Lycanthropy in the Sarmatian Warrior Societies: The Kobyakovo Torque

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A recently published torque from a Sarmatian tumulus features a battle between a dragon and three monstrous canine-headed and canine-legged armed creatures, which probably symbolise a group of werewolves or war-riors wearing wolf masks. In the mythology and poetry of several Indo-European peoples, warriors and especially members of male pre-adult groups were described as packs of furious wolves or dogs. vVarriors wear-ing wolf skins are portrayed on artefacts of various cultural provenance, representing scenes from myths about young warriors' exploits. These scenes seem to be connected with initiation ceremonies undergone by youths on the verge of manhood. vVritten sources attest the existence of jl.1iinnerbiinde in several Iranian-speaking cultures, among them the Scythians and other semi-nomads of the South Russian steppes. Several texts refer to the self-identification of these bands of young warriors as packs of dogs. Thus, the torque appears to depict a scene from the mythology of Sarmatian war-rior societies. The Kobyakovo Torque In 1987 a rich burial of a woman was discovered in the late lst-early 2nd century AD Sarmatian tumulus No. 10 in the Kobyakovo necropolis.l Whether this woman was a priestess, a chief's wife,2 or I Materials from this tumulus are discussed by Guguev 1990; 1992; Prokhorova 1994; Trcister 1997, 42-49. The torque is part of a rich complex, which includes three chests, gold jewellery, gold plates sewn on the woman's clothes, a gold phiale, a ram-shaped zoomorphic clay vessel, several amulets, a Chinese mirror, and a horse harness. :Vlost conspicuous is a headdress of red leather, decorated with gold applique. It is restored as featuring a tree (Tree of Life) in the middle, ftanked by three deer and two birds on each side, and surrounded by numerous discs rep-resenting, in all probability, stars (Guguev 1992, fig. 3; Prokhorova 1994, fig. I; Trcister 1997, fig. 7; Schiltz 2001, no. 239). 2 Or perhaps her substitute, even a hostile prisoner of war: the woman's right hand was severed and buried separately. Scythians cut oft' right arms of enemies sacrificed to their Ares (Hrd. 4. 62), probably in order to render the victims' spir-its helpless after death (How and Wells 1967, I, 326); if. Hrd. 4. 64 for another magical application of the right hands of dead enemies. Yulia Ustinova - 9789004496446Downloaded from Brill.com06/30/2022 04:26:59AMvia Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Tel Aviv University
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAncient West & East
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9789004496446
ISBN (Print)9789004128132
StatePublished - 2002

Publication series

NameAncient West and East


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