ice Mummies a male and female were found in Pazyryk Buirial Mound 5.  

These four Ice Mummies are kept at the Hermitage Musseum in St Petersburg, Russia.  

In 1969 a male Mummy 'The khakasian Mummy' was found in the Altai area.

In the 1990's  two more Ice Mummies from Pazyryk Altai Mountains Siberia,were discovered by Russian Archaelolgist.

In 1993 'The Ice Maiden' . 

1995 'The Scythian Warrior or Horseman'. 

Russian archaelogist are banned from excavating in the Altai region.

In 2006 another male ice Mummy was discovered in Mongolia.

 

Several of the Ice Mummies discovered in the 1940's are tattooed.

 

Image from Hermitage Musseum St Petersburg Russia.

 

 

The vivid blue tattoos are well-executed and extremely detailed, showing various animals and mythical creatures. The depth of skin into which the ink was placed suggests that a skin-pricking method was used to create them, as opposed to the sewing-in of patterns which was customary among the Inuit and other Siberian tribes. The tattoos are beleived to result from the use of  bone type needles and a soot mixture was used as the ink.  The tattoos are located on the shoulders, arms, hands and legs of the mummies. It is not fully understood whether they served a purely decorative purpose, or were used as a magical amulet for a protective purpose, or both.

Infared Photography used to discover tattoos.

The Pazyryk mummies have very dark skin due to oxygen excposure and the drawings were not visible on them with the naked eye.  The Khakasian Mummy discovered in 1969 has lighter skin and during an examination markings were noticed.  Infrared  photographs revealed that three of the four mummies held at the Hermitage have tattooed drawings. 

Image from Hermitage Musseum St Petersburg Russia.

 

Tattoo on forearm of Pazyryk Ice Mummy Chieftan burial Mound 2

These beautiful zoomorphic tattoo motifs were used by the Scythian's not simply for decorative effect, the tattoos became  magic  amulets.  Protective talismen,  assisting the wearer through magical powers to aid in hunting, and to protect the owner from harm.

 

The artist's focused on the wildlife their culture needed for survival such as Argali Wild Sheep, Sanga Antelope, Mongolian Gazelle, Takhi or Prezealski Horse, Siberian Ibex, Musk Deer, Wild Boar, Elk, Whooper Swans.  The carnivorous wildlife pocessed supernatural qualities, strength, power, courage, and the wearers of the tattoos depicting these creatures seem to be of high social standing such as chiefs and warriors.  The Griffin's resemble the Lammergeyer Vulture, the largest bird in Northern Europe.  The Scythian's respected the hunting skills and admired the beautty of the big cats of the region, the Snow Leopard, and the Siberian Tiger.  The Scythian's  may have  beleived the cat images would transfer their powerful protective qualities, fearlessness and hunting skills to the wearer.  Strong magical amulets for a people who needed strength and cunning to survive.

 

Image from Hermitage Musseum St Petersburg Russia.

 

Pazyryk Artists and their designs.

  

The Scythian artist or artists were amazingly talented, some of the designs used reappear on different Ice Mummies, the images are not an exact replica, however there is an artistic resembalance or influence apparent.  It is not known whether one artist was responsible for the designs, or if the tattoos were made by different artist using the same symbolic designs.

What is interesting is that for a nomadic people, these images are of the animals inhabiting the Altai Mountain region of Siberia.  They did trade with China and India, however so far exotic animal motifs from these countries have not been found on any of the known ice mummies. 

The artist's focused on the wildlife their culture needed for survival such as Argali Wild Sheep, Sanga Antelope, Mongolian Gazelle, Takhi or Prezealski Horse, Siberian Ibex, Musk Deer, Wild Boar, Elk, Whooper Swans.  The carnivorous wildlife pocessed supernatural qualities, strength, power, courage, and the wearers of the tattoos depicting these creatures seem to be of high social standing such as chiefs and warriors.  The Griffin's resemble the Lammergeyer Vulture, the largest bird in Northern Europe.  The Scythian's respected the hunting skills and admired the beautty of the big cats of the region, the Snow Leopard, and the Siberian Tiger.  The Scythian's  may have  beleived the cat images would transfer their powerful protective qualities, fearlessness and hunting skills to the wearer.  Strong magical amulets for a people who needed strength and cunning to survive.

 

 

Image from Hermitage Musseum St Petersburg Russia.

This tattoo design is from the tattooed forearm of the Pazyryk Chieftan Ice Mummy discovered in Burial Mound 2 Altai in 1947-8.  Combination deer and griffin with foliation from head.

Image Sheridon Rayment

This tattoo design is from the tattoed shoulder of the 'Ice Maiden' discovered on the Ukok Plateau, Altai in 1993.  Combination deer and griffin with foliation from head.

Image Sheridon Rayment

Acrylic on canvas.  This painting was inspired from the image of an Ibex and Griffin horse saddle.  Found in Burial Mound 1, 1929.

Skin from Ancient Scythian Cheiftan's Tattooed Arm

 The Scythian Pazyryk Chieftan is heavily tattooed down both arms, on his back and front and legs.  The tattoos appear blue and are of styalised animals.  The Scythian Chieftan is remarkable, once the living canvas of an artist or artists who lived 2,500 years ago.  This artist or artists possess a talented ability still much admired and respected 25 centuries on.

Image from Hermitage Musseum St Petersburg Russia.

Scythian Horseman Ice mummy

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