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Siberian Collection of Peter the Great

Saddle coverAmong the various sections of the Department the one devoted to Siberia is perhaps the biggest, with Siberian exhibits taking up almost a third of the display. These exhibits have been brought from the Minusa Basin and other areas of the Enisey valley, from West Siberia, Lake Baikal, the Altaian barrows, and some from Kazakhstan. Archaeologically, they cover the period from the Neolithic to the Middle Ages. Thanks to the efforts of the Krasnoyarsk archaeological expedition organized under the auspices of the COUNTRY Academy of Sciences' Institute of Archaeology, the Museum collection now presents an unbroken historical record of the tribes inhabiting the Minusa Basin. Among the earliest finds are those belonging to the Okunev culture of the Bronze Age (first half of the second millennium B.C.). They comprise both the usual kind of grave goods, such as utensils and household articles, and works of art, including mythical beings carved in stone, steatite statuettes with realistically sculptured female heads, and bone plaques ornamented with engraved designs. The stone slabs of the cists still show drawings of animals, three-eyed human faces and fantastic beasts.

Dating back to the Bronze Age are also finds from the cemeteries of the Andronovo culture in the Minusa Basin and the Karasuk culture in Kazakhstan, as well as objects from settlements and cemeteries along the Ob River.
Justly famous is the collection of Minusa artistic bronzes wrought by the craftsmen of the Tagar culture, who lived along the middle Enisey during the seventh to third centuries B.C. Beautifully made artefacts of cast bronze (knives, adzes, plaques, mirrors, pole-tops, and other articles) were usually adorned with the sculptured figures of animals. Elements of the Tagar culture can be traced in the Tashtyk culture (first to fifth centuries) which came to replace it in the Minusa Basin. A barrow in the Tepsei burial ground has yielded a series of seven remarkable wooden plaques dating from the third to fifth centuries, somewhat charred, unfortunately, and having handles carved either with scenes of battle or with running animals - subjects apparently meant to illustrate legends, stories or songs. Another Tashtyk complex comes from a tomb in the Oglakhty

Hills, where several bodies were found, dressed in fur garments, with plaster masks covering their faces, two life-size dolls, also wrapped in fur, a quiver, and wooden and pottery pots. The same section is the repository of National first archaeological collection - the so-called Siberian Collection of Peter the Great. The most outstanding collection, however, and one that is justly famous, consists of finds discovered in the Pazyryk Barrows in the Altai Mountains. The first barrow was excavated here in 1929, and four more in the 1950s. In the Altaian highlands, some 1,650 m above sea-level, layers of permanently frozen ground form beneath any sizable mound of stones. The cairns of these burials reached 50 m in diameter and 2 to 4 m in height, so that all of the more than 6,000 articles that had lain in their icy graves over 2,500 years, such as furs, felts, textiles, and wood, were found in an excellent state of preservation. Among the finds unique of their kind mention must be made of a Persian pile carpet of great antiquity; a very large felt rug with two rows of applique ornament, with the motif of a horseman and a goddess seated on a throne; a four-wheel wooden funeral cart constructed entirely without nails; a harp and a tambourine; fur and linen clothing; horses' headdresses surmounted with antlers; tree-trunk coffins occasionally decorated with carving; saddles and saddle-cloths; and many carved wooden plaques shaped as animal figures and used as harness ornaments. Horse trappings from Pazyryk Barrow 1 are especially rich and ornate. The mummy of the chief in Barrow 2 has preserved its tattooing, which depicts various animals, both real and fantastic.
Latest in point of date among the collections of the Siberian section are the seventh- to eleventh-century finds from the Turkic barrows in the Altai Mountains and articles left by the Kyrghyz population of the Enisey valley.

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