The Forgotten Stalae – Cultural Heritage of Polovtsians

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In 2008, a team of archaeologists and conservators from Poland and Czech Republic undertook maintenance work on the Polovtsian anthropomorphic late medieval steles from the collection of the Veliklanadolskyi Forest Museum, at Komsomolsky Podsiolok in East Ukraine.

Their goal was to prevent the degradation of the sculptures caused by environmental factors and human activities, as well as to restore the aesthetics of the statues. Aneta Gołębiowska-Tobiasz, a member of the team became strongly aware of the cultural value of the monumental sculptures  – barely known in the rest of Europe, and decided to channel her efforts into research and the restoration of the stelae, which represent so majestically the cultural heritage of the Turkic people of the steppe zone of Eastern Europe.

De Gruyter Open has now published the “Monumental Polovtsian Statues in Eastern Europe. The Archaeology, Conservation and Protection” in its Open Access Book program, presenting the author’s well-documented and illustrated history of the research on Cuman stone stelae.

The art of creating stelae had been known in many cultural circles before it had appeared among the Turkic peoples. The tradition of constructing monumental stone sculptures originated in the in the Bronze Age cultures of Central and Middle Asia around the 4th millennium B.C. Anthropomorphic stelae were later created by the Kimmers and the Scythians. Stone statues associated with the early Turks appeared in a vast territory of the Asian steppes that stretches from the Southern foothills of the Ural Mountains, through Kazakhstan, to Mongolia.

Their origins and the cultural significance are interpreted in a variety of ways, and still many issues associated with their construction remain unclear. The book delves into the phenomenon of the anthropomorphic sculptures in relation to the migration of the Turkic nomads, from the perspective of an archaeologist and conservator.

With a visibly palpable passion, Gołębiowska-Tobiasz explores the diffusion of the stalae, the evolution of their canon, addressing alongside the latest hypothesis of the sculptures being related not only to religious beliefs but also of their possible political significance.

The art of erecting stale disappeared rather abruptly with the fall of the Polovtsians and the rapid spread of Islam. This book will mark a new perspective for the archeologists and historians on most versatile aspects of these imposing and yet neglected monuments. “The book is not only innovative”,  says Igor Leonidovich Kyzlasov, Head of Medieval Archaeology at the Russian Academy of Sciences, and arguably, one of the finest scientists in this subject area, “but it also accurately documents the complex process, and the results of restoration and conservation of monuments“

The book is available to read, download and share open access here:

http://www.degruyter.com/view/product/209739

Contributing Source : De Gruyter

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  • Francesco Battimelli

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