Scythians – warriors of ancient Siberia

The BP exhibition at the British Museum

Martin Lightfoot

The BP exhibition at the British Museum

(14 September 2017 – 14 January 2018)

Scythians warriors of ancient Siberia

In secular history the Scythians are described as a nomadic people who lived in the south Russian steppe from 900 to 200 BC. Scythians or Scyths (from Greek) and Saka (in Indo-Persian context) are also described as a group of Iranian people and Eurasian nomads who inhabited the western and central Eurasian steppes. Scythia was the Greek term for the grasslands north and east of the Black Sea. The Scythian languages belonged to the eastern branch of the Iranian languages.

Significantly, the Scythians were among the earliest peoples to master mounted warfare. They kept herds of horses, cattle, and sheep, lived in tent-covered wagons. They fought with bows and arrows on horseback and developed a rich culture characterized by opulent tombs, fine metalwork and a brilliant art style. Based in what is modern-day Ukraine, Southern European Russia and Crimea, the western Scythians were ruled by a wealthy class known as the Royal Scyths. Also, as a people constantly on the move, is this why they left no written work in evidence of their mysterious origins?

The Scythians established and controlled a vast trade network connecting Greece, Persia, India and China (the Silk Road), significantly contributing to the contemporary flourishing of those civilizations. More settled Scythian metalworkers made numerous portable decorative objects and utensils. Some of these objects survive forming a distinctive Scythian art. Around 650-630 BC, Scythians briefly dominated the Medes of the western Iranian Plateau, stretching their power all the way to the borders of Egypt. After losing control over Media the Scythians continued intervening in Middle Eastern affairs, playing a leading role in the destruction of the Assyrian Empire in the Sack of Nineveh in 612 BC. Their empire successfully resisted Persian and for many years even Greek and Roman domination.

According to British historians such as Camden, Milton and Turner and supported by current genetic research, the Scythians subsequently migrated westward as Gothic Kingdoms and became ancestors of the Teutonic Anglo Saxons. Strangely, no one asks as to whom these powerful and skilled people were that suddenly appeared, as if from nowhere!

It is an historical fact that the vast majority of Israelites (of all twelve tribes) were removed to both Media and northern Mesopotamia between 732 and 700 BC. Within fifty years of these dates a powerful people who were identified on Assyrian texts as appearing for the first time in history in both of these areas. They were called Gimira by the Assyrians and to account for the appearance of these people, historians have adapted the theory of the Greek historian Herodotus that they came from south Russia and the Crimea, having been driven out along the shores of the Black Sea by the Scythians, who themselves had come from the river Araxes south of the Caucasus.

To make the story more plausible, historians say that Herodotus really meant the Volga, not the Araxes, although, on every other occasion where he mentions the Araxes, it is evident that he knew where the river was. The dilemma for historians with this false theory is that they cannot explain why the Gimira were driven out of south Russia by the Scythians before 700 BC, while archaeology has shown that the Scythians did not arrive in Russia until after 600 BC.

The best and most credible explanation is that these Scythians were Israelites who were taken captive by the Assyrians to both Media and northern Mesopotamia in huge numbers. They had lost their Israelite identity and occupation of their original Promised Land.

The clear evidence seen from another aspect of their Eurasian migrations, can be traced along their escape route into the mountains of Asia Minor by way of the Euphrates Gorge, as is mentioned by the Apocrypha in II Esdras 13:40-45. These powerful people, with all their herds of animals followed the rivers in Europe, such as the 1,777 mile-long (2,860 km) Danube, named after the Israelite tribe of Dan, as are the other notable rivers in the Ukraine, the Dnieper and Dniester.

This fascinating and well presented exhibition does display at least one panel where this link is all but made. It is an experience not to be missed.

Martin Lightfoot


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