Russian Siberian Bronze Ornitomorphic Pendant


Russian Siberian Bronze Ornitomorphic Pendant


Russia, Western Siberia, Yamal Peninsula and Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug (District), 8th to 10th century CE.


This - very rare - Russian Siberian bronze ornitomorphic pendant, found in the Komi region - see map above is one of the most intriguing objects. We do see what it represent: a bird, a hawk or bird of prey alike. The face on the bird is an artistic expression of of the mythical expression of the relationship of humans and animals in a religious sense. It expresses the strong bond that people had in those days with the world around them and that may be why the human face is mingled with the image of the hawk.


A solid, cast bronze ornitomorphic (bird-shaped) pendant in the form of a frontally facing bird presenting its outspread wings, bifurcated tail, a mask on its breast, and an expressive face of its own with its bulging eyes and short, curved beak. Note the intricately chased linear and geometric motifs adorning the wings, breast, and tail of this piece, which look like more eyes, rivaling the artistry of Viking Age bronze casting. Details like feather tips and claws give further detail to the bird. An applied loop is attached to the back for suspension. A similar example was discovered by archaeologists from the Scientific Research Center of the Arctic in Salekhard. (See Among them, archaeologist Andrey Gusev stated that bronze items from Northern Siberia during this period are incredibly sparse and most importantly, each piece is a significant addition to this relatively new field of study and brings us closer to understanding the rituals of the ancient inhabitants residing there. A remarkable example from the Golden Age of bronze casting in the north of Western Siberia. Custom stand. Size: 3" W x 3.25" H (7.6 cm x 8.3 cm)


In western Siberia during the Bronze Age, which there extended into what we in the west think of as the medieval period, there were sanctuaries in the forest where archaeologists and local people have found evidence of bronze and silver smelting, as well as bronze and silver artifacts. These sanctuaries seem to have accumulated, over many generations, metal gifts left to the spirits who patronized them. These sanctuaries played a role in local life into the early 20th century, with many people being afraid of disturbing the ancient metal items within; accounts of archaeological expeditions into the 1980s include much information on what superstitious activities the scientists had to go through before local informants would take them to sites. These objects are rare outside of the Russian world, and nearly all of the information published about them is in Russian. They often include stylized human figures and animal iconography. For humans, there is heavy emphasis in depiction placed on certain parts of the body, like eyes and hands; animals seem to be more naturalistically drawn (although not entirely). The relationship between this kind of artistic expression and that of the Perm Animal Style (also Permian Animal Style) is not currently known, but they were contemporaneous and geographically close, and have many of the same elements. These people may also have been inspired by the Scytho-Siberians who came before them, and the Vikings who they could have had contact with in the west.


As the text above is from the gallery I have bought this piece, I have investigated its possible meaning further and stumbled upon a very interesting text within the book: Encyclopedia of Uralic Mythologies, Komi mytholgy (2003), where on p. 136 and 137 the following is written by one of the authors of the book, Nikolai Konakov:


Quote: (under jenma-mua kost << the interval, space between the sky and earth >> the middle world. ...The precense of zoomorphic features points at the connection to the animal's world: elk hoofs and bear paws instead of feet and bird legs instead of hands or hand-wings. .. Thus this Ancient Permian godess (the one who connected the earth with the sky) had many important functions. This godess had a very high mythological status and in fact personified the middle world. She tied together the earthly bottom and heavenly top: was directly connected with solar life-giving power (the solar symbols - note: not to be seen on this pendant/amulet), water and the fertilty of the earth, and consequently with the plant world. The zoomorphic features of the godess are taken from the most significant and strongest animals of all earthly spheres: bear, elk, a bird of prey similar to a hawk that implicates her authority over all the fauna. The picture of a human face on the breast of the woman's figure (here: the breast of the hawk?) allows us to suppose that this godess looked after the reproduction of the human race..



Sadly, I cannot discuss this with him anymore, as Nikolai Konakov had passed away in 2010. But this text part is too striking to be neglected in respect towards this ornitomorphic pendant in my opniion.


Research continues..



For further understanding of similar bronze artifacts featuring images of birds see the catalogue for the historic exhibition entitled, "The animalistic Style of Western Siberia" at the Fine Arts Museum of Surgut (2000).


See also:


Images: 9th row, first image and 11th row, fourth image.




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