Sarmatian horsemen on a vessel from Kosika, Kuban, 1st century AD

Fig. 3. 1 – Cup with zoomorphic handles and pear-shaped body in the Kosika grave.
2–5 – Designs on the Kosika cup (after MORDVINCEVA/TREJSTER 2007).
VITALIE BÂRCĂ, “Some Remarks on Metal Cups with Zoomorphic Handles in the Sarmatian Environment” in EPHEMERIS NAPOCENSIS XXII 2012.


... The upper register on the vessel at Kosika renders two identical scenes depicting a knight with spear hunting a wild boar (Fig. 3/3-4). The first scene of the lower register renders the fight between a cataphract and a lightly armed knight (Fig. 3/2), and the second, whose central part did not preserve, depicts a mounted archer stretching the bow string16 (Fig. 3/5).

16 Cf. TREJSTER 1994, 179–182, Fig. 7–11; MORDVINCEVA/TREJSTER 2007, II, 41, cat. no. A114.5; III, Taf. 30, Fig. 10–11.


... Regarding the Kosika cup, it was argued that it was produced, together with the entire set of vessels within the grave, in the capital of Armenia under Artavasdes (who became king of Armenia during Caligula’s reign (37-41 AD), upon its order45. Furthermore, on the basis of the artisan’s name recorded by the Greek inscription ΒασιλέωςΆρθεουάζου vac. ΆμΨακος έποίησευ (reading, Ju. G. Vinogradov) on the silver bowl in the grave at Kosika46, the artisan was supposed Sarmatian, learning the decoration technique of silver vessels by gilding the framed designs in Armenia47. Recently, following the critical analysis of the find at Kosika, it was concluded that most likely, Artavasdes mentioned by the inscription on the bowl had nothing in common with the Armenian king who reigned for a short period of time during the events by the end of the 30s AD, making instead reference to the Armenian king Artavasdes II, son of Tigranes II48,

43 MORDVINCEVA 2000, 152.
44 BESPALYJ 1989, 120 sqq.
45 To this effect: VINOGRADOV 1994, 156 sqq.
46 For the inscription: VINOGRADOV 1994, 156-157.
47 TREJSTER 1994, 199.
48 King of Armenia in 95-55 BC.


who ruled in 55-34 BC49. Moreover, it was argued that the grave items were most likely the property of a Siracian in the Kuban region, who was involved in the Bosporan king Pharnaces’s campaign in Asia Minor in 49-47 BC50 and not the property of a Sarmatian participating on the Hiberii and Albanii side in their fight against the Parthians in 35 AD, as believed by Ju. G. Vinogradov51. Regarding the dating of the grave at Kosika, it is considered that year 47-46 BC52 and not the mid 1st century AD53 is terminus post quem. Without entering into many details, we wish to specify that the grave at Kosika is located right Volga mouths, a region where the Aorsi lived, according to archaeological realities and information from ancient written sources54. During the 1st century BC-1st century AD, the Sarmatian Siraces inhabited the Kuban region, located at a distance of ca. 600 km from the place where the grave at Kosika was found, thus raising the question on the Siraces origin of the dead at Kosika. We believe that the statement according to which a group of Siraces migrated to the Lower Volga region55 subsequent their defeat in the Asia Minor campaign is groundless. In fact, it is hard to believe that after such a long military campaign the participants, instead of returning to the territory inhabited by the tribe to which they belonged, travelled to a far territory where other tribes lived. It is certain that in the case of the inscription-bearing vessels from Migulinsk and Kosika one may say, as well noted56, that the artisans had non-Greek names and that they made these vessels for non-Greek users, although the inscriptions text is in Greek.
    Beside this recent dating proposed for the feature at Kosika, we also wish to mention that the name Αμψαλακος (Ampsalakos) was rather popular in Tanais, Panticapaeum and Olbia, being found in a series of inscriptions dating to the chronological interval between mid 1st century and mid 3rd century AD57, when in the north-Pontic area the Sarmatians are massively present, while the diffusion of Iranian names, especially of those Sarmatian, in the Greek cities onomatology is undeniable58.
    It is believed that the Kosika and Verbovskij cups, together with the Vysočino cup, were not produced in a north-Pontic workshop59. In M. Ju. Trejster’s view, the origin of this decoration style of the vessels lies in the strongly Hellenised art of the early Kushan empire from north-west India. The same author mentions that Kushan’s role was not singular and that the establishment of this style was influenced by both the Parthian art as well as the traditions of the Greek-Scythian metalwork preserved in the north of the Black Sea until the late Hellenistic period60.

