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SECRETS OF KAMA SILVER

Дата публикации: 21 ноября 2021
Автор(ы): Andrei BELAVIN
Публикатор: Научная библиотека Порталус
Рубрика: ПРИКЛЮЧЕНЧЕСКАЯ ЛИТЕРАТУРА
Источник: (c) Science in Russia, №4, 2014, C.96-101
Номер публикации: №1637497387


Andrei BELAVIN, (c)

by Andrei BELAVIN, Dr. Sc. (Hist.), Head of the Department of History, Archeology and Ethnography of the RAS Ural Branch, Perm Research Center

 

Hand-made metal artifacts (toreutics) originating from different parts of Eurasia that were accumulated in the ancient Kama region by its residents are the most significant cultural phenomena the Perm region is famous for. In the scientific papers these artifacts are poetically named "serebro zakamskoye" ("Trans-Kama silver"), the first mention of which as "serebro zakamenskoye" has already been made in the Voskresensk All-Russia Chronicle of the 16th century. As a highly-interesting phenomenon of the Perm history of the Middle Ages, they evidence a significant role the Kama region played in the system of commercial and political relations in Eurasia.

 

The name "Trans-Kama silver" was invented by the Moscow Prince Ivan Danilovich (1283-1340) nicknamed Kalita* for wealth and generosity in his lifetime. As it appears from the first Novgorod chronicle of the early version, in 1332 he demanded from the residents of Nizhni Novgorod to pay additional tribute to the Horde, requesting from them "Trans-Kama" silver.

 

The second name "zakamenskoye" points to the origin of Eastern silver artifacts obtained by Russian troops and merchants. Up to the 18th century the word "ka-men" meant, among other things, the Ural Mountains. This term is an exact translation, loan translation from the languages of local people. After the first expeditions to Yugra (a territory between the Pechora and Northern Ural) in the 9th century, the main trophy for the Russians committed to enter the international trade system

 

* Kalita--an ancient Russian word for a purse, wallet, money bag.--Ed.

 

was silver in the form of coins and various utensils--the things medieval residents of the Cis-Ural, Ural, and Trans-Ural regions saved and accumulated in the course of eastern trade. Let us recall that at that time no silver mines were developed in the region, and silver was brought there from other territories.

 

Today, there are over 300 medieval silver vessels known in the Ural and Middle Ob regions. Most findings, about 200 pieces, were discovered in the Perm Region. According to the summary by Vladislav Darkevich, Dr. Sc. (Hist.), the leading research assistant of the RAS Institute of Archeology, as of the mid-20th century over 100 treasure troves were registered. Among the acquisitions, there are vessels from Sogdiana and Khoresm (Central Asia), Khurasan (eastern Iran) making about two thirds of all toreutics ever found, utensils originating from Byzantium and Western Europe. The most interesting and artistically expressive samples (15-20 percent) were

 
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made in the Sasanian Iran--the empire that existed from 224 to 651, or in Sogdiana. The findings made in the Ural region make up 75 percent of the total number of Sasanian toreutics kept in the museums worldwide.

 

How much precious dishware did the rulers of the East had? This question has been regularly raised by specialists and amateurs of art history. No one has ever registered these artifacts, but the answer could be found in written sources.

 

For example, the Persian speaking author of the early 13th century Muhammad ibn Isfendyar wrote in the History of Tabaristan* (1216-1217): "Once... a Khorosan tsarevitch came to the ruler of Tabaristan bringing numerous gifts and tributes with him... He asked to bring silver plates and trays to display the donations. Servants brought... 500 silver trays. The tsarevitch asked for more. Then, a servant was sent to the ruler's senior wife and another 500 silver trays were delivered. The ruler accepted the gifts displayed on 1,000 trays and sent 2,000 silver trays filled with presents to the tsarevitch." As it becomes clear from the description above, the ruler of a small province could afford making a present of some thousand silver trays not thinking about impoverishment

 

"Tabaristan--a medieval name of the province on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea (North-Eastern Iran).--Ed.

 

of his treasury. It would be reasonable to assume that tsars and grandees had much more silver, and the vessels kept at the museums worldwide are only a small piece of the former wealth.

 

The outstanding orientalists from St. Petersburg Ros-tislav Kinzhalovand Vladimir Lukonin, Drs. Sc. (Hist.), who presented an eastern collection of the State Hermitage in the book Monuments of Culture of the Sasanian Iran (1960) noted: "Those some tens of silver vessels exhibited at the Hermitage are now the most significant collection of the Sasanian toreutics. In Iran, there are about ten objects, in the museums of France, England, and the USA--only separate artifacts. All the rest tens and tens of thousands of gold and silver pieces of that period were smelted to manufacture other things."

