The Art and Culture of the Peoples of the Caucasus:
1100 B.C.-19th century

Ground floor, rooms 55-66


The items displayed in room 55 confirm the fact that the tribes of
Transcaucasia, whose basic occupation was cattle-breeding and to some
extent farming, underwent a period (between the eleventh and seventh
centuries B.C.) in which the primitive system of communal relations broke up.

Room 56. Urartu, 8th-6th centuries B.C. Urartu, otherwise called
the Van empire, the most ancient of the then existing slave-owning nations
within what is now the Soviet Union, held a position of supremacy in the
first half of the eighth century B.C. among the nations of south-western
Asia. The earliest information concerning Urartu was obtained as a
result of excavations carried out in 1911 and 1916 by Russian archaeolog-
ists on the hill of Toprak-kala, where in ancient times stood the Urartian
capital Tushpa (upon the eastern shores of Lake Van in Turkey). Case 1
contains the bronze figurines of winged deities from Toprak-kala, items
typical of the Urartian art of the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. The
engraved surface of the figurines were covered with gold and coloured
with thick paint. The motionless impassive faces made of white stone,
with the eyes and eyebrows inlaid with black stone, are nevertheless
expressive in their own way. In the past these statuettes, monumental in
spite of their small size, embellished the arms of a throne. A very great
contribution to the study of Urartian history was made as a result of
archaeological excavations at Karmir-blur (Red Hill), from where a large
number of the items in the exhibition originate. Many years ago, on
Karmir-blur in the environs of Erevan, a fragment of a stone slab was
found bearing traces of cuneiform. The inscription gave reason to suppose
that at one time a fortress had stood there belonging to the Urartians,
an ancient people whose name is preserved in the contemporary name of
Mount Ararat. In the summer of 1938 an expedition under the leader-
ship of Academician Boris Piotrovsky began excavations. Upon the
strength of the cuneiform inscription found on a bronze door bolt
(cabinet 5), the name of the citadel was determined-Teishebaini, i.e.
the town of the god of war Teishebas. The research has produced a clear
picture of the life and the destruction of Teishebaini, an important ad-
ministrative and economic centre in the north of Urartu. The fortress
received a tribute in the form of foodstuffs, collected from the tribes of
Transcaucasia, and after processing this was sent to the capital of the state,
Tushpa. Buildings were discovered, intended for the production of
sesame oil, with heaps of oilcake wastage; a workshop for the brewing
of beer, a storeroom for grain, where large quantities of barley, wheat,
millet and flour were kept, and enormous wine cellars with huge vessels
half buried in the earthen floor. It is reckoned that more than four
hundred thousand litres of wine could be kept in these vessels. The
fortress perished around 585 B.C. after a Scythian raid-bronze Scythian
arrowheads were found in the unkilned bricks of the fortress wall.
During the assault a fire broke out, buildings collapsed in the flames,
burying beneath them people and various objects. Much bronzeware was
found in Teishebaini-helmets, shields, quivers and ninety-seven bowls.
These bowls of sparkling golden bronze produce, when struck, a long-
lasting, melodic ring, and in addition each of them, like a bell, had the
sound of a particular key. The inscribed helmet of emperor Sarduris II is
especially noteworthy; the inscription reads: "To the god Khaldis, the
protector of Sarduris, from the son of Argistis for his life's sake."
Excavations on the fortress are going on, the items found at Teishebaini
being sent to the Armenian Historical Museum and to the Hermitage.
Room 58. Transcaucasia, 3rd century B.C.-3rd century A.D. The
items displayed here have come from rich burial-grounds discovered
upon the lands of Georgia and Armenia at the turn of the century.

Exhibited in a number of cases are objects which have been taken
from the burial-ground in the village of Bori near Kutaisi, among them
a collection of first and second century bronze vessels of Roman origin
and some household articles. A magnificent goblet of ruby-coloured glass
with a chased silver rim, dating back to the second century A.D., was
found near the ancient Georgian capital of Mtskheta. Glass cases contain
some locally made clay vessels and others from Syria, made of glass, which
were found in graves near the village of Ashnak in Armenia. A large
number of gold objects from the same graves are kept in the Gold Room.
Set upon a pedestal is the capital of a pillar from the first century temple
at Garni near Erevan, one of the most splendid relics of the architecture
of antiquity. A magnificent silver dish (second century A.D.) depicting
a Nereid on a sea horse surrounded by Tritons playing in the waves,
attracts special attention. The dish is of Roman origin and was found
in 1893 near the village of Enkighond in Azerbaijan.

