Ancient figural Saka Scythian weapons are extremely scarce. In the past several decades, this is the first time we have encountered such a unique specimen as this. Its use as a combat weapon is questionable but considering known rituals of the ancient Scythians, it is likely this axe was used in a ritual context, especially considering the animal deities it displays. Both human and animal sacrifices to a variety of Scythian gods were performed throughout each year. Clearly, a variety of weapons would have been used in these rituals and it is possible a weapon such as this specimen was intended for such practices.
This anthropomorphic ancient bronze axe features unmistakable Scythian figures of seated ibex animals and a snake. This shaft-hole axe has a small transverse blade that is held by two seated ibex which are facing apart. The body of the axe shows elaborate engraved designs with wings but the end of the axe terminates to a long snake head. Scythians worshiped snakes, believing in their descent from the supreme god known in modern day as the "Snake-Legged Goddess," also referred to as the "Anguipede Goddess". She was called this because several representations of her depict her as a goddess with snakes or tendrils as legs, and was associated to the life-giving principle.
Every year, the Scythians held a ceremony to honor their war god "Arēs" during which they sacrificed cattle, horses and every hundredth prisoner of war to him. Libations of wine were poured over the prisoners who were to be sacrificed, following which their throats were cut over a vessel to catch their blood. This vessel was carried to the top of the brushwood high place of the god and the prisoners' blood was poured as libations on the sword functioning as the god's idol, and their right arms were severed and thrown into the sky and left wherever they fell. The use of horses and of the blood and right arms of prisoners in the cult of the Scythian "Arēs" was a symbolic devotion of the swifness of horses and the strength of men to this god of kingship who had similar powers, and the tall brushwood altar on which the blood was offered to the god was a representation of the world mountain. No priests were required for the sacrifices to the Scythian "Arēs."
According to Hērodotos of Halikarnāssos, animal sacrifices among the Scythians to all gods except to the Scythian "Arēs" were carried out by tying a rope around the front legs of the sacrificial animal, then the offerer of the sacrifice standing behind the animal and pulling the rope to throw the animal forward, and strangling it to death using a rope tied around the animal's neck and tightened using a stick. The sacrificed animal was then cut up, its flesh was boiled in a cauldron, or, for those who did not have a cauldron, in the animal's own skin, while the bones were added to the fire on which the animal's flesh was cooked so they could be consumed following the approved ritual. Once the meat was cooked, the person who initiated the sacrifice would throw some of cooked meat and entrails into the ground as an offering for the god. This method of sacrifice was typical of the more nomadic Scythians.
This artifact has been professionally cleaned and conserved in our lab, being treated with a special sealer developed and formulated by us specifically for ancient metal preservation. The patina shows beautiful traits only found in authentic ancient weapons. It is a patina like this that the finest ancient bronzes are prized for and it is a patina like this that brings a premium in price and value of the specimen. There is no active bronze disease. Bronze disease can develop on ancient bronze that is not properly cleaned and conserved. It produces a corrosive powder that will literally eat away an artifact over time and destroy it.
WARNING: There is a STAGGERING number of fake bronze weapons on the market. Many being sold as "authentic" were never meant to deceive and were made as far back as 100 years ago as exact reproductions for museums to sell in their gift shops. Other examples are modern fabrications specifically intended to fool unwitting buyers. As fine quality intact, original specimens become more scarce, the techniques to fake these objects have become highly advanced. We have personally handled numerous well-done fakes with extremely convincing patinas. The degree to which the fakers have been able to replicate patina to disguise their work requires an expert examination by highly experienced individuals. It is common to find very reasonably priced weapons that are made up of part original and part modern components or wholly modern pieces displaying elaborate artificial patinas. All purchases should include a written guarantee of authenticity from the seller, with unconditional and lifetime return policies regarding such guarantee, such as we provide.
The Scythians (or Scyths) were an ancient Eastern Iranian equestrian nomadic people. At its height, the Scythian Empire stretched west from Mongolia and ancient northeast China, to northwest Iran and the Danube River, and in Central Asia reached as far south as the Arabian Sea. The Scythians also ruled Media and Chao, crucial frontier states of ancient Iran and China. As they spread their language, ideas, and culture across the ancient world, the Scythians laid the foundations for the very first Persian, Indian, and Chinese empires. Although all were closely related nomadic Iranian peoples, the ancient Persians, ancient Greeks, and ancient Babylonians respectively used the names "Saka," "Scythian," and "Cimmerian" for all the steppe nomads, the Saka are to be distinguished from the European Scythians. The name "Scythian" is used specifically for western members of the Scythian cultures, while the name "Saka" is used specifically for their eastern members.
The Saka Scythians were a group of nomadic Iranian peoples who historically inhabited the northern and eastern Eurasian Steppe and the Tarim Basin. Though closely related, the Sakas different from the Scythians of the Pontic Steppe and the Massagetae of the Aral Sea region, though they all form part of the wider Scythian cultures. Like the Scythians, the Sakas were ultimately derived from the earlier Andronovo culture. The Sakas were a group of Iranic peoples who spoke a language belonging to the Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. The Saka were racially Europoid.
Historical records and scientific studies date the Saka as early as the 8th century BC. In the Achaemenid-era,ancient Persian inscriptions found at Persepolis, dated to the reign of Darius I (r. 522-486 BC), record the Saka as having lived just beyond the borders of Sogdia. An inscription dated to the reign of Xerxes I (r. 486-465 BC) has them associated with the Dahae people of Central Asia.
In the 2nd century BC, many Sakas were driven by the Yuezhi from the steppe into Sogdia and Bactria and then to the northwest of the Indian subcontinent, where they were known as the Indo-Scythians. Other Sakas invaded the Parthian Empire, eventually settling in Sistan, while others may have migrated to the Dian Kingdom in Yunnan, China. In the Tarim Basin and Taklamakan Desert region of Northwest China, they settled in Khotan, Yarkand, Kashgar and other places, which were at various times vassals to greater powers, such as Han China and Tang China.
The art of the Saka was of a similar styles as other Iranian peoples of the steppes, which is referred to collectively as Scythian art. Ancient influences from Central Asia became identifiable in China following contacts of metropolitan China with nomadic western and northwestern border territories from the 8th century BC. The Chinese adopted the Scythian-style animal art of the steppes (descriptions of animals locked in combat), particularly the rectangular belt-plaques made of gold or bronze, and created their own versions in jade and steatite.
Following their expulsion by the Yuezhi, some Saka may also have migrated to the area of Yunnan in southern China. Saka warriors could also have served as mercenaries for the various kingdoms of ancient China. Excavations of the prehistoric art of the Dian civilisation of Yunnan have revealed hunting scenes of Caucasoid horsemen in Central Asian clothing.