 

The reserves of institutions of culture of the Perm Region, in particular, the Perm State Gallery of Arts, Ko-mi-Permyak Museum of Local Lore named after P. Sub-botin-Permyak, Cherdyn Museum of Local Lore named after A. Pushkin, keep not so many original precious torevtiks. Most of local findings were distributed by the Imperial Committee for Archeology (formed in 1859) among central museums, formed part of the Stroganov aristocratic family collection, was transferred to the central reserves of national and foreign institutions of culture

 
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in the Soviet times. For example, the oriental collection of the Hermitage, the encyclopedic museum keeping artifacts of different epochs and civilizations, incorporates a plate found in 1925 in the Perm Territory in the village of Bartym by the peasant Galitsha Davletshin, and a treasure of three plates found in 1936 in the Cherdyn District, a silver cup from the collection of the Molotov Regional Museum of Local Lore that was in turn found in the settlement of Ilyinskoye in 1941. In 1943, the Moscow State Historical Museum received a gold vessel from Central Asia acquired at the buying-up center in the city of Molotov, in 1952--vessels and coins found after the war in the vicinity of the settlement of Bartym. It is worth mentioning that a set of artifacts found in the Kama Region are exhibited in one of its rooms: they are gold and silver vessels, coins, a silver plate with the image of Bacchus, a god of feast, and other pieces.

 

The ancient silver dishware are being found even today. For example, in 1989, during excavation works at the Upper Sainsk burial ground in the Beryozovsky District of the Perm Territory, specialists of the Kama-Vyatka ar-cheological expedition organized by the Udmurtia State University discovered a Choresmian vessel, in particular, a silver cup belonging to the 8th century, at burial mound No. 154. Today it is kept at the museum of archeology of the said university.

 

Speaking generally, there are very few ancient artifacts that formed part of the museum and private collections. Most of them were smelted into other things, which was quite common for the remote past and even for our days. This is how Alexander Teploukhov, a well-known collector and researcher of archeological rarities (1811-1885), explained this fact: "Silver artifacts found in the Perm Region were brought to Vyatka, where the Agafonov brothers annually processed up to 30 puds of silver and 20 puds of gold to manufacture various icons and other things. As the brothers said, silver things found in the ground were made of silver of good quality, it was even better than our metal--it melted easier and showed up black less. That is why people who find such things take them to Vyatka." It is interesting to note that the tradition developed by peasants of the Perm Cis-Ural region to smelt precious things to satisfy their own needs was registered by captain Nikolai Rychkov as early as in the 18th century and persisted for a long time.

 

The outstanding historian and Honorary member of St. Petersburg AS Nikolai Karamzin (1766-1826) failed to find out how Ivan Kalita learnt about the "zakamen-skoye silver" and how he obtained it, but specified: the Russians "could really be proud of lots of silver obtained from...German merchants and across the Yugra from Siberia. Residents of Novogorod promised Mikhail of Tver to provide him with 6,000 pounds of silver, and paid about sixty puds to Vitovt, which was in fact a great volume before discovery of America." According to Kara-mzin, Ivan Kalita was the first Russian Prince who accumulated great reserves of silver. It was used to pay tribute to the Horde and military contributions, purchase lands with cities on it (for example, Uglich and Galich), make precious gifts to boyars, and after Kalita's death, according to his will, a good portion of silver dishware was transferred to his relatives, priests, churches, and monasteries. Thus, the substantial part of ancient artifacts accumulated this or that way in the Ural region in the early medieval period turned out a Russian trophy and

 
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was used by state authorities for political and economic purposes.

 

How did the silver dishware reserves that became part of local legends and tales form in Ural and the Kama region? In the early medieval period, the Ugric tribes dominated along both sides of the Ural Mountains culturally and perhaps ethically in the mixed Finno-Ugric population. In any case, up to the moment when ancient Magyar tribes left the region "in search for a new native land" (according to a number of estimates, the number of migrants reached 25 to 500 thous. people), the Ugric power and authority was almost absolute.

