A horse-skier of the Bronze Age: a reappraisal of the cultural and historical interpretation of the decorative finial on a dagger

from Rostovka, Western Siberia (on the 90th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir I. Matyushchenko) 

Seleznev A.G.  (Omsk, Russian Federation)


                page 514


This paper proposes the cultural and historical interpretation of the cast figure, consisting of a horse and a skier, on the finial of a bronze knife or dagger from the necropolis near the village of Rostovka. Two interpretations of this composition are outlined in the first part of the work. The first one suggests that the composition represents an actual cultural phenomenon a Bronze Age Skijoring, a means of transportation where a skier is towed by, in this case, a horse. The second possible interpretation considers the composition almost exclusively as an illustration of myth and/or ritual and focuses on the search for the meanings reflected in the figures. The approach proposed in the paper assumes the existence of a known cultural practice, which is used as the basis of the myth-ritual plot embodied in the composition. The authors version of the cultural and historical context of this prototype is presented in the second part of the work. The context of the artwork is the development of a forest-based culture, occupying the forest-steppe, mountain-taiga and southern-taiga belts of Siberia and maintaining its identity over a long period. The economic basis of this culture was appropriating forms, combined with horse breeding, designed to provide transport and satisfy food needs through hunting. A significant place in this culture is occupied by metallurgy and metalworking, initially bronze production, followed by iron production. Proof is given that the origins of this culture date back to the Bronze Age, and its formation is consistent with the development of cultures of horse-breeders and metallurgists, within the framework of the Seima-Turbino transcultural phenomenon. The Rostovka artist appears to capture a moment of experimentation with a new means of transportation, adapted to specific local climatic conditions. Scenes of equestrian-skiing racing have then been incorporated into a developing mythic story. Data on functionally and technologically similar methods of foot and horse towing, indirectly confirming the proposed concept are also presented in the work.

Key words: Rostovka burial ground, the horse and skier, Seima-Turbino transcultural phenomenon, forest culture complex, South of Siberia, traditional towing methods.


DOI: 10.20874/2071-0437-2019-44-1-005-014


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Article is published 2.04.2019 .


A.G. Seleznev

Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of Siberian Branch RAS, Marx av., 15, Omsk, 644024, Russian Federation

Dostoevsky Omsk State University, Mira av., 55, Omsk, 644077, Russian Federation