Sikachi-Allan in the Nanai language means "Boar's
Hill." This small village, lost in the taiga, is familiar to scholars of
various countries. The eminent American orientalist Berthold Laufer visited
Sikachi-Allan at the end of the nineteenth century, and in the 1920s the
Japanese professor Muzo Torn, author of numerous books and studies on the
archaeology and ethnography of Japan, Sakhalin, Manchuria, and Mongolia,
also came here.
Sikachi-Allan is described in the works of the famous traveller Vladimir Arsenyev and of Lev Stern berg, the outstanding Russian scholar who is mentioned with respect by Fried rich Engels as the discoverer of a new form of group marriage.
In 1935 the first Soviet archaeological expedition was sent to Sikachi-Allan and had the good fortune to discover many previously unknown treasures of ancient art. Like the scholars who had preceded them, the archaeologists were fascinated by the huge basalt boulders piled up in long mounds along one bank of the Amur.
Millions of years ago, a current of molten lava flowed out of the depths of the earth, from the crater of a now non-existent volcano. It congealed, cracked, and finally, undermined by the river, disintegrated to form a multitude of boulders. On one of these massive fragments of rock, black and weather-worn, as old as the Amur itself, a relief drawing was discovered. An underwater monster, the "Black Dragon"-legendary master of the Amur-seemed to be emerging from the muddy water, from the silty bed of the river. The rough boulder, witness of the infancy of our planet, bore the imprint of creative thought and revealed the strange, mysterious world of prehistoric art.
Time has smoothed the sharp edges of the rock, polished its surface, but could not obliterate the deep grooves cut by the hand of an unknown artist. Once you have seen this remarkable production of prehistoric art, it is impossible to forget it. It is striking for its laconic wisdom and simplicity, for the fantastic intricacy of the design, and finally for the keen sense of composition with which the primitive craftsman arranged the picture on the side of the rock.
The drawing and the rock form an indissoluble whole, also with all of the surrounding landscape -the Far-Eastern taiga, the limitless expanse of the great Asian river. When the water level rises, the waves lap against the monster's beard and its slanting eyes. Gradually the water rises higher and higher until the entire stone is hidden. In two or three months, the rock will once more appear above the mirror of the waters. And so year in, year out, through the centuries. The image of the monster, carved on the stone of Sikachi-Allan, is as if born of the earth itself, formed by its elemental creative power, by the force that raises the vigorous spring sap from the depths of the earth and gives birth to all living things. The drawing involuntarily brings to mind the ancient Greek myth of the infancy of the Universe and the gods, of the monstrous giants, the Titans with many arms and serpent legs born of the Earth goddess Gaea. It recalls also the battle of the Olymptans with the sons of Earth, carved on the marble frieze of the Pergamon altar.
Was not this enigmatic monster-image on the Amur suggested by such a myth, or perhaps an even older one? In fact there does exist among the Nanai a myth about the first days of the Universe and the hero-demigods, a myth that may help to solve the problem of how these drawings appeared on the rocks of Sikachi-Allan.
It is no wonder that the Khabarovsk ethnographer Nikolai Kharlamov, fired by the romantic past of the Far East, imagined that these were the ruins of an ancient city with tall columns of hewn stone, as at Baalbek, covered with representations of unknown beings from a foreign world. He is the author of the first, although very short, description of the Sikachi-Allan petroglyphs in our literature. In it he mentions the "ruins of Galbu" and creates a striking picture of the former city. "On the territory of the Far East," writes Kharlamov, "are scattered a great number of monuments that testify that the region was formerly inhabited, and they are of
enormous scientific interest. Among these the ruins of 'Galbu' on the right bank of the Amur, 75 km below Khabarovsk at the Nanai (Gold) encampment of 'Sanagi-Alyal' (in ancient times 'Galbu'), attract particular attention. Along the cliffs of 'Sanagi' and 'Gasya' drawings are cut into the rock, and these have for a long time excited the interest of travellers and scholars... In our opinion, the ancient ruins of 'Galbu' are the remains of an old city, the religious center for the inhabitants of the Far East at that time. This is proved by the regular construction of the stone embankment, the mud- paved square, the numerous rocks incised with ritual drawings, and what seem in places to be the stone walls of the city as well as moats and earthworks beyond the camp." In Kharlamov's view the town existed from the first millennium B.C. until almost the end of the first millennium A.D. Needless to say, no ruins of a temple were found in Sikachi-Allan. The first thing that the archaeological expedition of 1935 discovered was the rock drawing that has already been described. Not far away, and also half covered by water, lay a second stone carved with a figure of an elk, and also another mask, without the same elaborate decoration around it. This face was of regular ovoid form; the slant- ing eyes with distinct round pupils, and the wide nose stood out sharply against it: on the cheeks and chin were paralIel curved Iines, possibIó tattoos.
The drawings on the rocks of Sikachi-Allan also attracted the attention of Arsonyev. He saw them during his travels in the mountains of Sikhote Ann in 1908. "Near Sikachi-Allan on the bank of the Amur," writes Arsenyev, "there are stones carrying drawings that are covered over during the spring floods. On one stone is an outline representation of a human face. The eyes, nose, eyebrows, mouth, and cheeks can be clearly distinguished. On another stone are two human faces; the eyes, mouth, and even nose are shown by concentric circles, and on the forehead are a number of undulating lines, which give an impression of surprise as though the eyebrows were raised." There are many stones with drawings in Sikachi-Allan. Incised on the basalt boulders are not only fantastic masks, but also figures of animals and clusters of writhing snakes. All along the steep right bank of the Amur, from the last houses of the Nanai hamlet ofSikachi- Alian as far as the old Russian village of Malyshevo and its jetty, there are piles of basalt rocks
-the remains of fallen cliffs. This is the same mass of huge, rough-edged boulders that produced even on the restrained and unemotional Laufer the impression of a man-made defensive wall and that Kharlamov took for the remains of a fortress and temple. The ridge of boulders, becoming gradually lower and sparser, stretches out like a spit of land from the picturesque cliff, on the top of which in Mob-hob times was built a small but powerful fortification. This is where most of the drawings are concentrated; the largest and most impressive of them are two elks and a boulder with a "radiant" mask.