 

As archeologists, ethnographers, and cultural workers state, the Ugric culture was notable for an outstanding persistence of customs, including special worship of silver and generally of a metal--white, sky-blue, lunar, or divine color. For example, the Khanty and Mansi used silver and later on lead and stannum as a basis for images of patron spirits. Silver vessels played an important role in the ritual ceremonies of the Ugric tribes living along the Ob river, they were used as symbols of divinity, and precious artifacts--plates, torques, earrings, pendants, decorations, coins--were donated to patron spirits. They were also used as supplementary attributes of local fests. In the Works published by the USSR AS Institute of

 

Ethnography (1947), the reputed ethnographer and ar-cheologist Valery Chernetsov (1905-1970) specified that "when calling out the ghost of a spirit of a man guarding the tribe", four metal plates were placed at the back wall of the yurt. The researcher of Northern and North-Eastern Siberia Nikolai Gondatti (1860-1946) also pointed out that silver vessels were used in the ceremonies of calling out gods and spirits: "It is common to put some silver or simply metal plates in front of the dwelling so that the god's horse could stand not on the bare ground or snow." Since the "celestial rider" could have companions, plates were put for all of them.

 

Nikolai Abramov, an ethnographer of Siberia and Central Asia, in the Description of the Berezovsky Krai (1857) depicted another type of use of silver plates--to represent an idol's throne (a gold idol sitting in a cup is one of the main Ostyak cult figures).

 

Later on, in the 16th-19th centuries, silver plates were replaced by dishware made of a white metal looking like silver. For instance, according to the German natural scientist and ethnographer Otto Finsch, in one of the Ostyak sanctuaries, "there was an idol in the form of a mummy-like bunch 4 feet long, encircling the tree and wrapped in a red felt and bands. Above the bunch, on the same trunk there were four metal plates, two of which

 
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were made of tin metal of European origin. Other two plates were of about 3.5 inches in diameter and were made of silver. At the bottom of one of these plates there was a rough image of a reindeer, on the other--an elk; flat edges of both plates were decorated with hunting scenes representing man in a long fur coat with a bow in hands chasing a wolf or a dog." These plates were symbolic images of gods' faces.

 

In the monograph The Trans-Kama Silver of the First Centuries of Our Era. Bartym Deposit (1954) Otto Bader, founder of the Perm school of archeology (1903-1979), and Alexei Smirnov, a reputed specialist in Finno-Ugric and Bulgarian archeology (1899-1974), pointed out: "Before the October Revolution, in the years of famine, ancient silver plates and cups were a common thing sold in the Trans-Ural markets, or you could be told about men of enterprise who were adventurous enough to "knock over a shaman", i.e. to rob a pagan sanctuary where alongside with the best furs sacrificed one could find silver plates, cups and figurines of people and animals."

 

Ceremonial use of silver vessels is also evidenced by numerous "shaman" images made with a thin sharp article on the front and inner side of the vessels. These images represented various ceremonial scenes: male figures in spiniform helmets and sabres in hands, fish, birds, horses, and elks. It might be that the process of making images on a sacred plate ensured victory in a battle or successful hunting.

 

According to the archeologist and orientalist Boris Marshak who in 1958 worked at the Hermitage, torevtiks penetrated the Cis-Ural and Ural regions as early as in the 4th-5th centuries and ceased in the 13th-14th centuries. The artifacts were delivered from the West and East through the intermediaries who controlled the Global Trade System and its important segment, the Kama (Fur) Trade Route: Khazaria, Volga Bulgaria, and the Golden Horde.

 

In the opinion of specialists, scenes represented on the Oriental dishware, especially the Sasanian, played an important role in the formation of the Ugric artistic style, and the ideology embodied in the art of Iran, Sogdiana, and Khoresm, had effect on the philosophy of Ugric people revealing a deep influence of Mithraism (the Indo-Iranian religion based on worshipping the god Mithra).

 

To summon up the story on the silver vessels penetrating the Ural region in the Middle Ages, it is necessary to say that these artifacts strengthened the tradition to use dishware made of a sacred metal--silver in ceremonies of the Ural Ugric tribes. Bright and unique samples of the Oriental torevtiks turned out to be in the center of the Ural ceremonial practice, and scenes represented on them contributed to the development of mythological

 
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ideas and graphic canons of the Ugric people living in Ural and Western Siberia. Some of the silver jars brought to the Kama and Ural regions were partially altered by local residents into decorations, symbolic and religious objects. For example, the Ugric ethnic culture is characterized by use of burial face covers--masks, which are typical of ancient and ethnographic groups of Khanty and Mansi and are widely found in the ancient Hungarian burial mounds in Pannonia (former Roman province in the territory of the present-day Western Hungary, Eastern Austria and partially Slovenia and Serbia). By the present moment, there are over 100 of such silver masks made in the form of separate eye-shades and mouth-covers, semi- and one-piece masks made of thin silver plates or foil. Some masks are decorated with niello images replicating tattoos, there are even portraits--some masks show facial features of the deceased, eyelashes, eyebrows, mustache, and a beard. In some male burial sites, in addition to masks, there are silver pendants with an image of the rider--a distinguishing sign of a warrior or a chief.

