Bronze two-faced figure, M-144
Bryn Mawr College Collections
Richard C. Bull Collection

Map of Central Asia


Scytho-Siberian Cultures

  The second largest grouping of objects come from the Scytho-Siberian cultures living in the Steppes region of Southern Russia, from the Black Sea to Mongolia. There are five unique pieces in the Richard C. Bull Collection from this encompassing cultural area. The most intriguing may be the bronze two-faced figure, M-144. While this figure does have two faces, it seems that it was not the intention of the creator to depict a two-headed deity, such as the Roman “Janus”, but rather a figurine with no backside. The narrow pole between his legs most likely acted as a means to secure him as a decoration on something, possibly a pole or staff. Therefore, rendering him with two frontal views meant that the viewer would never see his backside. No other objects like this one have been found in this cultural area, or any of the areas studied for this collection. What has linked this figure to the Scytho-Siberian cultures is the style of rendering of his face and clothing. Numerous examples of these features can be seen in objects from the Black Sea region, now found in the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg and in the Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine. Two such objects are a pair of silver cheek pieces that mirror each other in depicting a winged figure, probably a deity, about to thrust a dagger into a lion. The faces of the figures are round and have well defined hairlines with vertical incised lines for the hair. Below the hair are prominent brow lines like that on the Bull Collection figure and a pair of oval eyes flanking a thin, projecting nose under which is a small incised mouth. Unfortunately, the lion covers the upper part of the body, but the legs of these figures have similar pants to those of the Bull Collection figure in that they end mid-calf. The cheek pieces were excavated from the site of Kurhan Ohuz in 1980 and they date to the fourth century BCE.  

Silver Cheek Pieces from Kurhan Ohuz Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine, number AZS-3754/1-12 Scythian Gold 1999, p. 136-7, fig. 32.