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Gold of the Great Steppe

Gold of the Great Steppe


Full of research from recent excavations, this book will accompany an exhibition – at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge – of artefacts from the sophosticated burial mounds of the fierce warriors of East Kazakhstan, the Saka, who, over 2,500 years ago, lived lives rich in complexity and produced goldwork of intricate design.


The Saka people occupied a landscape of seemingly endless steppe to the west, bounded by mountains to the east and south. Known to be fi erce warriors, they were also skilled craftspeople, producing intricate gold and other metalwork. Their artistic expression indicates a deep respect for the animals around them – both real and imagined. They dominated their landscapes with huge burial mounds of sophisticated construction, burying their horses with elite members of their society. Recent excavations and analyses, led by archaeologists from Kazakhstan, have demonstrated that by looking through a scientifi c and social lens at what the Saka left behind we can paint a picture of a complex society. We can start to understand how it aff ected the way people lived, how they travelled, the things they made and what they believed in.


Including contributions from experts at Nazarbayev University, Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, and the University of Cambridge, this publication details the results of new archaeological research from East Kazakhstan. It is richly illustrated with photographs of intricate gold artefacts in the Saka-Scythian animal style, landscape and aerial photography of the burial mounds, and details of the excavations and analyses. Grounded in decades of careful study, papers by the two leading Kazakhstani archaeologists of the East Kazakhstan region, Professors Zainolla Samashev and Abdesh Toleubayev, demonstrate current archaeological thinking in Kazakhstan today. These papers are complemented by material from a team of international scholars, which contribute the results of new scientific analyses on the artefacts, and wider Eurasian perspectives on the Saka people and their practice of horse burial.

  • Edited by Rebecca Roberts

    October 2021

    Hardback, 260 x 216 mm

    160 pages, 80 illustrations

    ISBN: 978-1-911300-91-5



    The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

    October 2021 – January 2022

  • Contributors

    Prof. Zainolla Samashev (translated by Joanna Dobson), Prof. Abdesh Toleubayev (translated by Joanna Dobson), Prof. Emerita Dr Claudia Chang, Prof. Marcos Martinón-Torres, Dr Rebecca Roberts, Dr Laerke Recht, Saltanat Amir

  • In the press

    ★★★★★ "breathtaking" —The Guardian


    "This insightful exhibition presents artefacts from the extraordinary burial mounds of the Saka people" —The Telegraph


    "We may never discern the individual hands who fashioned these fascinating objects but, millennia later, the hands that have brought them to light with such reverence are rightly being celebrated."—Apollo


    "This is not just an art historian book about gold jewellery  ... [it] offers a wonderful view into Saka culture, the rich heritage of Kazakhstan, and the hard work of its archaeologists." — Bedouin Silver


    "For the first time, this exhibition of gold of the Great Steppe places archaeological finds discovered in the last three years by Kazakh archaeologists on a global stage, amplifying voices that often go unheard in museums in the West and giving UK audiences a unique opportunity to see and understand the rich cultural history of a country the size of western Europe" —Asian Art Newspaper


    "A beautiful hardback catalogue" —Cornucopia

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