Detailed analysis of belt buckles unearthed in 1970s by a tractor driver in Iyus, modern day Republic of Khakassia, Russian Federation, proves the existence of a distinct dragon motif in Siberian art 2000 years ago.
The eight dragon buckles, part of the so-called Iyussky treasure, were found by Iyus state collective farm worker Sergei Fefelov in the mid-1970s as he ploughed a field. Initially he thought the metal was a tractor part, but then he noticed the treasure was wrapped in birch bark. Digging around, the man found a large cauldron made of red bronze with 271 items inside. The mythical creature, depicted in a typical serpentine pose, is considered by researchers as distinct from other dragon motifs, notably those known from China.
According to the researchers, in Han-era China at that time a set image of a dragon, later one the main symbols of the national identity, did not yet exist. And although at the end of the first millennium BC the territory of South Siberia was under very strong Chinese influence, the buckles depicting the Iyussky dragon were most likely were produced locally. They were original, and not copies. It was an independent development of the image.
Experts believe that the Siberian dragon image can be dated to the end of the first millennium BC until the second century AD – after that they vanish. Later dragons were copies of the familiar Chinese dragons with a characteristic “zigzag” movement. Researchers connect the Iyusski dragon image with ancient calendar observations and astronomy. The dragon can be also seen as a talisman protecting the owner from danger.
(after Andrey Borodovsky & The Siberian Times)