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Golden Glories of Kazakhstan

Gold of the Great Steppe at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Gold of the Great Steppe
Edited by Rebecca Roberts

Paul Holberton Publishing

Caroline Eden admired the Saka treasures at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, where an ancient Turkic steppe civilisation revealed its secrets

  • LEFT This gold torc – 300g of solid gold delicately twisted into a spiral – was placed around the neck of a noble young Saka archer. Unearthed in a burial mound known as Kurgan 4 at Eleke Sazy in East Kazakhstan and dating to 800–550BC, it is the largest treasure from the site. Smoothed edges suggest it was worn during the warrior’s lifetime. RIGHT A gold turquoise-eyed stag (8th–6th century BC) found next to the archer at Eleke Sazy in the Kurgan 4 mound (overleaf). The Saka, often categorised as Scythians, held sway over the eastern steppes of Central Asia for seven centuries, until the 2nd century BC. Were they the ‘gold-guarding griffins’ of Herodotus’s Histories?

In Cambridge, autumn leaves werre drifting past eye-catching posters hung throughout the city. At their centre was a golden stag with huge antlers and inlays of lapis lazuli and turquoise. Muscles straining, with legs bent at the joints, it looked as though it was in motion, though the curators insist that it is seated. This handsome stag was the star of the exhibition Gold of the Great Steppe at the Fitzwilliam Museum. Filled with artefacts from the ancient world, the Fitzwilliam, sometimes dubbed ‘the best small museum in Europe’, was a fitting temporary home for archaeological finds from burial mounds built by the Saka people in East Kazakhstan…

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Issue 64, 2022 30th Anniversary Issue
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Other Highlights from Cornucopia 64
  • The Silence of Snow

    Arnavutköy is a characterful old village on the Bosphorus, long famed for its strawberries and lively cosmopolitan community. But for 12 days in 1987, as Jenny White recalls, nonstop snow – and an eerie silence – descended on the neighbourhood. Happily, the Neşe taverna was there to offer warmth and raki

  • Small Wonder

    Delicious and versatile, the tiny lentil packs a powerful nutritional punch. Possibly man’s first food crop, this legume seed is as popular in modern Turkey as it was in Neolithic times. Berrin Torolsan has her finger on the pulse

  • A Grand New World

    Palaces, mosques, churches and the essentials of empire – the Balyan family’s creations epitomise the golden age of 19th-century Istanbul. A new book reveals the exquisite drawings and supreme organisation behind their landmark edifices – including one that mercifully got away. By Philip Mansel

  • Making an Entrance

    The gate guarding the Ottoman Ministry of War – today’s Istanbul University – is an eloquent example of the Orientalist style that took both East and West by storm in the 19th century. In the gate’s shadow stands the Princes’ Lodge, once the refuge of high-born officers on parade day, now an exotic refectory where professors of Istanbul University enjoy lunch. By Berrin Torolsan. Photographs by Monica Fritz

  • Roman Roads

    In their second Turkish adventure, the acclaimed photographer Don McCullin and the author-publisher Barnaby Rogerson travel south in pursuit of Roman treasures. Originally drawn by the lure of gorgeous goddesses in unsung museums, they discover moody Sardis, with its ruined temple to Artemis, explore Ephesus, with its magnificent library, marvel at the enchanted city of Aphrodisias, and finally reach the mountain fastness of Hadrian’s Sagalassos. Photographs: Don McCullin. Text: Barnaby Rogerson

  • Prince of Painters

    The last Caliph’s passion for painting, By Andrew Finkel and Isobel Finkel

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Issue 64, 2022 30th Anniversary Issue
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