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The Ancient World and Fashion > Peoples of Western Asia
Golden comb
golden comb

Scythian warriors carry their dead leader’s armlets and robes in a solemn funeral procession. They are wearing distinctive pointed felt caps.

One group of people who the Persians never succeeded in conquering were the warlike Scythians.They lived as nomads on the windswept plains north of the Black Sea, in an area that is now Russia. The Scythians spent much of their lives on horseback, herding sheep and cattle.They set up their tents wherever they could find good pasture, and fought fiercely to defend their lands.

Scythian warriors
Scythian warriors

The Scythians were expert goldsmiths. This exquisite golden comb, found in a chief’s tomb, shows Scythian warriors in battle

Animal Art

Because of their nomadic lifestyle, the Scythians created an art that was easily portable, making intricate golden jewelry and weapons, decorativetent hangings,and carved wooden bowls.They also decorated their clothes and made elaborate trappings for their horses.All these objects were ornamented with swirling animal motifs featuring horses, stags, eagles, bears, snakes, and rabbits.

Herders and Warriors

Scythian herders and warriors needed warm clothes that were easy to ride in. They wore leather, fur-lined boots, thick woolen pants, and tunics which wrapped across their bodies and were fastened by a belt. On their heads they wore a thick pointed cap which covered their ears. When they rode into battle, Scythian warriors wore a protective armor of overlapping metal plates, which covered their upper body and sometimes their legs. Helmets were also made from metal plates.

The warriors fought with long-bladed battleaxes and bows and arrows, and they often engraved their arrow cases with animal designs. Scythian women spent less time on horseback, but they also dressed warmly in long woolen dresses, topped by a belted coat.They wore tall headdresses swathed in scarves.

Splendid Decorations

The Scythians’ clothes were made from leather and wool and covered in decoration.Women embroidered elaborate animal patterns in colored wool and also stitched felt appliqué pieces onto dresses, tunics, and coats. Felt was made by pressing and rolling wool and hair until it formed a thick, matted substance which was dyed vivid colors.

The Scythians created dramatic appliqué designs on their wall hangings, horse trappings,and clothes, using shapes made from colored felt. In addition to these decorations,the Scythians also sewed small, golden plaques onto their clothes.These plaques were engraved with animal motifs and must have sparkled dramatically in the sun, especially when worn in combination with elaborate golden belts, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.

Animal Tattoos

The graves of several Scythian chiefs were excavated in Siberia. The bodies have stayed frozen in the icy ground for thousands of years and still displaytattoos on their skin. The tattoos are remarkably elaborate and show swirling designs of interlocked creatures that appear to be a combination of horses, eagles, and stags.

Ceremonial Dress

The Scythians kept their best clothes for special ceremonies,such as the burial of a chief. When a chief was buried, his body was dressed in the most splendid finery and laid on a chariot, which was pulled by a pair of horses in ceremonial dress. The horses were draped in appliquéd hangings and wore golden harnesses and tall, tasseled headdresses. Men in the funeral procession shaved their heads, and some even cut off an ear to show their grief.

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