Pottery vessels of the early Southern Ural nomads with dimple-pearl ornament: origins, existence, disappearance 

Fedorov V.K.


Vestnik arheologii, antropologii i etnografii, 2022, ¹ 1 (56)




              page 88100




The article aims at studying vessels of early nomads decorated with dimple-pearl ornament. To achieve this, the following issues need to be addressed: their origins, territorial distribution, chronological framework of the distribution, connection of the ornament with certain types of vessels, and the reasons for the disappearance of vessels with this ornament. A set of methods has been applied to achieve this, including cartographic, comparative, deductive and inductive, and also the methods of analysis and synthesis. The source base of the study consists of 35 vessels and fragments of six more vessels. Dimple-pearl ornament refers to the earliest types of ornaments. It represents small round depressions on the body of vessels, applied both on the outside and inside. Where the depressions are sufficiently deep, protuberances are formed on the opposite side of the wall of a vessel, which received the name “pearls” in the archaeological contexts. The ornament is applied with a stick with a rounded end. The origin of this ornament on the vessels of early nomads of the Southern Urals was connected on the one hand with the population of the pre-Sauromatian time who migrated from the Lower Volga Region, and the local Southern-Ural tradition of the Final Bronze Age on the other hand. The ornament in the form of dimples and “pearls” first appeared on squat jar-like vessels with a small spout in the 7th — first half of the 6th c. BC. In the 6th — early 4th c. BC this ornament is found mainly on two types of vessels — those with conical body, short neck, bent rim and a tubular spout, and on tall vessels with body swollen in the middle. Occasionally, large vessels are found that combine two types of ornament — dimples along the body and fingernips, mainly in the upper part. Other vessels with dimple-pearl ornament sometimes carry other types of ornament — nail prints and so-called “Sauromatian pictograms”. Most of such vessels have admixture of chamotte in clay dough. Fragments of early nomads’ vessels with dimple-pearl ornament sometimes are found on river-bank sites which served as stopping places during seasonal migrations. With a certain degree of admissibility, such sites may be considered as “settlements”. The discrete nature of distribution of vessels with dimple-pearl ornament in South Ural territory occupied by early nomads shows that this ornament was only in use among some families, or clan groups, or specific tribal groups. The tradition of decorating vessels with dimple and “pearls”, the latter to a lesser extent, existed among the nomads of the Southern Urals until the beginning of the 4th c. BC. With the spread of vessels with an admixture of talc in the clay dough, this ornament disappeared.

Keywords: ceramic vessels, ornament, Early Iron Age, nomads, the Southern Urals.


Acknowledgements. The author thanks his colleagues D.V. Maryksin (Ural'sk), L.A. Kraeva (Orenburg), S.Iu. Gutsalov and O.F. Bytkovskii (Orsk).

Funding. The study was carried out as part of the state assignment ¹ ÀÀÀÀ-À19-119042490023-5 “Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography (IES UFRC) of the Russian Academy of Sciences: Collection Resources, Research and New Technologies”.


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Accepted: 16.12.2021

Article is published: 21.03.2022


Fedorov V.K., R.G. Kuzeev Institute for Ethnological Studies — Subdivision of the Ufa Federal Research Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Karl Marks st., 6, Ufa, 450077, Russian Federation, E-mail: syyri@yandex.ru, https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0643-8268