#Exhibit of the Month
Bronze finial from Răscăieţii Noi
This unusual object of the Scythian period was found in 1953 by a village teacher A.I. Shiryaev at the top of a mound near the village of Răscăieţii Noi in the Ştefan Vodă District. A quarter of a century later, excavations in 1979 revealed that this outstanding mound (about 10 m high and more than 40 m in diameter) was erected in the Early Bronze Age, at the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC. Then, two thousand years later, there were buried Scythians, with which, apparently, other finds are associated, a cauldron and a finial, cast in bronze.
The finial from Răscăieţii Noi is one of the items made in the Scythian animal style, a special manner of decoration that spread along with the culture of the early nomads of Eurasia from Central Europe to the Black Sea region and the Caucasus, from the Volga region to southern Siberia, from Central Asia to Mongolia and northern China. However, in spite of the general Eurasian coverage, the artifact from Răscăieţii Noi contains features characteristic mainly of Eastern Europe. Firstly, it was the Eastern European nomads who preferred to portray both daytime birds of prey (Falconiformes) and individual parts of their body: their head or beak. Secondly, the "European" bestiary of the Scythian animal style (as opposed to the "Asian" Scythian-Siberian bestiary) often includes fantastic animals (and their various "artistic transformations") that came here under the influence of the cultures of the Middle East. Thus, the "fantastic" image of the Răscăieţii Noi artifact is given by a beak bent in one and a half turns, which does not happen in nature. Thirdly, the very shape of the object is characteristic only for the North Caucasus, the steppes of the Black Sea region and the Ukrainian forest-steppe.
Such finials were interpreted as symbols of power, as a kind of standard banners, and even as decorations for the masts of ships. However, most researchers consider them to be associated with funeral processions, most likely to decorate funeral canopies, carts or chariots. The latter version seems to be the most preferable, especially since similar decorations are found on the images of the chariots of the Middle East. In terms of style, the artifact from Răscăieţii Noi is associated with finials from the mounds of the Ukrainian forest-steppe and the North Caucasus, however, performed in a more realistic manner. It seems that the specimen from Răscăieţii Noi shows further stylization of the image, reaching its highest stage, when the beak is only guessed in the curls of the upper part of the finial, but the pronounced cere and relief eye still emphasize the resemblance to the head of a bird of prey. From the middle of the 5th century BC things made in such a stylized manner penetrate into the steppes of the Black Sea region, including the bank of the Dniester in its lower reaches, where the finial was found near the village of Răscăieţii Noi.