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Home > Auctions > 21st November 2017 > Greek Large Scythian Gold Ritual Vessel

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LOT 0090

Sold for (Inc. bp): £27,280

6" (421 grams, 15.5cm).

A large gold vessel weighing almost half a kilogram of gold; of a conical shape, beaten from a single sheet; pinched at two points on the rim to form a pair of spouts; tapering to the flat base; small hole to the bottom; possibly used for ritual purposes after victory.

From a European collection; previously in a large American collection formed in Chicago, Illinois, USA, in 1995; previously in the Mansees collection; formed 1950s-early 1990s; accompanied by an examination report from Striptwist Ltd, a London-based company run by historical precious metal specialist Dr Jack Ogden; and X-Ray Fluorescence metal analysis certificate number 00903-2017GB.

For a similar shaped gold cup see the excavations at the kurgan of Sengileevskoe-2, Satvropol, Southern Russia.

The Greek historian Herodotus is one of the earliest sources for the Scythians. He tells us that they called themselves Skudat, meaning 'archers' and that they were nomadic people who covered a vast area; they were known by the Chinese who built the Great Wall to protect themselves against their raids.

The gold vessels recently excavated at Sengileevskoe-2, Stavropol, also have holes to the base and were found to have a black residue inside that, when tested, was found to be a mixture of cannabis and opium. Herodotus mentions the use of drugs in Scythian rituals: “That no Grecian vapour-bath can surpass … transported by the vapour, they shout aloud.” A number of Scythian burials have been excavated where bags of hemp seeds have been found alongside the deceased.

What Herodotus tells about Scythian customs has often been corroborated by archaeologists. Examples are the human sacrifices, the use of skulls as vessels, drinking blood of slain enemies, the funerary rituals, the existence of female warriors, and the use of cannabis and opium to get 'high'. Herodotus may have learned all this from Greeks who lived on the Scythian coast.