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Cast plaques shaped as horsemen of the “Turkic” tradition made of non-ferrous metal are not so numerous, but characteristic examples of early medieval artistic metalworking. They belong to the corpus of the so-called small objects of metalwork (toreutics) of Central Asia represented mainly by decorated belt ornaments of horse and rider’s gear. Flat plaques shaped as horsemen served, supposedly, as amulets. Such objects have always attracted attention and are well studied, some of them being random fi nds. This article analyzes three new items from the Chu Valley of the Northern Tian Shan region. Two plaques represent one type – the fi gure of a heavily armed spear-bearing horseman in shell armor, his “disc”/round-shaped shield behind his shoulders. The author examines iconography in detail. Both plaques are low-quality castings with an almost erased image, but they still suggest an idea of a certain standard (canon) of a specifi c depiction. The items discussed expand the range of such plaques characteristic of the Turkic cultural tradition of the 6th–8th centuries in general terms (including other types of plaques). The quality of the images and the casting of the considered items suggest their attribution to the late 1st or the turn of 1st–2nd millennium. The third plaque is an “individual” case. Its condition of preservation does not allow identifying the horse’s posture (galloping “in fl ight”?). The author notes iconographic details characteristic of other fi gures of the “Turkic” horsemen. The ornamentation system of horse gear is reproduced quite accurately. The horseman is holding kamcha (whip), a totally new detail, in his right hand. The master is original in attempting to portray clothes in such a way that it resembles the plated armor of heavily armed spear-bearing riders. This is a product of a master of improvisations, who, perhaps, tried to create his original (partly syncretic) version using several well-known canonical samples. Presumably, the plaque can be attributed to the early 2nd millennium. With all its peculiarities, it refl ects some canons of composition and design of such fi gurines and can be included in a single corpus of the “Turkic” horsemen images of Central Asia.


Artistic metalworking, non-ferrous metal, plaques shaped as horsemen, the Chu Valley, Central Asia, the Early Middle Ages.

Galina G. Korol

Institute of Archaeology RAS, Moscow, Russia

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