‘Animal Style’ and Shamanism: ictoral Tradition in Northern and Central Asia

by Burchard Brentjes

The Scythian Animal Style cannot be considered to be a barbarian derivative of antique art, but rather it was a later offshoot of northern Asian “art to survive,” i.e., the art of shamanism. This artistic style was the expression of a warrior nobility that can be paralleled to the art of the Bactrian Bronze Age or Luristan art. Some of the representative decorations of the upper social strata have been preserved, while a larger group of much richer artistic objects carved from wood or fashioned from leather and other materials have only been recovered in exceptional cases.

Influences in nomadic art come from the southern Eurasian states and were brought by nomads, and it is therefore an intrusive art style from such locales as the Achaemenid Empire. The ornateness of Scythian art came about as the result of the availability of Siberian gold. The supply of gold came to an end with the intrusion of Turkish tribes who formed centralized tribal federations, and introduced discrete burial rituals while migrating westwards.