There is another large accumulation of basalt boulders at the lower end of Sikachi-Allan, beyond the deep inlet of the Amur (referred to as Lake Orda by Laufer), which separates one part of the village from the other. Here there are a number of rocks with representations, including a large, almost rectangular slab carved with huge figures of animals. Rock carvings are found both at Malyshevo and further upstream. We must also mention a fourth place where petroglyphs have been found, in this case not on boulders but on the vertical surfaces of the cliffs along the river between the drawings of Sikachi-Allan and the petroglyphs of Malyshevo. These are incised line drawings, including a thin-line depletion of a mudur-dragon or serpent. In short, this small region is a veritable museum of the primitive art of the Amur. The number of petroglyphs here (in all about 150) has been only approximately established, for most of the year the Amur overflows its banks and the ridges of basalt are covered over. The spring rush of ice, which in ancient times destroyed the cliffs, still continues to toss the heavy slabs of stone and break them into fragments. When this happens the drawings too are broken, and sometimes overturned and buried under piles of stones.
Could the drawings have been originally incised on the cliffs, and subsequently, when the cliffs collapsed, have fallen into the river and been carried downstream by the ice? In that case the surviving fragments of cliff would still carry drawings identical to those cut into the boulders. However, there is no sign of them. Moreover, the drawings are done in such a way as to fit the shape of the boulders which had broken away from the rock face. Thus it is most likely that the drawings were executed on the stones, and we should more properly call them boulder drawings rather than rock drawings. In style and subject matter, the drawings of Sikachi-Allan are divided into two sharply distinguished groups: the oldest, archaic drawings and the later ones of the Mob-hob period. Most of them belong to the first group-archaic, purely primitive. The oldest petroglyphs all use the same method of pecking or pressure retouching, characteristic of the Neolithic period. The craftsman worked on the drawings in the same way as on a stone axe: he struck stone against stone, chipping off small flakes one after another, until he had made tiny depressions in the surface, which merged into a single patch or line. The result was a high-relief image, sometimes almost three-dimensional. The drawings bear the marks of great antiquity. They are often worn so smooth that it is hard for the eye to follow the outlines of individual figures. In many cases the drawing can be found only by touch: the parts which were chipped away in ancient times are smoother than all the remaining surface of the rough stone untouched by human hands. Compared with all the other, similar, archaeological monuments known to us in Asia, the petro- glyphs ofSikachi-Allan stand out as something unusual and exciting. What can we learn from these fantastic masks, these snakes and strange beasts, carved by the hand of an unknown sculptor? Among the prehistoric drawings of Sikachi-Allan the enigmatic stylized anthropomorphous faces or masks occupy a central place. They are so varied that it is difficult to divide them into any definite groups: each mask represents a separate type, but all the same they show a certain unity of form and style and can be classified by certain definite features.
The most important common characteristic is that most of them depict not real human faces, but precisely masks. This is not because people of those times were
unable to reproduce the features of the human face realistically in stone. One of the drawings of Sikachi-Allan depicts a human being with such warm and tender feeling that the stone may be said to have come alive under the hand of the craftsman. The outline of the face is deeply cut, the large slant eyes look out from under drooping heavy lids, the round depressions of the nostrils and the wide fleshy lips are finely modeled. More often, however, we find masks. These are strikingly laconic, conventionalized, abstract representations of the human face. Abstract does not mean simplified, reduced to the minimum of expressiveness. On the contrary, notwithstanding their overall unity of style each drawing has its own character, its distinguishing peculiarities and details. In other words, we see here one subject, but with endless variations, produced by the various and unexpected combinations of traditional artistic devices.
Most of the masks have an elliptical or ovoid outline, but some are circular. Some are elliptical at the top and cut off horizontally at the bottom (truncated ovals). Apart from elliptical, ovoid, and circular masks, there are also cordate ones (with an indentation at the top). Some masks are very broad at the top and taper sharply at the bottom to a rounded or truncated chin. These masks suggest the face of an ape, and at the same time a skull. In some cases (as in the drawings on the Sheremetyevo rocks) the mouth is closely packed with teeth, which enhances the likeness to a skull. Thus we have another type of mask-skull-shaped. We may note that skull-worship is a genuinely primitive phenomenon, especially characteristic of the period of transition from matriarchy to patriarchy.
We find the same basic types of mask in several variants: it is clear that this is the result of the craftsman's individual creative approach, and that there is no obligatory standard type. Sometimes the primitive artist does not even attempt the outline of a face. He draws a mouth, a pair of eyes above it-and leaves it at that. To him it is already a mask (we may call these partial masks). The eyes and mouth are usually rendered by concentric ovals or circles. Alternatively the eyes are made not round but slanting, fish-shaped. The eyes are essential: the ancients believed that man's soul looked out through his eyes.
Besides, many of the masks show a nose, some form of tattooing, and also a splendid headdress or a kind of halo made up of lines arranged symmetrically around the face. Ever since the discovery of the masks of Sikachi-Allan and Sheremetyevo, researchers have tried to find out when and by whom these strange faces were cut into the rock. The answer was found after the start of systematic excavations of the ancient settlements on the banks of the Amur, including some in the immediate vicinity of these basalt slabs with petroglyphs. In 1971, during work near the village of Voznesenskoye at the mouth of the Gur River, our archaeological expedition uncovered something quite unexpected and remarkable. We found fragments of an earthenware vessel, brilliant red and burnished, whose color and gloss called to mind the polished red-painted vases of the ancient Greeks. Of course it was covered not with lacquer, but with a type of slip- coating, a thin layer of specially prepared red ochre, which was then polished with an abrasive stone. Vessels of this type were first found in 1935 on the island of Suchu near Mariinsk and have already been encountered several times on the Amur. But this time something unusual was un- covered: round, human eyes looked at us from this fragment of Neolithic pottery. The nose with its distinct nostrils was executed in high relief. The mouth was clearly outlined by a deep incision in the soft clay. In a word, it was just such a mask as those of the Sikachi-Allan and Sheremetyevo rocks. The vessel carries the remains of other masks, which must have formed a continuous band, a kind of circle-dance, around its upper half. The creator of this remarkable piece of pottery depicted not only faces, but also arms raised in an attitude of prayer, like those of the famous Virgin Orans of the "Impregnable Wall" in Kiev. Admittedly, unlike the Virgin Orans, these creatures have not fingers and toes, but sharp animal claws. Their pose is also unusual: as far as we can tell from the potsherds, they are squatting on their haunches.
