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Bouterolle from the Village of Patardzeuli (Kakheti, Eastern Georgia)

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image of Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia

Abstract In the Sighnaghi museum there is a bronze bouterolle found by chance during earthworks in the village of Patardzeuli in Kakhetia (Eastern Georgia). This cast bronze object in the shape of a rhyton and 12 cm long is the terminal of a wooden dagger sheath (or a wooden one once covered in leather). The terminal tapers evenly downwards and then broadens out to one side with a curved open-work detail representing a highly stylized depiction of a bird’s head: it consists of an imitation of a delicate spiral resembling a curved beak, while the eye is conveyed by a round knob positioned on the main part of the terminal next to the lateral detail. There are two rows of round knobs around the top rim of the bouterolle: between them there are two holes on each side of the object passing right through it, thus allowing it to be attached to the wood. Objects of this category have been recorded in various versions in the Caucasus and in modified versions outside. In places, where a context for such finds has made it possible, the period during which they were used has been defined as the second half of the 7th and the 6th century BC. Mapping of such finds indicates that the area of distribution for these terminals is confined mainly to the Northern Caucasus and Transcaucasia. Although heads of birds of prey with their clearly defined large eyes and large curved beaks are one of the most popular motifs in the repertoire of the Animal Style of the Scythians, bouterolles of the type in question are not found in Scythian culture as such. An exception is the terminal from Repyakhovataya Mogila, which in its shape, manner of execution and proportions stands out from the rest and has been classified as a Scythian variant of the Caucasian bouterolles. Our research has led us to conclude that the fashioning of the scabbard chape in the shape of a bird’s head can be traced back to the practice of a local tradition in the Caucasus. We suggest that on the bouterolle from Patardzeuli, as for the other terminals from this series, the widely known motif of a bird’s head has been interpreted in a specific style intrinsic only to these objects, which gave rise to this special form of terminal. All the features, which set this group apart from artefacts of Scythian type from the same period, make it possible to conclude that bronze bouterolles of the type examined here represent a phenomenon from the Caucasus.


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