Scythians: scientific analysis of the Oxus treasure


We work very closely with archaeological
scientists here in the British Museum. And one of my colleagues, Dr Aude Mongiatti,
has been working on the Oxus treasure, which is a collection of about 180
gold, silver, and gilt-silver objects that date from the fifth or
fourth century BC. Hi my name is Aude Mongiatti and I’m a scientist here at the British
Museum. I specialise in ancient metallurgy. And today I am studying some gold
objects from the Oxus treasure. This is an example you have here a gold
roundel with boars and ibex on it. And what I’m interested in is understanding
how it was made and also its composition. So I am using the scanning electron
microscope, variable pressure scanning electron microscope which allows us to
study objects non-destructively and to analyse them as well. Here I will now
push the door, we can know the position of the object at all times thanks to the
infrared camera within the chamber. And so it’s actually ready now so I’m
able to switch on the high voltage so the incident beam of electrons onto the
object to create an image. It should now be able, yes there it is. We have got a
first image of our object. Then we get to a small area and we get the image in
focus as much as we can, we go higher in magnification. And then we can move on
the surface of the object. This is an ear of one of the of the boars. Those long grooves are part of its mane. And this is the mane going through here.
And what we are trying to look at is the type of tool marks that we can see on the images.
And here for example we can see cuts which have been done in the mane but the
tool has actually gone further down. They’re quite sharp angled. Other grooves
I think the ones which we can see on the ear they’re much smoother
and so the tool that has been used is most probably with a blunt edge and
it has been gently pushed into the surface of the metal to create the
groove instead of cutting through the metal to do that. So this is the sort of
features we’re trying to look for in order to identify manufacturing
techniques on objects. If I show you one of these gold armlets this is a typical
example of a cast. The casting method used is a well known method for the
period which is lost wax casting. Some of the decoration has been added post
casting using techniques such as chasing and punching which is using a blunt edged
tool to create the various grooves and patterns. Here is another object illustrating
a different type of technique. It will have started with a
little cast ingot of gold but in order to create this roundel, make the shape
and then decorate it it’s only hand working which has been involved. Again
chasing and punching, gently hammered from the back and from the front as well. So the scanning electron microscope
as I’ve shown allows us to capture high resolution images but it also allows us
to analyse compositions. The SEM is equipped with a detector for energy
dispersive x-ray spectroscopy which allows for chemical characterisation of
a sample or an object. So this detector allows us to acquire spectra typical of the
chemical composition of a sample or object. So in order to analyse, in our
case we’re looking at gold alloys, we first acquire an image of the area we
are interested in. And this is relatively you know low magnification it’s 200
times you can go much higher if you’re interested in a single crystal or phase
as we call that in a metal. So once we have acquired the image of the area of
interest we can choose to analyse a whole area — this whole area inside the
yellow square is being analysed — but I can also
choose to do spot analysis. So I’ve done four little spot analyses here. Then you
want to have an idea of the chemical composition overall but also each phase.
And so while the spectrum is being acquired you can watch it live and see
the elements which are being detected. What we see here is the composition of
the surface of the object. And in our case we can see that there is a
lot of gold with some silver and copper. What has to be borne in mind though is
that due to various factors such as burial environment and/or surface
treatment applied by the goldsmiths, some of the alloying elements copper and
possibly silver may have been removed from the surface. So it may be that in
the actual core of the object the silver and copper contents are higher than what
we detect here on the surface. So yes this is the final spectrum that you get
upon doing chemical analysis. And then the software also allows you to quantify.
So here I have chosen to highlight gold, silver, and copper which are the alloying
elements for this alloy and I can see that on my surface on this particular
object and on this particular area there is about 90% gold, about 9%
silver and very little copper. So we get two types of results, the spectrum where
we can actually check whether the elements that the software detects are
really there and then the quantified and normalised results. What I found interesting is the variety of
alloys which have been identified. For example this particular roundel which looks a lot greener than the other gold
objects due to its high silver content it has got about 20%, it shows that it’s
an unrefined gold used for this particular object. We were
really excited right from the outset to put the results of archaeological
science in the interpretation of this exhibition. One of the most interesting
things about this new research was the real proof of the level of skill and the
variety of techniques used by the different craftsmen to make these
different objects.

78 Comments

  1. jj_jerk 2 said:

    This is wonderful stuff. Love to see more on this topic.

    November 16, 2017
    Reply
  2. DarkValorWolf said:

    3:40 what now?