This strange, fantastic composition reflects a spiritual world that is unknown to us; it shows the unusual and imaginative artistic ideas of the ancient tribes. Comparing the masks incised on the basalt of Sikachi-Allan with those drawn in the soft clay of the Voznesenskoye vessel, we can see how much these works of early Amur art have in common. The resemblance between the masks on the vessel and those of the petroglyphs is seen first of all in their similarity of outline. It is most significant that this resemblance extends to the manner in which the outlines are filled in. The eyes, for example, are represented either by regular circles, by commas, or fish-shapes. The fish-shapes on one of the masks of the vessel differ from those of the petroglyphs only in that they are inverted, with the narrow corners turned downwards. Over the eyes of the Voznesenskoye mask is a molded double arc, like the spread wings of a bird. We find just such arcs on the majority of the petroglyphic masks. It forms the top of the cordate oval mask of the clay vessel. These masks are done in low relief. They have protuberant, softly mod- elled noses and just as protuberant mouths. We can observe the same tendency towards sculptural treatment in the ones depicted on the rocks. A further similarity is probably non accidental: the anthropomorphous representations are placed on the rounded sides of the Voznesenskoye vessel, and the petroglyphic masks are carved on the convex face and sides of the basalt slabs. Another interesting feature is that each of the masks on the vessel, like those of Sikachi-Allan, is different from the neighboring ones and has its own unique character. One has round eyes, the next has eyes in the form of a half-spiral or comma. One mask is a regular cordate oval, and another is cleft at the top and has a cordate outline, like some of the heart-shaped Sikachi-Allan boulder drawings. All the wealth of decoration, all the typical features of the Sikachi-Allan masks are combined in the ornamentation of this one vessel. As was to be expected, careful examination of the site and further excavation showed that the vessel had been deposited in a specific layer, corresponding to the Middle Neolithic period in the stratigraphy of the Voznesenskoye settlement. In the Amur pottery of that period, curvilinear ornamentation reached its full development. And the spiral was widely used: its tight curves, covering the vessel, were usually drawn against a stamped background of parallel vertical zigzags. The settlement of Voznesenskoye was in all respects similar to the famous settlement on the Lower Amur, on the island of Suchu. People of the same tribe, at the same period, built their deep pit-dwellings at Voznesenskoye and on Suchu, modelled identical clay pots, and were equally assiduous in decorating them with complicated, almost geometrically exact spirals and molded masks. The age of the Voznesenskoye vessel and the era to which it belongs is that phase of the Neolithic period which can be firmly dated by the modern radiocarbon method as the third millennium B.C. Next came another new find, this time on the same bank of the Amur as the boulders carrying drawings, on the steep promontory between Malyshevo and Sikachi-Allan. During excavations of a Neolithic settlement, fragments of vessels decorated with anthropomorphous masks, together with polished stone axes and finely chipped flint arrowheads, were found among the remains of an ancient dwelling. Admittedly they are simpler than those on the Voznesenskoye vessel, and without the sumptuous purple or crimson background, but perhaps for that reason all the closer to the masks carved in the basalt slabs of Sikachi-Allan. These masks are oval, with rhomboid eyes. The surface of the masks, as with their counterparts at Voznesenskoye, is ornamented with comb impressions. Still more
exciting was the discovery of a small fragment of a clay cup with a fine pattern of vertical zigzags made up of dotted comb-impressed lines, such as is found on hundreds of pot- sherds from Neolithic dwellings along the Amur and Ussuri rivers. What was completely unexpected was an apelike head in relief on the inner rim of the vessel, with huge round eyes and an oval mouth outlined with a fine groove: an exact repetition of the Sikachi-Allan masks. The cup, which can be dated by its vertical zigzag pattern, was found on the site atone of the Neolithic dwellings of Kondon, a large ancient fishing settlement on the Lower Amur, the second Neolithic "Pompeir' of the Far East (after the island ofSuchu). Now there could be no doubt about the age of the majority of the Sikachi-Allan masks.
In short, masks played a dominant role in the art and constituted the major part of the rock drawings of the Neolithic culture of the Amur some five or six thousand years ago. They show with great distinctness their creators' unique artistic world. The enigmatic soul of an unknown culture, of mysterious and forgotten tribes, seems to look out at us through their huge, staring eyes. But are they so mysterious? Have they become entirely forgotten and lost in the haze of time? Here ethnography comes to the aid of archaeology.
The ritual shaman masks of the Udeghe and Nanai of the Lower Amur (such as those in the Khabar- ovsk Museum of Local Studies), unique and remarkable for their decoration, almost fully reproduce the patterns and general appearance of the masks ofSikachi-Allan and of the Voznesenskoye vessel. The masks of the petroglyphs have also come down to us, although naturally with changes, in the ornaments of the present-day Amur peoples. Laufer in his time firmly denied the existence of anthropomorphous elements in the decorative art of the Amur tribes. He indicated as its characteristic features only zoomorphic and plant motifs, in the first place stylized drawings of fishes,
In short, masks played a dominant role in the art and constituted the major part of the rock drawings of the Neolithic culture of the Amur some five or six thousand years ago. They show with great distinctness their creators' unique artistic world. The enigmatic soul of an unknown culture, of mysterious and forgotten tribes, seems to look out at us through their huge, staring eyes. But are they so mysterious? Have they become entirely forgotten and lost in the haze of time? Here ethnography comes to the aid of archaeology.
