Arctic. Ancient bronze. Smithcraft




Abstract authors: I.A. Karapetova, V.V. Gorbacheva Album compiler: K.Yu.Solovyeva

Ancient bronze

White bronze pendants shaped like beasts or birds are the most widespread type of decoration of the high middle ages epoch recorded in archeological complexes of Western Siberia. Ancient bronze has most often been found in land slips or on the sites of ancient settlements, and some artifacts were found as part of hoards. The tradition of respect to such finds, and attributing sacral properties to them were related to the myth of their origin. The making of such articles was ascribed to mythical ancient inhabitants of Arctic territories. According to the Ob Ugrians’ beliefs, those were their legendary hero ancestors. The Nenets believed that the artifacts had belonged to the Sikhirtya, a mythical people inhabiting the polar tundra before the arrival of the Nenets. In holy places, ancient metal figurines were an integral feature of anthropomorphic images symbolizing patrons of a territory or a trade: they were their servants, assistants, or offerings to a deity. Besides, bronze articles were used as pendants to men’s belts, women’s plait decorations and bags, being simultaneously an amulet and a decoration. This phenomenon is reflected in the epics of northern tribes of Western Siberia. Articles of ancient bronze casting are often found also in our days, in home sanctuaries of the Khanty, Mansi, and Nenets.


Man learned metal smelting in the earliest times, which is indicated by archeologists’ finds. The traces of making articles of iron are dated 1st and 2nd centuries BC. At that time, the use of iron started for making working and hunting tools and weapons. Most men of Siberian peoples had hand forging skills, but alongside, there were also master hands in smithcraft. They were asked to make arrowheads, knives, spear blades, and pendants to shaman’s attires. The smiths’ work was equaled to shaman’s gift, and outsiders were forbidden to touch their tools – anvil, hammer, tongs, and bellows. Irina A. Karapetova