    November 16, 2017
    Reply
  3. LowlyTaught said:

    that guy's name is "saint john"??

    November 16, 2017
    Reply
  4. Abd Khanulah said:

    Cythians are old Afghan Pashtoon tribes of Arian

    November 16, 2017
    Reply
  5. Matthew Rowles said:

    What is the effect of surface finish on the quantification? Have you ever been able to cut open a piece to examine the interior?

    November 16, 2017
    Reply
  6. Jack said:

    Love that these videos are getting longer and more detailed.

    November 17, 2017
    Reply
  7. Petr Frizen said:

    In the vast spaces of Siberia of nowadays there are (reportedly) quite a few gold mines. Do you have any idea where the Scythians were procuring their gold from? Any river described as rich with the ingots?

    November 29, 2017
    Reply
  8. Fguire ti uto said:

    aude mongiatti is pretty cute.

    December 24, 2017
    Reply
  9. Oshin 1997 said:

    Iranians =
    Persian
    Parthian
    Bactrian
    Sogdian
    Sramatian
    Scythian
    Saka
    Massaget
    Lulobian
    Kotian
    Kassit
    Median

    January 20, 2018
    Reply
  10. John said:

    How do nomads produce such fine and intricate art? The sophistication and detail in these pieces require sophisticated smelters, tools and workshops not usually associated with mobility.

    March 5, 2018
    Reply
  11. Jason Wortham said:

    i watch a plethora United States Culture stuff ,well assimilated direction ,that made me feel. from Louisville ,KY.

    April 15, 2018
    Reply
  12. Edwin Henry Blachford said:

    "so I'm an architect..what do you do for work?"(this line works most times).. she says with sexy French accent.."oh I analyse 5000 year old gold jewellery under an electron microscope at the British Museum". He moves along and finds a waitress to chat up

    April 27, 2018
    Reply
  13. CFR Andre said:

    More! Love finally seeing the benefits of the scanning microscope!

    May 6, 2018
    Reply
  14. picasa picasa said:

    Hırsızların arsızlıkları.. önce çal sonra peşine masallar uydur.. ceyhun ırmağına ok-uz, oğuzdan bozma oxus de, iskit de saka de, zırvalar, Türkler olduğunu sakla, hatta pers falan de.. artık yalancının mumu yatsıya kadardı.. müznein bilimcisi yaftasıyla uydurulan yalanları iletişim çağında dünya kamuoyunun karnı tok.. Çaldığınızın Türk tarihi olduğunu, iskit dediklerinizin Türkler olduğunu nereye kadar saklayıp kendinizi avutacaksınız? Kurganlardan Türkler fışkırıyor.. Kurgan kültürü bir tek ırka ait olduğunu biliniyor.. sizin kabul etmemeniz gerçeği değiştirmiyor.. aynı Türklerin kurganlarından çıkan aynı buluntular, rusyanın hermitaj müzesinde ağzına kadar dolu.. ruslar kendi tarihleri olarak başta sahip çıktılar ancak sonunda dirençleri kırıldı, gerçeği itiraf ettiler… her açtıkları kurganda rus tarihi değil, Türkleri buldular, bunlar Türklerin ta kendisi dediler.. sıra sizde.. 𐱅𐰈𐰼𐰚 – 𐱅𐰇𐰼𐰰

    May 23, 2018
    Reply
  15. MK Moreland said:

    She's gorgeous.

    June 1, 2018
    Reply
  16. Azerbaijanian History said:

    Oxus this is the name of the Turkish tribe oghuz. This cultura is called the oghuz. Becouse BMAC Oxus were proto oghuzes.

    June 27, 2018
    Reply
  17. Exocet 8 said:

    Long live the heritage of the Indo-Europeans, the cultural ancestors of Europe, Iran, Northern India and many others.

    July 20, 2018
    Reply
  18. Robert Stennett said:

    Most of the items the British Museum has are stolen.

    August 28, 2018
    Reply
  19. Narice Woolon said:

    Thank you so much for sharing this information

    September 3, 2018
    Reply
  20. Mojos Bigstick said:

    Can you tell the age of gold?  I mean no just in an artistic context.

    November 12, 2018
    Reply
  21. vin russo said:

    What bunch of British sheeeet. Show some artifacts, you basically had 7:00 of nothing.

