Posted by: Will Post Reply
My second example is almost diametrically opposed to the first; the Black Sea basin. Itís an area I know relatively little about, but it fascinates me increasingly, and in part because itís largely neglected in the ďWest.Ē Iím sure Yankee knows more about it than I do. The Black Sea was a source of exotic wealth for ancient Mediterranean cultures, and from early times Phoenician, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine trading cities were dotted around its coastline. Probably in all of those time periods glass beads and gold jewellery were produced by artisans in places such as Kerch in the Crimea. Most of their production followed the fashions prevalent in the Mediterranean, but there are fascinating examples too of beads that look towards the east rather than the west. Iíll attach a couple of pics of a large blue glass bead (38 mm. and very heavy), with trailed glass and stratified eyes; it would have been produced by Hellenistic craftsmen in the second century BCE, but it was made for a completely distinct and potentially dangerous racial group, the nomadic Sarmatians, who were an independent offshoot of the Scythians and whose language was a form of Iranian. I imagine they commissioned the few extant beads of this kind, and they have been found (by archaeologists such as Olena Dzeneladze) primarily in ritual burial sites such as Tenginskii in the western foothills of the Caucasus mountains. They were clearly status beads, rare, expensive and showy, and in burials they are usually associated with decorative horse harnesses rather than human ornamentation. So we have an entirely different set of production and trading relations; master/apprentice workshops, and artisans producing for customers whose culture they knew very little about.
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