The Maikop engraving


Blagoje Govedarica


The topic of this article is the engraved scenery on one of the metal vessels from princely kurgan grave in Maikop. The scene realistically displays certain landschaft with hills and many other details, making it unique in its time and space. Apart from unquestionable artistic value, its significance also lies in a proper interpretation of the display which can contribute to the clarification of certain issues regarding the development of the Maikop culture community. The analysis of the engraved scenery was a point of interest for almost all researchers of the Maikop culture and they all agree that it shows quite vast landscape or some kind of a layout of a specific area with its characteristic relief, plants and animals. However, when it concerns the issue of identification of presented landschaft, the opinions vary. This article analyses various interpretations (Farmakovskij, Munchaev, Amscler, Hintze), and the author ultimately supports Farmakovskij the most, who claims that this is a representation of North Caucasus area, i.e. the territory of Maikop culture what makes this engraving, the vessel as well, made by domestic
craftsman. There are several points that attribute to this claim. The displayed mountain range matches the most to the Caucasian range viewed from the north and the displayed animals, including lions and panthers, lived at this area at the time. That this vessel is a domestic product indicates the fact that Maikopian gold and silver ware has no analogies in contemporary
cultures, including golden pearls as well as bull and lion figurines from the graves in Maikop and from Staromišatovska hoard. The Maikop culture was one of the most important centers for the development and distribution of copper alloy metallurgy (arsenic bronze and nickel bronze) which marks the beginning of the new epoch of the Bronze Age. According to all
things considered, there is a concept of luxurious vessels and other precious metal items, including realistic animal figurines – the artistic style which is going to be recognizable during the next 3rd millennium in urban culture of neighboring Mesopotamia. To support the mentioned interpretation by Farmakovskij, it can be concluded that the attempt to identify prehistoric landschaft based on present-day relief can be misguiding because the geographical layout of northern
Caucasus in 4th millennium BC was quite different from the one we have today. The absolute dating puts the Maikop kurgan into the time period between 3700 – 3500 BC, the beginning of Subboreal, the age of Fedorov’s transgression when the level of Black and the Sea of Azov was up to 3m higher than today. Accordingly, the coastal line of the Sea of Azov at the
time had to be much more inside the Kuban area, including the delta of the river Kuban. Having that in mind, the more accurate location of the area represented in the Maikop engraving can be predicted. This could be the territory of north-western Caucasus ruled by the Maikop prince. Left river, with larger bend would be Kuban, while the right would be Belaja
flowing through present-day Maikop. Nowadays, Belaja flows into an artificial lake, recently created at the river Kuban, while during the period of the Maikop culture, both of these rivers could flow into the Sea of Azov, close to present-day lake or further to the west.  


How to Cite
Govedarica, B. (2022). The Maikop engraving. Godišnjak Centra Za balkanološka Ispitivanja, (41), 37–42.