    November 25, 2018
    Reply
  22. undug tahianii anhdagch said:

    animal style? listen to this 🙂 some relatives https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jM8dCGIm6yc

    December 8, 2018
    Reply
  23. Seamus Warren said:

    Sponsored by British Petroleum – a contributor to the climate breakdown melting the permafrost releasing trapped methane and of course exposing once preserved Scythian remains.

    December 22, 2018
    Reply
  24. Seamus Warren said:

    Viking bracelets. 🤪

    December 22, 2018
    Reply
  25. poponachtschnecke said:

    I can't believe you wrote on the gold. So ugly.

    February 2, 2019
    Reply
  26. Oisin Lally said:

    I will close a door, push a button and zoom. I just realized I'm over qualified for this job because I had a microwave dinner this evening! Stolen goods, give em back! More knowledge in my last comment than lies in this video!!

    February 9, 2019
    Reply
  27. Real history is unpleasant! said:

    Come to Bulgaria, so you can see as many as you want Scythian treasures!
    You can start with the oldest one on our planet!

    March 29, 2019
    Reply
  28. Azz Laird said:

    It would have taken unbelievable skill to make these things for sure

    April 15, 2019
    Reply
  29. Marcus Jones said:

    You know, only 200 magnification…

    April 21, 2019
    Reply
  30. Veronica Obiglio said:

    Muy fino todo

    April 25, 2019
    Reply
  31. Tig Dogsbody said:

    Super smart women are hot. I mean that in the nicest way..

    May 4, 2019
    Reply
  32. BobbyDeniroX said:

    More great jobs given to EU people. This job is easy

    May 19, 2019
    Reply
  33. The Outdoor Appreciation Society MkIII said:

    Beautiful craftsmanship. These people were truly gifted.

    June 9, 2019
    Reply
  34. Klaus Kircchoff said:

    Archeologists always talk about Sumer, egypt and the Indus Valley. But only few mention the Middle Asian civilizations along the Oxus River ( Amu Darya ). It is the motherland of the Iranic peoples and the Vedic Indians.

    June 12, 2019
    Reply
  35. Zachary Rose said:

    It's OK to be white.

    June 12, 2019
    Reply
  36. EndtheEu NFG The courtown 3 said:

    The eu,un all Zionist banks media, tech companies, ngos and borderless charities must be destroyed for Europe to keep it's European cultural, heritage, identity and for OUR children to have a safe peaceful future.

    June 12, 2019
    Reply
  37. Sergeant NPC said:

    The Scythians are the progenitors of all civilization, because that's what lesser people did with the knowledge of the Scythians

    June 14, 2019
    Reply
  38. History is Fake said:

    The British museum has destroyed more history than almost any other org and rewrites history constantly to fit their narrative. zero respect for this org.

    June 15, 2019
    Reply
  39. Dennis Schohan said:

    what kind of hitting and carving tools did they use? iron, bronze, or stone?

    June 21, 2019
    Reply
  40. Vulcan 14 said:

    Thanks Peter the Great.

    July 18, 2019
    Reply
  41. Merke Tarif said:

    Oxus/Oguz tribe.

    August 20, 2019
    Reply
  42. Merke Tarif said:

    The Scythian-Iranian theory is mainly based on linguistics and has already been proven to be false. Not a single archaic author ever claimed that Scythians spoke an Iranic language. The surviving information on the Scythian and Alan faiths do not indicate any Iranic-Zoroastrian features either.

    The Scythian golden plow, yoke, battle axe, and drinking cup can be related to a Turkic mythological basis. The series of tales (Nart Epos) of the folks in Northern Pontic Steppe and Caucasus are also connected with the Scythian mythology.

    Unlike Indo-Iranians, Scythian original way of divination using willow twigs and linden bast is confirmed by the oldest Turkic runiform book titled, “Irk Bitig/Book of Omens”. Scythians buried their dead with horses. They also had a tradition of embalming the bodies of their chiefs, which was explained in detail by Herodotus.

    Unlike Indo-Iranians, Scythian names for deities are completely coherent with the Karachai-Balkar ones. Scythian mythology was inherited by Balkar people and preserved in their folk memory up to this day. Scythians lived in felt “Yurts” and widely used felt products in their daily lives. They originally cooked meat in a stomach over a fire of bones and wood. Scythians also used the method of scalping enemies by incising their skin around the head at ear level and carried around the skulls of fallen enemies.

