Diadem from the Sakhnovka treasure. It was worn on the front part of a prince's headdres


A Treasure from the Village of Sakhnovka
The Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine exhibits, among all other marvels of its collection, a treasure that was found not in a treasure island in the tropical seas through which the buccaneers used to prowl but in the vicinity of the Ukrainian village of Sakhnovka (in Cherkassy Oblast’), now a very peaceful place, in 1900.
It seems it was quite an accidental find and the lucky person had remained anonymous. He (or she?) promptly sold the treasure and later Bohdan I. Khanenko, the then well-known Ukrainian collector of art objects and curios, purchased it whole for his collection. Khanenko’s collection in more recent times made the core of the Historical Museum in Kyiv, and in 1969 the objects from the Sakhnovka treasure were transferred to the Museum of Historical Treasures to be put on public display there.

The treasure is believed to have been buried (in two earthenware pots) around the year 1240, at the place where a little town on the bank of the small river Ros had once stood. The town was pillaged and burned by the invading Mongols.
The objects of the treasure, dating from the twelfth-thirteenth centuries are of exquisite beauty and of refined craftsmanship. They must have been intended to be worn as decorations by someone at the very top of the thirteenth-century social pyramid, and not every day but on some special, festive occasions.

Ceremonial headdres of a princess; reconsruction In all evidence, some of the objects were designed to be worn by a man, and others — by a woman. Among the former there is a diadem — a headband worn as a badge of royalty. The central part of the diadem shows Alexander the Great born aloft by two griffins — incidentally, this subject, connected with the story of Alexander, the great Macedonian conqueror, transformed into a legendary figure, was very popular in the mediaeval art.
The chest ceremonial decorations from the Sakhovka treasure are gold medallions with Jesus Christ, Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, Archangel depicted on them (there must have been a fifth medallion, now lost). Enamel, precious stones, pearls and gold background create a colourfully rich and well-balanced composition. The representation of the Holy Personages does not deviate from the one which was accepted then as the iconographical tradition.
The headdress decoration, in all likelihood designed to be worn by a princess, is no less impressive (some restoration work was needed to make it look what it looks now). It is richly adorned with representations of fabulous birds and floral patterns. The pendants, hanging from it, are hollow and must have been filled with aromatic substances. The gold earrings and gold necklace are of the same fine execution which attests to a very high level of jewellery-making in particular and to a high level of culture and arts in general in the twelfth-thirteenth centuries Kyivan Rus-Ukraine.
The treasure unearthed near Sakhnovka was by no means the only one discovered in Ukraine, and there is little doubt that quite a few of other buried treasures are still waiting to be brought to the light of day. Here, a natural question arises: why should one want to bury a treasure of such immense value and never claim it back?
Treasures were hidden in the ground at the times of feuds, uprisings, invasions of the nomads, and it was surely hoped that they would be undug later. But who knows what may have happened to the people who had buried these treasures in the times of adversity? The history of Ukraine is one unending story of local wars, of major wars and devastating invasions, of constant fight for survival, and it is no wonder that so many treasures have remained unclaimed, and it would be safe to say that a considerable number of treasures, especially buried in the early turbulent epochs of Ukrainian history , are still to be discovered. Alas, in most cases it’s a happy chance that leads one to the spot where a treasure is lying underground. According to some historians’ estimates about two thirds of all the treasures ever buried in Ukraine (excepting, of course, jars with paper money and old gold coins, hidden in more recent times, say, during the world wars, revolution, and the like calamities) were hidden at the time of the shattering Mongol invasion of 1237– 1240.
The objects that comprise a treasure thus hidden are usually not only of great pecuniary value in themselves but they also can reveal a great many interesting things to the inquisitive eye of an historian. The examination of such objects can be very informative as far as the general state of things in the thirteenth-century society are concerned. One can learn what kind of life the nobility led, what state the trade with foreign lands was in, what the court ceremonial was, what influence the art of jewellery had experienced and where these influences had come from, plus a lot more.
The Sakhnovka treasure objects are made of precious metals and decorated with precious stones. It is known that the art of jewellry-making was borrowed, by Kyivan-Rus-Ukraine to great extent, from Byzantium, the art of enamel in particular. Byzantine jewellers had inherited it, in their turn, from ancient Egypt, ancient Persia and ancient Greece.
Neek decorations (gryvny)
Kyivan-Rus-Ukrainian jewellers and goldsmiths knew all the intricacies of their trade, they were superb master craftsmen who could use all the techniques, known then, from filigree to enamel, in creating jewellery pieces. The Sakhnovka treasure objects also tell their story mutely of a great refinement at the courts of Old Rus-Ukraine in the twelfth-thirteenth centuries.

There have been so far discovered about 180 treasures in Ukraine but of course only a few of them are as rich as the one that comes from Sakhnovka. About 60 of all these treasures were found in Kyiv.
The Sakhnovka treasure objects are joy to the eye and reminder to the mind that to know the past is not only edifying but also uplifting. Beauty is eternal.

Reported by Volodymyr KHARDAEV
Photos by Mykhailo ANDREYEV

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