A Gold Figurine from a Kurgan of the Trialeti Culture

Marina Puturidze


The Trialeti Culture of brilliant kurgans, spread in the South Caucasus region in the time interval of the Middle Bronze Age, is particularly distinguished by the highest level of goldsmiths’ work. It is characterized by essential innovations and a large number of unique patterns of high artistic craft, which clearly points to the emergence of a new cultural stream in toreutics. This fact is evident from the point of view of both artistic-stylistic and technical modelling of these significant artefacts. It should be noted that exactly in this respect the Trialeti Culture achieved considerable success even against the background of flourishing Near Eastern civilization of the same period.
The presented article is devoted to one particular type of toreutics – a study of an animal figurine made from a gold sheet. Accordingly, it is the first attempt to examine this unique sample of II, i.e. developed stage of Middle Bronze Age Trialeti Culture in order to state its origin.
The comparative stylistic and technical study of this exquisite item and the material obtained from the king’s burial of the Royal Cemetery at Ur (Sumer) makes it evident that the South Caucasian sample was created under the influence of the goldsmiths’ school known as Sumerian toreutics.
The work considers a valuable artefact of high artistic craft obtained from Tsalka kurgan # 5, excavated in the late 30s of XX century by academician B. Kuftin. It still remains unique on the vast territory of spreading of the Trialeti Culture.
The study discusses all possible versions in an attempt to find out why the production of metal figurine is so rare on the territory of South Caucasus compared to the other types of valuable metal toreutics. It is clear that the suggested viewpoint requires further interpretation.
The detailed study of the valuable Trialetian sample from the point of its decoration with the help of incrustation with the colored semi-precious stones used for modelling the eyes of the animal (presumably, Onager, i.e. Equus hemionus onager), reveals the similarity of the mentioned sample with the South Caucasian animal’s gold figurine discovered by Lord Leonard Woolley at the Royal Cemetery of Ur.
At the same time, it appears to be a strong argument and proof in favor of the existing cultural interconnections and exchange between the Near East and the South Caucasus in the period of the developed stage of Middle Bronze Age.


Gold Figurine; Kurgan; Trialeti Culture;

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