Room 59. Transcaucasia, 4th-8th centuries A.D. Bronze utensils
- dishes, censers and pitchers-were brought to the Hermitage in the
1920s from the high mountain village of Kubachi in Daghestan and
nearby settlements, where for centuries they had been preserved by local
inhabitants. This fine collection of bronzeware occupies an important
place among the relics of oriental culture.

Room 60. Northern Caucasus, 1st-10th centuries A.D. The exhibi-
tion consists of material from burial-grounds and shrines in Daghestan,
Northern Ossetia and the area of the Kuban river. These places were in-
habited during the first millennium A.D. by tribes of cattle-breeders and
farmers whom ancient writers called Alans. Various discoveries, including
coins, confirm that the Alans had connections with Rome, Syria, Parthia,
Persia, Byzantium, and the Arab caliphate. From the burial-grounds along
the Kuban at the site of Moshchevaya Balka and the village of Khasaut
near Kislovodsk comes a unique collection of fabrics. In cabinet 6 are
examples of Daghestan bronzeware, statuettes used in rituals and open-
work buckles of the seven and ninth centuries. In Northern Ossetia were
found some beads made of chalcedony, cornelian and rock crystal, some
produced locally, others imported from the northern Black Sea coastlands
and from Asia Minor (cabinet 1); silverware (case 3); and Roman glass
bottles for incense (cases 2 and 5). In the same burial-grounds in Northern
Ossetia were found some Roman enamel fibulae, and belt buckles of local
origin (cabinet 14). The outstanding item in the exhibition is a cup
(2nd-1st century B.C.) apparently made in Alexandria and found near
the town of Mozdok. The cup has two layers of transparent glass, between
which is a design in gold leaf (case 2).

Room 62. Medieval Georgia is represented by a limited number of
exhibits, among which should be mentioned a collection of chased silver
icon frames of the eleventh-twelfth and fifteenth-eighteenth centuries
(cases 2,4 and 13). Special attention may be drawn to some carved details
of architectural ornamentation of the sixth to sixteenth centuries.

Room 63. Here there is a much larger collection of items, reflecting
the culture of medieval Armenia. From the ancient capital, Dvin, we
have some glazed and unglazed ceramics (cabinet 3) and fragments of
stucco tiles of the ninth to thirteenth centuries used for decorating inte-
riors (cases 2 and 4). The individual relics originate from the medieval
capital of the Armenian kingdom, Ani-for example, fragments of twelfth
century frescoes with the representation of the Virgin and Christ, and a
stone slab with an inscription in Armenian relating to the erection in
1206 of the Anian fortress gates and towers. Cabinet 13 contains articles
found in the fortress of Anberd, excavation work on which was led by
J. Orbeli. Special mention should be made of two twelfth and thirteenth
century cast bronze mortars, decorated with plant designs, the figures
of running animals and a decorative Arabic inscription.

A number of relics are associated with the Kilikian Armenian king-
dom, which existed from the twelfth century up to the fourteenth on the
north-eastern shores of the Mediterranean. These items include coins
of the Kilikian monarch and a silver, three-panel folding icon made in
1293 in one of the Kilikian monasteries (case 17); a beautifully made
silver cup, at the bottom of which is depicted the biblical King David
playing the psaltery (case 16); and some Armenian illuminated manu-
scripts (case 14).

The items displayed include locally made ceramics from the site of
Oren-kala (twelfth and thirteenth centuries) and others imported from
Persia-thirteenth century glazed tiles from the tomb of the Moslem
saint Pir Hussein in the village of Khaneka in the Azerbaijanian Soviet
Socialist Republic.

Room 65. Medieval Daghestan. This room contains a rich collection
of twelfth and thirteenth century stone reliefs which adorned buildings,
no longer preserved, in the village of Kubachi. One of these buildings
was apparently the palace of the ruler, another a mosque. The reliefs are
remarkable for the variety of subjects; there are scenes from the life of
the peoples, a fight between two horsemen, and representations of fan-
tastic animals and birds. Also of interest is a collection of twelfth and
thirteenth century Daghestan bronze cauldrons, decorated with the fig-
ures of horsemen and beasts and plant designs similar to the depictions
of the stone reliefs.

Rooms 61 and 66 contain examples of the work of Caucasian crafts-
men from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century which testify to the
close bond between their work and national traditions. These items in-
clude some woolen rugs, notable for the richness of design and the fine
colour harmony. In cabinets 1 and 3 are some glazed ceramic utensils,
and case 28 contains a selection of side-arms. Among the objects made of
metal can be singled out two cast bronze candlesticks, made in the seven-
teenth century, with delicately engraved decorative designs. The art of
stone and wood carving is represented by some very interesting examples.








The Art and Culture of the Peoples of Central Asia
The Art and Culture of the Peoples of the Caucasus
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