The ritual shaman masks of the Udeghe and Nanai of the Lower Amur (such as those in the Khabar- ovsk Museum of Local Studies), unique and remarkable for their decoration, almost fully reproduce the patterns and general appearance of the masks of Sikachi-Allan and of the Voznesenskoye vessel. The masks of the petroglyphs have also come down to us, although naturally with changes, in the ornaments of the present-day Amur peoples. Laufer in his time firmly denied the existence of anthropomorphous elements in the decorative art of the Amur tribes. He indicated as its characteristic features only zoomorphic and plant motifs, in the first place stylized drawings of fishes, cocks, and dragons. In his own terms he was, of course, absolutely right: it is true that the ornamen- tation of the Nanai, Olcha, and Nivkh contains no anthropomorphous representations which have the same degree of naturalism as the depletions of cocks and fishes. However, after careful study we have none the less come to the conclusion that it does contain simplified yet distinct masks. Moreover, they are not an exception, but its most widespread and indeed basic element. They include a simian mask with a broad, round upper half, within which huge eyes like those of the petroglyphs are represented by a double spiral. The wide apelike nostrils and massive chin stand out clearly. The broad ears are also rendered as spirals. Over the head we frequently find two raylike projections. Basically similar straight lines, projections or rays, are also characteristic of the anthropomorphous masks of the petroglyphs; they crown them at the top, and sometimes form a border around the sides. Similar patterns are found on the household articles and appliences made by Nanai women even now. Thus the masks of the Amur petroglyphs have not disappeared without trace, but, like other motifs (for example, birds or fishes) have been incorporated in later ornamentation, for which they served as a sort of building material; they have become elements of decorative patterns.
Other finds also bear witness to the links between
the ancient and modern cultures of the Amur. In the course of excavations
carried out at Kondon in 1965, we unearthed a Neolithic dwelling In which
were a dozen vessels, shattered and crushed by the weight of earth; they
carried the already familiar pattern of broad spirals over a background
of comb-impressed dotted lines. And suddenly, while the pottery was being
uncovered, the archaeologist's knife touched the surface not of a sherd,
but of some relatively small artefact. A few minutes later the cry rang
out: "A statuette!"
This was the first anthropomorphous statuette, and at that time the only one in the whole of the Neolithic Amur. It was made of clay and had been thoroughly burnished and fired. The figure reveals the skinful hand and observant eye of the sculptor who made it. It seems to hold the accumulated experience of many generations of sculptors, of age-old, persistent, and individual artistic traditions.
The depletion is entirely realistic. It is not simply a generalized image of a woman, but rather a portrait. The Neolithic sculptor has conveyed with remarkable warmth the features of an actual human face, with a soft oval outline, broad cheekbones, a slender chin, and small pouting lips. The woman's nose is long and thin, like those of the North American Indians. The eyes, exaggeratedly long and narrow, like arched slits, are deeply cut in the soft clay. The forehead is low; the upper part of the head is slanted back.
In contrast to the finely modeled head, the bust of the figurine is only a rough outline, and there are no arms. But this makes the face still more alive. Even now in Kondon one can meet Nanai girls with faces of this type. They radiate the same subtle feminine charm as the statuette which has lain for thousands of years in the ground of this Stone Age dwelling. Perhaps the most unexpected thing about the Kondon statuette is that the head and thin, slender neck are slightly inclined forwards, towards the viewer, recalling the Egyptian queen Nefertiti. While the Kondon statuette is attractive for its feminine grace, another of the same period, found in a Neolithic dwelling on the island of Suchu, has quite a different appearance. This too is a figure without arms. However, its manner is not soft and sculptural, but harsh and austere, like a line drawing. The narrow slant eyes are sharply and deeply cut, as if by a single energetic stroke of the sculptor's hand. The small nostrils seem to breathe menace and wrath. The whole statue is dynamic and powerful. If the Kondon statuette resembles Nefertiti, this one brings to mind literary images
-Pushkin's Queen of Spades or the V6nus d'llle in Mrime's story of the same name. But it has distinct mongoloid features; they are even slightly exaggerated and made more pronounced by the artist.
The absence of arms in both statuettes also testifies to the links between ancient and modern, to the continuity of cultures. In our ethnographical museums there are many sculptures without arms, made by Nivkh, Nanai, and Olcha artists. These include sevons, figures embodying the spirits of illness and shamans' helpers during their magic rituals, and dzhulins, incarnations of female spirits, the guardians of dwellings and Mother-goddesses of the families living there. One of the most remarkable petroglyphs ofSikachi-Allan shows an even more striking closeness to ethnographical material. This is a rare example of a mask with a body, again without arms, although there would have been ample room for them on the boulder. The face is roughly sketched, with holes for eyes and mouth; it is carved on two adjoining faces of the rock, as if hewn out of a log with two or three blows of an axe. That is how the Nanai craftsmen, highly skilled wood- carvers, hewed their wooden idols or sevons. By using the grain of the tree-trunk, they were able to show on the cut surfaces not only the scion's face and his pointed hat, but also his eyes. Just like the sevon, this figure on the stone is three-dimensional; it has a diamond-shaped trunk, entirely fined in with chevrons (angled lines one inside the other). In this it most of all resembles the Nanai Sevan, the hunting spirit Girki-Ayami. Another feature of resemblance between the Nanai ritual sculptures and the petroglyphs is the characteristic raylike pattern around the head and headdress. All this once more confirms the remarkable continuity of artistic traditions in the Amur region.
In the Neolithic pit-dwellings where the female
statuettes were found, on the island of Suchu (which in the Olcha language
means "abandoned camp"), excavations also uncovered clay figures of a bear.
The bear is shown realistically, with a heavy body, massive head, and typical
muzzle. One can sense his primordial strength.
Even in the smallest sculptures he inspires respect: like it or not, you
step aside when the master of the taiga makes his way heavily through the
dense thicket, turning over the logs in search of ants, his favorite delicacy.
Judging by the hole pierced through the back of the animal while the clay
was still soft, the figures must have been hung on a cord during some kind
of ceremony or ritual. We also encounter stone figures of bears (on pestles
and sinkers). It would be surprising if such representations had not been
found during the excavation of Neolithic settlements, since we know what
an important place the bear has occupied in the rituals and beliefs of
the Amur tribes from prehistoric times.
Among the rituals involving bears (both images and live animals), the most important was the bear- festival: after a ritual feast in his honor the bear was slaughtered, and this was followed by a sacred meal and then the burial, a respectful celebration of his departure to the other world. All of this complex symbolism had a central place in the social life of the Amur tribes and their neighbors not only in the Siberian taiga, but on Sakhalin, the Kuriles, and Hokkaido. The symbolism of the bear-festival was a reflection in a fantastic form of the actual social structure of these ancient hunters of the taiga, and of their two-clan organization, based on the blood relationship of two tribes or phratries.