49 TREISTER 2005, 229-240.
50 MORDVINCEVA/TREJSTER 2007, I, 188. For Pharnaces’s campaign to Asia Minor: SAPRYKIN 1996, 297-299; SAPRYKIN 2002, 38-50.
51 VINOGRADOV 1994, 158 sqq.
52 TREISTER 2005, 233; MORDVINCEVA/TREJSTER 2007, I, 189.
54 STRABO, Geografia, XI, 2, 1; XI, 5, 7-8.
57 Cf. VINOGRADOV 1994, 155, 158, notes 36-37.
58 Cf. for the emergence of Sarmatian names in Olbian onomatology KARYŠKOVSKIJ 1993, 73-96. This new dating proposed for the grave is rather surprising should we take into account epigraphic realities and the dating of the other Sarmatian graves comprising cups of the type.
59 TREISTER 2005, 242-245; MORDVINCEVA/TREJSTER 2007, I, 189-190.


All cups with zoomorphic handles made of silver and gold come from very rich (aristocratic) graves dating mainly to the 1st century AD, which is in fact confirmed by the rest of the items beside which they were discovered, some of them representing good dating elements61.

61 … The Kosika grave dates, most likely, to the early - first half of the 1st century AD: DVORNIČENKO/FEDOROV-DAVYDOV 1993, 178 (mid 1st century AD); VINOGRADOV 1994 (links the dating of the grave to the events of year 35 AD); TREJSTER 1994; TREJSTER 2001, 168-169 (first half of the 1st century AD); ŠČUKIN 1995, 178-179 (end of the 1st century BC - early 1st century AD); TREISTER 2005 (47-46 century BC); MORDVINCEVA 2003, 87 (end of the 1st century BC - early 1st century AD); MORDVINCEVA/TREJSTER 2007, I, 188-189 (47-46 century BC). …

Source: VITALIE BÂRCĂ, "Some Remarks on Metal Cups with Zoomorphic Handles in the Sarmatian Environment" in EPHEMERIS NAPOCENSIS XXII 2012.

Referenced in The Sarmatians 600 BC-AD 450 by Richard Brzezinski (Author), Gerry Embleton (Illustrator)
p.13: One of the ‘Kosika vessels’ showing Sarmatian warriors of the 1st or 2nd century AD. The origin of these vessels, found in a Sarmatian cemetery at Kosika, 110km, north of Astrakhan, remain controversial. The upper register of the 21cm-high silver vessel shows a hunting scene with an unarmoured rider skewering a wild animal with his lance. A mounted archer with a small composite bow, and a wounded riderless horse, appear in the lower register. (After M. Yu. Treister, in Vestnik Drevnei Istorii, 1994,1)

p.14: Duelling scene from another of the Kosika vessels - see Plate G. The scale-armoured rider is about to deliver the deathblow with his contus which has a huge head. His opponent, already struck by arrows, is unarmoured except for his thick jacket, and carries only a sheathed bow. His saddle is clearly of ‘horned’ type, with characteristic triple straps hanging from the rear. The cheekpiece of both horsemen’s bridles are of ‘propeller’ form, a variety common across the western steppes until the 2nd century AD. H. von Gall, Stsena poedinka vsadnikov na serebryanoi vaze iz Kosika (‘The horsemen’s duel on a silver vessel from Kosika’), Vestnik Drevnei Istorii,1997 2, p.174-98

A detail of an A.D. 1st Century Aorsi vessel buried in Kosika, Kuban. Here we see the collar-length hair and moustache shown on Kushan frescoes and textiles, the crenelated mane seen on the Pazyryk felt hanging, on the Baga Oigor petroglyphs (100 miles east of Pazyryk), and on the cavalry mounts in Shihuangdi’s mausoleum.

Also notice he’s wearing a head-band or diadem, so typical of individuals depicted in Kushana (Bactria). These tell-tale features run straight from Pazyryk to Bactria, then to Kuban and the Crimea, and they do not show up in illustrations of Western Scythians or Saka, both of whom wore full beards. To me, this is a unique link, not some ambiguous connection.
By Alan J. Campbell

Vessel with two handles in the form of a boar and two genre friezes on the body. On the upper frieze is a hunting scene, on the lower battle scene.
Astrakhan region, Enotaevsky district, at Kosika.
Excavations by G.A. Fedorova-Davydova, V.V. Plakhova, V.V. Dvornichenko, 1984.
1st century AD
Casting, forging, drawing, engraving, plating images of gold.
Astrakhan State United Historical and Architectural Museum-Reserve.

Other Scythian, Saka, Yuezhi and Sarmatian Illustrations of Costume and Soldiers

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