Nomadic Art of Iran and the Western Eurasian Steppes
As we move farther East to the region of present day Iran, we encounter a fascinating artistic tradition from the nomads of the mountainous region of N. W. Iran. Hundreds of bronze objects have been found in countless grave sites in an area originally called Lurus, and today referred to as Luristan.
Typical of nomadic Indo-European peoples, most of what survives today are metal craft works created to be carried on horseback with the tribesmen. These Luristan bronzes take the form of weapons, shield decorations, pole standards, vessels, and decorated horse ornaments.
The example on the right from the Metropolitan Museum is a very elaborate standard top or finial, dating to a period of approximately the 8th century B.C. A long pole would be inserted into the lower part of the bronze standard.
The design motifs are so typical of the region that it is commonly called the 'nomadic animal style'. Notice how it is very symmetrical, relies on interesting openwork patterns or negative spaces that form a part of the design.
What are we looking at here?
A very conceptualized image of humans, birds, and animals. Can you find them?
OK...good---there is a lower human form (maybe a woman with stylized hips and legs??) Then as our eyes move up, we see above this heavily, ornamented neck that the face seems to be wearing an elaborate headdress with another figure superimposed, holding two long-necked animals, whose necks lead down to bird's heads.
Is it a fertility symbol? We do not know, since the graves were robbed of any clues to the context.
Another more simplified example of a Luristan bronze is seen at the left. This is a section of a bridle, showing the rings through which the reins would extend. The beautiful horse surmounting the rings is less stylized and more natural, probably indicating a more recent date. The artist has caught some of the anticipated motion and grace of the horse.
The horse ornaments reminds us of the reverence and importance of the horse in societies such as these.
As we move to the northern shores of the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains, we are connecting with other nomadic horsemen. From Siberia these tribes moved Westward across 4,000 miles of terrain, creating interchange with Iran, Europe, Greece and China. Much of this tradition of the "nomadic animal style" was carried on by the tribes of present day Russia. The most famous of these art forms are those created by the tribe called the Scythians, whose tombs or 'kurgans' have yielded amazing art examples. Below are two examples of Scythian Stag decorations.
Scythian Stag made of wood, gold and silver.
Gold Stag made to decorate an iron shield. Note the beveled sufaces, a process normally used for wood, the beauty of the spiral horn patterns, and the curled legs.