Sharov O.V. Bosporus. Polychromic Styles of the Late Roman Period

Oleg V. Sharov, Doctor of Sciences (History), Leading Researcher, Department of Archaeology of the Great Migration of Peoples and the Early Middle Ages of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Dm. Ulyanova St., 19, 117292 Mosсow, Russian Federation, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ,

Abstract. The polychromic style of the Late Roman period is characterized by a combination of the following traits: a stable set of ornamental motifs, specific ornamentation techniques (embossing, stamping, granulating and filigree techniques) and bezel setting of semi-precious stones or jewelry glasses. Altogether, five stylistically distinct groups of polychromic articles can be distinguished in the Late Roman Period. The first stylistic group named Illerup–Kerch consists of objects decorated with thin gold plates embossed with the following designs: granulation, filigree patterns, concentric circles and serpents. They appear as early as the second third of the 3rd century AD and continue to exist up to the middle of the 4th century. The second stylistic group Berkasovo–Kishpek includes objects decorated mainly with thin gilded silver plates embossed with both the same and some new designs such as sidelong crosses, stars, triangles. These objects appear not earlier than the early 4th century and continue to exist during most of this century. The third stylistic group Gorgippia–Loo includes massive gold objects decorated all over with festoon patterns of soldered granulation and filigree, and with turquoise, carnelian and garnet inserts in the center of the girdle. While such objects are particularly common at the Caucasian sites (Armaziskhevi, Kldeeti, Loo) dated to the second half of the 2nd century and the first half of the 3rd century, they are also known in Bosporus (Gorgippia, Panticapaeum) and in the Kuban region (“Golden cemetery”). In addition, some of the Late Roman sites have yielded rare finds of objects executed in a technique similar to the technique of filigree incrustation. These objects constitute the fourth stylistic group Aragvispiri–Tanais. They were found at Komarov II (barrow 8); Adzhimushkai, 1841; burial with the Golden Mask of 1837; Berdyansk barrow; Tanais, 1972, etc. The fifth group Messaksudi–Kerch appears in the second third of the 4th century AD and combines characteristics of the previous two groups: ornaments of the third group (genuine granulation and filigree), but on thin gold plates. The main ornamental motif are granulated triangles which fill all the space between the bezels inserted with semiprecious stones and glasses. Nearly all items included in the third and fifth groups may have analogies among the objects of I.P. Zasetskaya’s stylistic group I of the Hunnic era polychrome products, but precede them and belong to the 3rd – 4th centuries AD.
Key words: Bosporus, Late Roman Period, polychromy, filigree incrustation technique, stylistic group, décor, ornamentation, bezel, semi-precious stones/glasses.
Citation. Sharov O.V., 2019. Bosporus. Polychromic Styles of the Late Roman Period. The Lower Volga Archaeological Bulletin, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 197-220. (in Russian). DOI:
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Bosporus. Polychromic Styles of the Late Roman Period by O.V. Sharov is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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