The people of the Stone Age constructed for themselves an imaginary mythological picture of the world, based on the example of actual human communities. According to their beliefs the world was divided into two classes: people and beasts; the latter possessed all the characteristics of human beings. Men and beasts entered into kinship relations and with one another. The beasts responded to people's needs by giving them their bodies for food. In return, the people brought the beasts sacrifices, making them a "gift" of what they lacked. The bear is also one of the most widespread images in the art of the present-day nations of the Amur. The bear-figures of modern folk art are close to the Neolithic statuettes: they show the same lifelike quality, the same terse and expressive design. The image of the elk is also at the heart of the mythology of the primeval hunters. This animal was a basic source of food and clothing. Its bones were made into spear- and arrow-heads, its antlers into bows. And not only bows, but also works of art-once again, figures of elks and bears. If the bear was the totem of one half of the endogamous tribe, the elk was at the head of the other. In the legends of the Siberian tribes, the cosmic elk appears as the zoomorphic representation of the earth and sky, the incarnation of the Universe. The image of the cosmic elk was linked with the fate of the Universe: the hunter-bear or group of hunters-bears chase the elk; when the elk is caught and killed, catastrophe will overtake the world, and the Universe will perish. That is why the striking elk pictures appeared on the rocks of Sikachi-Allan. They show not only a true-to-life silhouette of the animal, but also the ribs and conventionally presented inner organs: the body of the animal is shown as if in longitudinal section, as the hunter saw it while he cut up his prey with a stone knife. Nor did the prehistoric artists forget the third ruler of the Far Eastern forests-the tiger, who also played an important role in the beliefs of the Amur peoples. In one of the best compositions on the boulders of Sikachi-Allan, the figure of a tiger is clearly shown-with a striped body, a long tail, and a catlike round muzzle stretched forward. Just such tigers are a popular subject in the ritual shaman sculpture of the Amur nations. It may be that some of the masks, which at first seem to be
anthropomorphous, in fact represent a tiger or something which is half-man, half-tiger. There is something beastlike, awesome, and powerful about the strikingly impressive mask on the bank of the Amur, through which we first made acquaintance with the mysterious world of the Sikachi-Allan petroglyphs. Did not the tiger also produce such an impression on the ancient inhabitants of the Far East, who, when they met him, fell to their knees and humbly implored him to pass them by? And is not the tiger shown as the lord of the Amur on the slab of basalt at Sikachi-Allan?
There is another common theme in the ancient and
folk art of the Amur peoples-the bird. Among the petroglyphs of Sikachi-Allan
we find a depletion of a sitting duck or swan. It has a large circular
head with a round eye, like those of the masks. On the same rock another
bird is shown with its back to the first. Its eye is very large, almost
completely filling the head, and there is no dot inside it. Its bill is
long and slightly curved. But unlike the first, this bird has a somewhat
longer body. Apart from ducks and swans-waterfowl-the Sikachi-Allan boulders
include two representations of a woodland bird which resembles a sitting
wood grouse. One of the depletions belongs to the earlier, presumably pre-Neolithic
layer, to the pre-ceramic, or, as it is usually called, Mesolithic era.
It is incised, together with the
primitive figures of beasts, on a slab of rock beneath an outcrop of the
bank, where the remains of a Mesolithic settlement were found with characteristic
leaf- shaped blades made of black stone.
In Sheremetyevo on the Ussuri, the second most important concentration of petroglyphs in the Far East, depletions of birds are more frequent. Represented there are mostly waterfowl-swans or geese and ducks. Clay figurines of birds were found in a Neolithic dwelling on the island of Suchu. This time the birds are shown in flight, with wings spread. The collections of our ethnographical museums contain many parallels to them-depletions of birds, including waterfowl (geese, ducks, and swans).
Birds figure in the legends and myths of the Amur nations; for example, in the myth about the creation of the Universe recorded by Laufer in the nineteenth century: "In the beginning of the world there were only three men, called Shankoa, Shanwai, and Shanka. There were three divers and three swans. Once upon a time the three men sent the three swans and the three divers to dive for soil, stones, and sand. The birds dived. For seven days they stayed under water. Then they emerged. They brought earth, stones, and sand and they began to fly about, carrying the earth that they had brought. They flew all around the world. The earth originated when the divers flew, holding earth and stones in their bills. Mountains and plains arose. The divers flew about; and where they flew, rivers arose. Thus they determined the courses of the rivers. They flew toward the sea, and the Amoor river arose."
In Sikachi-Allan, as also at Sheremetyevo, aquatic birds are shown in pairs, which corresponds to the mythological beliefs about the creation of the Earth by two divers, two demiurges, two brothers or sisters. Another important feature is the slantwise cross carved on the breast of a swan drawn on the Sheremetyevo rocks. This is a hint at the bird's cosmogonal significance, its active role in the creation of the world.
Birds play no less of an active part in the myths about the "tree of the world"; the souls of people or shamans, in the mysterious other world, "grow up" in nests on the branches of this tree. These souls have the appearance of waterfowl-ducklings. According to the Nanai legends there are three such trees: one in the sky, in which all souls live before their incarnation in the form of unfledged ducklings; another identical one in the nether world, in the kingdom of the dead; and the third on the earth - a birch tree carrying the objects of the shaman rituals. The shaman tree with birds
-the souls of yet unborn people-sitting in its branches, mentioned in the legends, is depicted on the wedding robes of the Nanai women, with their splendid ornamental patterning. On these the birds sit in pairs, facing one another, just as on the petroglyphs: these birds too are participants in the cosmogony and reflect the image of the Universe.
Another subject which is common to the ancient
and modern art of the Amur region is the snake. One of the Sikachi-Allan
stones is incised with a snake coiled into a tight spiral: it seems as
if in a moment it will straighten itself and strike out at the enemy. On
other stones the snakes are twisted into supple plaits; they interweave,
twine, and untwine as if they were alive. In one of the petroglyphs there
are seven snakes (seven being a sacred, magical number). Sometimes the
snake-spiral is an essential component of the anthropomorphous rock carvings.
