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The Scythians: Masters of the steppe

The nomadic warriors who ruled vast swathes of Asia and Europe and knew how to party. Bridget Kendall talks to prof Hermann Parzinger, Dr Margarita Gleba and Sir Barry Cunliffe.

They were the ancient horse lords of the Eurasian steppe, nomadic warriors whose influence extended over thousands of kilometres from Mongolia to the Ukraine. The spectacular gold jewellery and mummified remains preserved in their ancient burial mounds, some the size of a football pitch, tell us they loved colour and precious metal. But what else do we know about the enigmatic Scythians? They left us no written records so we have to rely on testimonies of their neighbours and new archaeological and genetic techniques. One thing seems sure, they knew how to party. Not only do Greek sources repeatedly mention ‘drunken Scythians’ but archaeological evidence confirms feast remnants with hundreds of wine amphorae and ‘purification tents’ filled with hemp smoke.

Bridget Kendall is joined by leading experts on the Scythians: Professor Hermann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Dr Margarita Gleba from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and Sir Barry Cunliffe emeritus professor from Oxford University.

(Photo: A traditional animal-like piece of ornament on display at an exhibition of the treasures of the ancient Scythian burial mounds in the Siberian Valley of the Kings, held at the Tuva Republic National Museum in Kyzyl (Credit: Artyom Geodakyan/TASS/Getty Images)

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44 minutes

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Mon 2 Dec 2019 04:06GMT

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