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Academician G. F. Miller and the Treasures from Litoi Kurgan

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The burial-mound "Litoi Kurgan" was excavated in 1763 on the instructions of Lieutenant-General A.P. Mel'gunov 30 metres from the fortress of Saint Elizabeth (now known as Kirovograd, Ukraine). It cotained an assemblage of gold and silver articles of the Early Scythian period: examples of oriental metal-work and articles which had been fashioned in the traditions of the Scythian Animal Style. The prestigious nature of these finds was on a par with the grave-goods found in royal Scythian burial-mounds. The artefacts were presented to Empress Catherine II, who commanded that Academician G.F. Miller (1705-1783) should draw up a description of them and that they should be held in the Kunstkammer of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences. One hundred years later the hoard was transferred in installments to the Hermitage Museum. In this article information regarding the assemblage from the Litoi Kurgan site is pieced together on the basis of archive documents and publications dating from the 18th and 19th century. Modern interpretations of this information and attempts to date the finds are also included: some of the artefacts were transferred from the Hermitage to museums in Kharkov and then lost during the Second World War. It is precisely with the excavations of the Litoi Kurgan burial-mound that the birth of a separate branch of archaeology is associated – namely Scythian studies. Litoi Kurgan is one of the sites from the Scythian Archaic period, which link together the Dnieper region and the Northern Caucasus. It is possible that it is a cenotaph burial-mound associated with the era of the Scythian campaigns into the Near East and dating from the second half of the 7th century BC.


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