    The Scythian rock art, petroglyphs can be found across Eurasia, in regions invariably populated by Turkic peoples, such as Urals, Itil-Volga, Caucasus, Northern Pontic Steppe, Central Asia and Siberia. Numerous petroglyphs can be complemented by Turkic inscriptions. The bodies of documented rock inscriptions also number in many hundreds. The spread of rock art matches with other hallmark traits such as Kurgan burials, none of which are typical for Indo-Iranians.

    Anna Comnena called the Turkic Pechenegs as “Scythians”. She indicated that they spoke the same language as the “Kuman/Kipchak” Turks.

    Earlier Turks were named as “Scythian/Saka”. According to Roman Emperor II Justinianus, the letter of conformity, sent by the Göktürk State regarding the Sasanian peace, was written in “Scythian language”.

    armenian historians also described the Turks in Eastern Anatolia region as “Scythians” or “Huns”.

    August 20, 2019
    Reply
  43. Gary Cooper said:

    This video presents a large amount of technical information very concisely and clearly. Well done!

    August 24, 2019
    Reply
  44. Ruby Honey said:

    THE REAL HISTORY OG THE SCYTHIANS
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1OVwuCdkK4

    The best of men

    September 10, 2019
    Reply
  45. Player Review said:

    As Technical Director of OSHA many years back, my dad used an electron microscope regularly (early 90's) and they certainly didn't have the wonderful graphical interfaces of today. I remember as a kid that a rare rock was found and he was able to identify what it was by using the electron microscope at his workplace. There were very few of them in the world at that time, so were fairly inaccessible for most institutions.

    September 17, 2019
    Reply
  46. mauimudpup said:

    very cool but my biggest question is can you just name your son St.John instead of John?

    September 17, 2019
    Reply
  47. adhad dawdaw said:

    this stuff should be worn by fabulously wealthy people as intended, not sitting in a lab marked up with sharpie

    September 21, 2019
    Reply
  48. Stevee Wonders said:

    Those “cuts” ran a little long on the boar’s mane 2:00. Quality Control guy must have fallen asleep haha. Seriously, without magnification, precise etchings would have been a very tedious leaned skill.

    September 21, 2019
    Reply
  49. David Briden said:

    Eire Arya Iran .

    September 22, 2019
    Reply
  50. Dadson worldwide said:

    Its rare to see artifacts scythian titled.

    September 23, 2019
    Reply
  51. Scott Drone-Silvers said:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Some of us may never see these collections otherwise. And it is absolutely fascinating to be able to see some of the work that goes on behind the scenes in museums brought out for all to see.

    September 24, 2019
    Reply
  52. Maekar I Targaryen said:

    Seeing a video like this makes me marvel at what interesting creatures us humans are. We develop this amazing technology, the sum of hundreds and thousands of years of development to closely study jewelry from 2500 years ago, analyzing the tools used to make said jewelry. I don't know why but that suddenly struck me as amazing, absurd, inspiring all at the same time.

    September 24, 2019
    Reply
  53. skate dd said:

    Amazing craftsmanship have been fascinated with this culture for a long time..

    September 24, 2019
    Reply
  54. Lochness Monsta said:

    The armlets look like theyre norse while that golden circle with the face almost looked japanese. I know theyre not but if you didnt know.

    September 24, 2019
    Reply
  55. Yogiji Clamzananda said:

    acquire spectra… acquire an image… the British Museum is simply the best at acquiring stuff… other people's stuff… as in, we didn't nick it, we acquired it… ha ha

    September 24, 2019
    Reply
  56. OTR Fishing and Adventuring said:

    How did people learn this craft? It looks like master craftsmanship. It’s not like you have chunks of gold laying around as a kid and figure out you’re great at working it into intricate designs.

    September 24, 2019
    Reply
  57. vikymoejoe said:

    God her work is beautiful. Just like her.

    September 25, 2019
    Reply
  58. David MacD said:

    English royalty speaks like a computer that has a virus. Amazing that the derived royal accent has spread to all people of the realm, even the nerds speak like a geeky princess.

    September 25, 2019
    Reply
  59. Brian Richards said:

    You really don't need any fancy equipment, for the most part, to determine goldsmithing techniques. It is really nice to see these objects, which are quite well known to the art world, in detail, but as a goldsmith, I could pretty easily discern the methods of manufacture by just examining these objects with my eyes.

    September 25, 2019
    Reply
  60. Analogous to Tower 7 : EPSTEIN 2020 said:

    "The radiant pigs are not physical food; they are spiritual food."