For example, snakes' heads with dots inside are seen near the fish-shaped
eyes of one Sikachi- Alian mask. Another mask is girdled by supple spirals
with distinct arrow-shaped snakes' heads. Similar figures of snakes are
to be found on the pottery. One of the vessels found during excavations
at the Nivkh village of Takhta on the Lower Amur is decorated with the
relief figure of a snake, whose scaly skin
is shown by tiny notches.
The image of the snake is linked with the most widely used motifs in the decorative arts of the Amur peoples-the spiral and the vertical zigzag. The significance of this image in the art of the Amur region can be appreciated if we consider the local legends in which the divine serpent appears as a beneficent being, endowed with supernatural power and wisdom. In the mythology of all the Tungus tribes, including the Nanai, a gigantic cosmic serpent is the demiurge, the creator of the Universe. According to the Nanai legends the earth was originally smooth and covered by the waters of the ocean. But then two gigantic creatures appeared-a mammoth and a serpent. With his lithe body the serpent ploughed deep valleys. The water flowed away down them, leaving space for all the living creatures on the earth. The main sign of the cosmic serpent, who descended to earth in the form of lightning, is his fiery trait, the zigzag. The combination of spirals and vertical zigzags in the ornamentation of the Neolithic period on the Amur reflects the ancients' beliefs about the unity of the celestial fire-the lightning (zigzag)-and the solar serpent (spiral). The unity of these symbols, linked with the worship of the sun, the source of life, embodied the eternal idea of good, the concept of fertility, the dream of human happiness. Thus one of the most popular motifs in the art of the peoples of the Amur (and many other nations of the Pacific Basin) has its roots in prehistory: it can be traced in the Amur petroglyphs and other Neolithic monuments.
The rich ornamentation of the Neolithic earthenware
contains valuable information for the history of the culture of the Amur
tribes. Here the spiral is especially important. As early as 1935 vessels
decorated with an elaborate and delicately worked pattern were found in
a Neolithic pit-dwelling on the island of Suchu. On their surface are the
flowing, deeply cut lines of large spirals. The spaces between them are
filled in with triangles. Several vessels have painted patterns of interlaced
spirals. On the shining crimson background of these vessels a pattern has
been hallowed out and colored in with rich black pigment. More than two
dozen vessels with spiral decoration were found during excavations at Kondon,
in the depths of the taiga, two hundred kilometers from Komsomolsk near
Lake Evoron. The
ancient craftsmen varied this motif, as if in competition with one another. Each vessel is unique. Spiral ornamentation is also found far up the Amur, at the Krasnaya River near Khabarovsk, at Voznesenskoye near the mouth of the Gur, and also at Sheremetyevo on the Ussuri. The spiral is inseparably linked with the petroglyphs; it is one of their main motifs. In some cases it is used to fill the representation (the volutes or scrolls inside the figures of deer at Sikachi-Allan); in others it serves to convey an important detail of the picture (for example, the noses of the masks). It also happens that an entire petroglyph is formed of concentric circles and spirals.
Spiral ornamentation, essentially analogous with that of the Neolithic period, is remarkably widespread in the folk art of the Amur tribes. Spiral curves make up the original patterns that cover the fish-skin robes formerly worn by their women, as well as their utensils, and sometimes their architecture (colored spirals gave a festive appearance to the burial huts of the Nivkh and Olcha). The spiral constitutes the main wealth of the decoration of the modern Nanai, Olcha, and Nivkh. It forms the basis of such motifs as fishes and cocks, and provides a background for them. We have already spoken about the origin of the spiral: it is connected with the worship of the Sun and of the Great Serpent, the mudur. Serpent worship is also reflected in the vertical zigzag
-another characteristic ornamental motif of the Neolithic period on the Lower Amur. The legends tell that the heavenly serpent, and subsequently his heavenly progeny, descended to earth in the form of lightning. We can see from this why vertical zigzags (lightning) represent as it were the base on which the broad spirals are drawn, and also why these two motifs are always and in- variably found together and interact with one another. Their combination embodies the idea of good and the dream of happiness, and thus reflects the aspirations of the people of the Stone Age. The other forms of antique ornament are no less meaningful. Firstly there is the Amur net pattern
-a widespread motif that reached a high degree of development in the Neolithic pottery of the Lower Amur. This consists of bands intertwining with one another to form a net with a rhomboid mesh. The net on the Neolithic vessels suggests a stretched-out seine or sweep net. Patterns of the Amur net type are still used in modern Amur art. It reaches great perfection in the remarkably fine decoration of wooden spoons intended for the bear-festival. On the large ritual spoons or ladles of the bear-festival, the Amur net pattern is used to depict the cord or chain with which the bear is bound during the ceremonial procession before his slaughter. This underlines the specific sacral character of this ornament. The net pattern is carved just as pains- takingly on objects of everyday use.
Besides the net and the spiral, the meander is widely used in the ancient and modern art of the Amur. This motif was first discovered on the Neolithic vessels from the island of Suchu. The Neolithic meander, like the spiral, sometimes consists of two lines (a double meander). The intersection of the two lines of the meander forms a cruciform figure. Not infrequently, especially in early Neolithic artefacts, the elements of the meander flu up large surfaces; among others we find a "step-pattern" of elbow-shaped lines, which are the primitive form of the meander, its typolog- ical ancestor. Essentially the meander is nothing more than a rectilinear, rather than curved, spiral. This age-old Amur design is also found in folk ornament. It is used to decorate domestic utensils, birch-bark baskets and wooden chests for needlework, and the traditional national costume. Another form of ancient. Neolithic ornament is a pattern of tiny arcs arranged in straight rows, resembling fish-scales. We find it also, in modern times, on the festive clothes of Nanai women. In the modern art of the Amur, elements of the net, meander, and spiral patterns are widely used. One of the motifs formed as a result of their combination is the curved brace, usually a continuous line of them. In short, the striking correspondence between the basic elements of the Neolithic and modern art of the Amur region confirms once again the continuity of traditions in the culture of the Amur peoples from antiquity to the present day. In the Kondon folk museum there is a robe made by a Nanai woman. It is an authentic work of folk art. Its skirts are decorated with a broad ornamental border. A supple, tightly wound spiral runs along it like a sea wave. In the same village of Kondon a collective-farm artist has lavishly decorated the walls of the club with the coils of the Amur spiral. And in Stone Age dwellings in this very place, archaeologists found vessels decorated with a spiral pattern. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal found during the excavations proved that the island of Suchu was inhabited in the fourth millennium B.C., Kondon in the third millennium B.C., and the very latest Neolithic settlement, at Malyshevo, was inhabited in the middle of the second millennium B.C. Consequently the Nanai spiral and other motifs can be dated: five thousand years ago the basis of Nanai ornamentation had already been laid. This brings us to the conclusion that the present-day art of the Amur region has grown out of the traditions of previous eras. The peoples of the Amur inherited these traditions from their distant ancestors; they are the heirs to an original artistic culture, one which was highly developed in relation to its specific historical conditions. It is of course no simple matter to trace the roots and sources of modern Amur art. We should bear in mind that when metal came into use there was a radical change in the way pottery was made. The old type of production, which reflected most fully the artistic individuality of the former inhabitants of the Amur region, disappeared. It was replaced by new techniques and a simpler. design of vessels. The old type of ornament "moved" elsewhere: onto clothing and wooden and birch-bark articles-objects that quickly decay and disappear. But all the same, in the culture of the age of metals and in the later mediaeval culture we find a certain number of common elements, echoes of the ancient traditions, which form a link between the ages.
