Russian Perm Animal Style Bronze Belt - Bear Form
Perm region


Russian Perm Animal Style Bronze Belt - Bear Form


Russia, Perm region, Perm Animal Style (Permian Animal Style), (latter) 10th to 11th (12th the latest) centuries CE.

Found near Nytva, in the Ural, 70 kilometers west from the region capital Perm at the Nytva river wich comes together with the Kama.

This is a beautiful belt in the form of a bear head and clawed arms inside a rounded frame and with three spikes rising from his back. Cast as part of the frame is a rounded loop, below the bear's nose, to form a hook for a belt buckle or some other kind of attachment, possibly one for a saddle. Why the bear is a subject for this type of item is explained below. Note the strong details of the bear's head and claws, emphasized here over the rest of its body. Bright, flashing objects were worn as part of fashion at the time, designed to draw the eye and demonstrate the wealth of the wearer. Size: 3.55" W x 1.45" H (9 cm x 3.7 cm)


The Perm Animal Style is associated with a loosely culturally connected group of people known as the Finno-Ugric peoples who lived in west central Siberia, from modern day Perm north to the Arctic Sea. They freely took artistic influence from those who came before them, like the Scytho-Siberians, and from colonists from the west, like the Vikings, but developed their own clear style that archaeologists know from graves scattered throughout the taiga. Birds of prey, ungulates like reindeer, canines, and bears abound in their iconography; human representations are also common. These zoomorphic designs seem to share some common culture with the fantastical animals of pagan Viking art, but with some major stylistic differences. Notably, like the Scythians who occupied much of this landscape before them, they tend to focus on individual elements of animals - beaks, feet, claws, mouths, and eyes. Imagining the lifestyle of people in the vast regions of the north - both in taiga and in forest - animals hardy enough to live through the dark winters would have been of great interest and probably played major roles in their folklore as well as being human companions and fellow hunters (birds of prey), food sources (reindeer), and threats (bears and wolves). This iconographic style had remarkable uniformity of design across a vast region and long time period. Although nearly all of our knowledge comes from grave goods, these items seem to have been extensively used in life based upon wear patterns (unlike some other cultures, where goods are produced solely to be placed in graves). They were probably worn on the belt of their owner in life, at a time (which continued into the medieval European period) when flashing, jingling decoration was in fashion. Today, as climate change causes the melting of the permafrost in Siberia, many of these archaeological sites are thawing (and threatened), presenting an opportunity to learn more about these elusive ancient people.




The animalistic style of Western Siberia - collection of bronzes IX - XII th c. AD. from the Fine Arts Museum of Surgut (catalogue), 2000. Colour plates 12 and 15.


For the meaning of the bear in the Finno-Ugrian language area: The great bear, A thematic anthology of oral poetry in the Finno-Ugric languages, Oxford University Press, Finnish Literature Society, 1994).



The Perm Animal Style, 1988, plate 53, p. 84.


Sedov, B.B. Finno-Ugri i Balti v Epokhi Srednevekovija, Moscow, 1987, p. 339





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