    [The Masks of God:Primitive Mythology, Joseph Campbell, 1958, Ch. 10: Mythological Threshold of the Neolithic , Sec. 3: The Great Diffusion; The Northeastward Diffusion, p. 446]

    September 25, 2019
    Reply
  61. Analogous to Tower 7 : EPSTEIN 2020 said:

    "For the Sun is in all hunting mythologies a great hunter. He is the lion whose roar scatters the herds, whose pounce at the neck of the Antelope slays it; the great Eagle whose plunge traps the lamb; he is the luminous orb whose rays at dawn scatter the heard of the night sky, the Stars. One sees that evidence of this primitive hunting myth in the motif, so common and Paleolithic art, of the lion pouncing on the neck of the Antelope that has just turned its head to look behind it, as well as in that other motif, which is one of the first two appear in ancient Sumerian art, of the solar Eagle, clutching an Antelope and each claw.

    This lesson reads, by analogy: the Sun is the hunter, the sun's rays is the arrow, the Antelope is one of the heard of the stars; ergo, as tomorrow night will see the star return, so will tomorrow the Antelope. Nor has the hunter killed the Beast as a personal, willful act, but according to the provisions of the Great Spirit. And in this way "nothing is lost.""

    [The Masks of God:Primitive Mythology, Joseph Campbell, 1958, Ch. 7: The Animal Master, Sec. 3: The Ritual of the Returned Blood, p. 297-98]

    September 25, 2019
    Reply
  62. Brian Crane said:

    Even the mighty Roman Empire never really conquered the Scythians! And their warriors were employed by many kings…Admirable people!

    September 26, 2019
    Reply
  63. Yo Momz said:

    With a scanning electron 3D printer, they could make exact copies. 🤔

    September 26, 2019
    Reply
  64. Robert Williams said:

    Anyone ever hear of someone finding the shops these gold jewelry were made in?

    September 26, 2019
    Reply
  65. Evan Clifthorne said:

    OMG I LOVE THAT SKIRT WHERE CAN I BUY IT!!!! (Also, you're brilliant. thank you for your brilliance. this video is genuinely fabulous. Sorry to focus on superficial stuff – I just really want to wear that skirt personally.)

    September 27, 2019
    Reply
  66. i dunno said:

    Wow, what a costly and time consuming effort for no productive reason, interest or use to anyone.

    September 27, 2019
    Reply
  67. Michael Halligan said:

    Why is this national treasure in a London museum?

    September 27, 2019
    Reply
  68. jim crow said:

    Wow, cool. I wish I had a job like that.

    September 28, 2019
    Reply
  69. flamencoprof said:

    An impressive display of the tools available to today's researchers.
    You could probably identify where the metals come from by the ratios of different elements.
    I believe this is indeed possible and is done. It would have been nice to have such identification included, but that is a wish, not a criticism.

    September 29, 2019
    Reply
  70. Johanna Zamora said:

    Thanks so much!
    So due to Cu and Ag being more prone to oxidation, the colors might have been less gold and more pink or white?

    September 29, 2019
    Reply
  71. ten bears said:

    Where does she get those wonderful toys?

    September 29, 2019
    Reply
  72. Sal Vastola said:

    Amazing metal working 👌

    September 30, 2019
    Reply
  73. Jake Dee said:

    These are some very beautiful objects. Aude Mongiatti is very lucky to work them so closely. She is also wearing a rather fine bracelet on her arm. I wonder what sort of jewellery an expert in metallurgy chooses for herself ?

    September 30, 2019
    Reply
  74. Jamil Abdullah said:

    Why is this treasure in the British museum??? These Cythians were my ancestors and their treasure surely belongs to their descendants! This treasure should be returned either to Afghanistan or Tajikistan !!!

    September 30, 2019
    Reply
  75. Richard Johnson said:

    Not exactly shocking discoveries.

    October 3, 2019
    Reply
  76. Tàpai Ferenc said:

    The casting materia depending by,from materia of negativ and the enwironoment when happen a cast!Feri.

    October 12, 2019
    Reply
  77. anthony k said:

    Looks like celtic and Germanic artifacts the arm bands are identical to what the celts and vikings used.

    October 18, 2019
    Reply
  78. Samuel Freisinger said:

    "…elements"
    "…laser beams"
    "…and they're soooo koooool!"

    November 15, 2019
    Reply

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