Taking advantage of the single band of terrain stretching from the plains of Hungary to the Pacific Ocean, the Steppe nomads moved freely and quickly across the latitudes of the Eurasian continent. At times, their civilizations become somewhat settled, and flowered into established cultures that nonetheless remained forever at the edges of the historical world. The Scythians and Thracians, in the Black Sea basin, were respected trading partners of the Greeks, and the wares and artistic sensibilities flowed of both cultures were exchanged freely.
Owls are rarely depicted in bronze animal art. Some examples have, however, been found associated with fifth century BC Scythian burials and may have attached to clothing for personal adornment. This is a relatively naturalistic representation that shows the bird in profile, though its head is turned to face the viewer. A sense of fullness in the body is conveyed through the alternation of flat and striated areas, delineating the plush feathers of the bird’s wing. A horizontal bar runs the width of the appliqué on the reverse side. Attached to the accoutrements of a Steppes nomad, it would have been a watchful guardian during long days of constant movement.
Bunker, E. C., Ancient Bronzes of the Eastern Eurasian Steppes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collection. New York 1997.
Bunker, E. C., Animal Style from East to West. New York 1970.
Bunker, Emma C. et al, Nomadic Art of the Eastern Eurasian Steppes. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002.
Private Collection, New York, 1980s.
Published: T. Pang, Treasures of the Eurasian Steppes: Animal Art from 800 BC to 200 AD (New York, 1998), no. 21.