With the introduction of metal, the economic and
social life of the Amur tribes made considerable progress. A remarkable
archaeological site-the ancient settlement in the Primorye territory, on
Kharinskaya hill not far from Lake Khanka - is characteristic of the transition
to the Bronze Age (the end of the second millennium B.C.). It contained
a large number of earthenware vessels and also stone implements. The inhabitants
of Kharinskaya hill had already begun to cultivate
the land In their dwellings were found stone hoes, also mullers and quern
stones for grain, and polished reaping knives. Among
the most remarkable finds are a stone blade, imitating the form of a bronze
one, and a button made of soft stone, also copied from a bronze original.
The pottery of this time is strictly regular in form, but without the rich
ornament of the Neolithic period. Later (in the first millennium B.C.),
the Uril culture became widespread in the Amur region; this too was agricultural,
with a wealth of pottery, stone axes, and, most important, agricultural
implements made of iron. It is represented by finds on the middle reaches
of the Amur at the village of Kukelevo in the Poltse area, where an ancient
site was discovered-yet another Pompon
or Herculanum of the Far East (like the Kharinskaya hill settlement, it
suffered from an enemy attack or an epidemic). The inhabitants of the ancient
settlement of Kukelevo and of many other such settlements scattered along
the banks of the Amur from Blagoveshchensk to Khabarovsk, mixed with the
original inhabitants, adopted a settled way of life, and began to raise
cattle and cultivate the land. By this time iron was already widely used.
Material remains show that northern tribes-from the taiga around Lake Baikal
and the Upper Amur-penetrated southwards. These forest hunters introduced
the Tungus language among the Paleoasiatic tribes of the Amur. Thus they
fused together to form a new ethnic group, from which the modern Tungus
- speaking tribes of the Amur
area-the Nanai, Negidal, and Olcha - are descended. In the Poltse dwellings
many earthenware vessels were found, including some striking narrow- mouthed
vases with an unusually wide splayed-out rim. Probably the favorite ornaments
of these people were the jade discs and rings that were found in profusion.
Beads of semiprecious stone, especially scarlet and reddish-yellow cornelian,
were highly appreciated. Similar beads and rings of white jade were used
as talismans to ward off evil powers, and were considered to ensure health
and good fortune. Many whorls (discs or flywheels for spindles), with a
similar to those used in the Neolithic period, were also found. The next
stage in the existence of the Amur tribes is the Mob-hob period ("Mob-hoh"
means river-dwellers). The ancient Mob-hob, livestock breeders and crop
farmers, played an outstanding part in the history of the Far East. They
were valiant warriors, ready to fight for their independence and for their
own land against any aggressor, no matter how powerful his forces. The
discovery of metal belt plaques, identical to those in the Turkic sites
of Mongolia, Southern Siberia, and the Transbaikal region, gives an important
indication of the Mob-hob's level of culture and of their relations with
neighboring peoples. Equally significant is the fact that the Mob-hob pet-
roglyphs at Sikachi-Allan and other places on the Lower Amur correspond
in style, subject matter, and techniques of execution with the rock drawings
of the steppe tribes of Turkic times. One of the drawings at Sikachi-Allan
shows a tiger or snow leopard with bared teeth and curved claws; others
depict riders in narrow caftans belted at the waist and wide trousers,
as well as scenes of hunters on horseback, recalling the favorite themes
of Turkic rock art and the decoration of their silver and gold cups. These
elements of the Mob-hob culture connect them, through the Turks of Mongolia
and the Transbaikal area, with the Turkic-speaking population of mediaeval
Eurasia, with which Kievan Russia was closely linked, and with the Pechenegs
and Polovtsi or Kumans. In the Mob-hob dwellings and burials the archaeologists
long-necked vessels. The Mob-hob belts were decorated with open-work plaques
cast in bronze and bearing a pattern symbolizing the Sun and the Universe,
which had its origins in remotest antiquity. Like the previous inhabitants
of the Amur region, the Mob-hob loved the Baikal white jade, and used it
as before for making disc- and ring-shaped pendants for bronze earrings.