 

It is worth saying that much of the silver brought to the Ural forests in the 6th century was represented by silver coins. They include West-European denaria, Byzantine milliaresias, Arab and Bulgarian dirhems. The maximal stream of Arab coins flowing to the Ural region refers to the 10th--first half of the 11th centuries. The most significant treasure troves of Arab dirhems found in the Perm Region are the Cherdyn treasure trove of 1860 incorporating 6,000 coins, the Maikar one (over 1,000 coins), and the Yagoshursk treasure trove of 1867 (Udmurtia). Most of them are mixed--coins and different things. For example, the Yagoshursk treasure trove contained a silver bullion and a silver jar. As s rule, coin treasure troves mark sanctuaries or oblation sites. This is proved, in particular, by Scandinavian sagas, poetic and sometimes fantastic, but at the same time realistic information sources.

 

In the early Medieval period plenty of silver decorations--belt sets, temple pendants, rings, bracelets, medallions, chains, front plates of leather belt purses of a Hungarian type resembling the famous Moscow belt bag kalita--were accumulated in the Kama and Ural regions. Most of these artifacts were made by jewelers of the Volga Bulgaria (a historic state located in the middle Volga region and in the Kama basin, 10th-13th centuries), some were manufactured of smelted coins by Cis-Ural masters. Silver belt sets were brought from Hungary (for example, two sets found in the Redikar treasure trove discovered in 1929, one km away from the settlement of Redikar in the Cherdyn District). Almost every burial site and settlement of different archeological cultures of the Kama and Cis-Ural regions (Lomovatovskaya (5th-9th cent.),

 
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Nevolinskaya (late 4th-9th cent.), and Polomskaya (5th-9th cent.)) consists of these artifacts.

 

Their diversity excites imagination. For example, the treasure trove found in 1927 in the settlement of Vilgort in the Cherdyn District, incorporates 26 decorations: polypetalous, square and round patches of a head-dress decorated with soldered silver bands and small balls, flattened and intertwined gold-plated wires, inclusions of carnelian; ring caps decorated with metal beans and filigree. The background of round elements of pendants is filled with golden linings made of thin flattened filigree wires. Spherical beads of red carnelian or faceted carnelian beads broken in halves are used as insertion pieces in round chatons in the Vilgort findings. Later on, a silver moon pendant decorated with an insert of blue crystal or turquoise, a lot of balls and filigree, and linings from golden plates was found there.

 

Massive silver bracelets are considered magnificent samples of Bulgarian jewelry. One of them, making part of the Chupin treasure trove found in 1959 in the valley of the Bygel River during construction works (reconstruction of the old Perm road), is kept at the Berezniki Museum of History and Arts named after I. Konovalov (Perm Territory). It has two lengthwise edged extensions decorated with linear eye ornaments. Rounded flared ends of the bracelet are decorated with filigree belts and small and large drop-shaped beads grouped in pyramids, and gold linings. In the center of each end fan, there is a square chaton for a carnelian insertion piece. Beads, inserts, filigree, eye ornament--all these elements evidence Bulgarian origin of this bracelet.

 

Silver in the form of coins and artifacts was accumulated by the Ugrian tribes of the Ural and Ob regions due to international trade activities. As you know, copper and bronze ingots, selected grain and salt, highly valuable products of the early Medieval period, were among popular exported products typical of the Cis-Ural region. However, fur--squirrels, sables, martens, black and red foxes, ermines, beavers, and Arctic foxes--was the main trade equivalent. Fur was of high interest for Oriental and Russian merchants who were happy to exchange it for silver. In the Middle Ages, sables and ermines were spread on both sides of the Northern and Central Ural in the dwarf pine forests. The number of valuable fur animals was enormous and their output was carried out on a gigantic scale. Unfortunately, no numerical assessment of fur trade is available in the sources of the Middle Ages, but it is well known that in 1586 a tribute of 200,000 sables was imposed on the Western Siberia. But soon after the Russians, committed to enter international trade, traveled across the Ugra to the Ural region for the first time, they focused on local silver in the form of coins and different utensils accumulated for years of trade between Ural and the East.

Опубликовано на Порталусе 21 ноября 2021 года

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