Similar earrings were widespread among the Nanai in the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries. Also remarkable are some ordinary horse pasterns with
a carved pattern in which we can trace the stylized elements of a warrior's attire-belts
with pendants. These patterns must be the direct forerunners of the phanis,
the small ritual idol-figures of the Nanai. According to the Shaman beliefs,
the phani embodied the spirit of a deceased kinsman, and the Nanai kept
it in a place of honor in the house and fed it like a living person. In
the Mob-hob ornament, as in earlier times, we frequently meet the spiral
on belt plaques, end pieces, and buckles. Thus, in many ways the Mob-hob
culture links the distant past with the modern culture of the Far Eastern
tribes recorded by ethnographers in the nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries. In the seventh century A.D. the first state was formed in the
Primorye and the Amur region
-the Bo-hai kingdom. Ruins of ancient towns with temples and palaces have survived from this period. In the ruined temples which were investigated near Ussuriysk, religious sculpture was found-fragments of terracotta figures of Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and guardian demons. The walls were covered with ornamental painting of ivory-colored plaster. The tiled roof was crowned with clay sculptures of fantastic monsters and dragons. The end tiles of the roof were decorated with rosettes-symbols of the sky and the cosmos. The high level of culture of the Bo-hai had an influence on neighboring countries, including the japan of the Nara period. The Japanese theater, for example, adopted the Bo-hai drama bohaigaku. The Bo-hai culture had its roots in the local soil: the Bo-hai inherited from the Early Iron Age people the technique of iron-working, highly productive livestock breeding and crop farming, and also, much of their belief and art. In this connection a number of sculptures in an original style, made from an unusual material (stalagmite), are of considerable interest; they were found in one of the caves of the picturesque valley of the Suvorovka River, in the Primorye territory. One of these fantastic stalagmite deposits was turned by a sculptor into a human head. A finely modeled face with long, narrow eyes and a finely chiseled nose and mouth looks out at us from the wall. The potholing explorers who were the first to see it took it for a woman, and they named the sculpture"Sleeping Beauty." But it is rather a man's face, possibly a warrior-deity. It calls to mind the references in early chronicles to a secret ancestral cave, the sanctuary of the ruling dynasty of an ancient people who lived here before the Bo-hai. It is not impossible that the "Sleeping Beauty" cave is also such a sanctuary. The most numerous remains on the Amur and in the Primorye are those of the "Golden Empire" (Chin), the second state created in the Far East by the Tungus tribes, the Jurchen. The history of the Jurchen is comparatively short: it began when they overcame their dependence on the Khitan oppressors in the eleventh century, and ended when the people and state perished tragically in the conflict with the Mongols and Sung China in the thirteenth century. It fell to the Jurchen to restore and develop all that had been lost after the rout of the Bo-hai kingdom by the Khitan. This is a period of economic development and the flourishing of the region's culture. Over the huge areas from the Amur to the Hwang Íî, the subsistence economy was replaced by a more advanced, monetary economy. An extensive network of roads was laid down over the country. Traces of it were recently found in the Ussuriysk region and other areas of the Primorye. A well-developed system of administration replaced the more primitive one characteristic of the tribal system. The Jurchen were familiar with the classical culture of neighboring China. The Emperor Ulu had a high regard for the historical works of SSu-ma Ch'ien and esteemed the wisdom of Confucius. In the works of historians, he sought answers to contemporary problems. The Jurchen created their own historical literature, devoted to the heroic deeds of their ancestors. They had their own poets as well. Examples of their literary work in the form of inscriptions over the graves of outstanding statesmen were still to be found in the Ussuriysk region in the middle of the nineteenth century. The enlightened leaders of the Jurchen were concerned, in the period of their society's highest development, with the preservation of national unity and of the patriotic spirit. Ulu, one of the most powerful emperors of the Chin dynasty, called on his fellow-countrymen to preserve the traditions of their ancestors and to avoid blind imitation of foreign customs. Ulu used to say to his courtiers that to be ignorant of one's tongue and writing meant to forget one's native land. He spoke out decisively against the interest in Buddhism, calling its proponents deceivers. The power and high level of culture of the Jurchen state are shown by some impressive monuments
-the massive defensive fortifications which have been preserved on Krasnoyarovskaya hill. The ditches and ramparts up to five meters high stretch along the ridge of the hill for more than eight kilometers. Inside the fortress, the "Forbidden Town" was surrounded by earth walls; here excava- tions have uncovered the remains of palatial buildings. By their entrances stood ornamental stelae, and, inside, the bases of columns have been preserved. In one of the palaces there are about a hundred of these bases, on which once stood a whole forest of columns. On the tiled roofs of the building were dragons' heads with their tongues stuck out and fangs bared (by their terrifying appearance they were considered to frighten away evil spirits). The Jurchen's extensive contacts with other states and peoples were reflected in the wealth of their culture, the remains of which have survived. In the Jurchen burial grounds on the Amur are found plain, handmade black cooking pots, decorated on the outside with stamped imitation- textile or checkerboard patterns. They are similar to the wide-mouthed Mob-hob pottery. Together with them there are perfectly regular vessels with molded and often long necks. An original type of segmented vessel was especially popular. This pottery was made not by hand, but on a potter's wheel, although it was not a treadwheel, but handturned. The forms of these vessels, which were fired until they rang, were emphasized by carved and stamped patterns on the shoulders and rims.
The ornament consisted of a wave-line or a diagonal net. A stamped pattern
of lozenges inscribed one inside the other was also common, as were squares
and triangles. Various ornaments were cast in metal: cruciform and ribbed
plaques and intricately shaped buckles, sometimes of open-work type. The
of the belt with plaques symbolized the high social standing of their owners
and served to identify outstanding warriors and leaders. The minute bronze
fishes served the same purpose: they were an indication of official rank.
The Jurchen, like their predecessors the Bo-hai, learned a lot from
the farmers of Eastern Asia, and also from their neighbors in the steppes,
since the boundless steppe, with its nomadic population of Turks and Mongols,
was close by. As before, earrings with pendants, belts richly ornamented
with plaques, buckles, and many other things, were widespread; this shows
that the Jurchen culture was related to that of the steppe cattle-breeders
and mounted warriors. The architecture and building techniques of the Jurchen
were distinctive and original. The fortified Jurchen settlements, called
into being by the uneasy political situation-at first intertribal warfare,
and later wars with Korea and the Sung China-were real eyries, inaccessible
fortresses. The settle- ment on Golubinaya hill on the Artiomovka River
was bounded on one side by a vertical limestone wall and the deep river,
and on the other by the steep slope of the hill and a massive rampart of
stones and earth. The Jurchen architects took advantage of the relief of
the terrain and adapted their fortifications to it. This is shown by such
impressive constructions as the Krasnoyarovskaya hill fortress, whose ramparts
and ditches follow the contours of the hill. Another distinguishing feature
of Jurchen architecture is the building of houses on cleverly designed
ledges or platforms. Their kons-smoke-pipes placed under the floor to heat
the houses-have come down to us. The kan, which was later taken over from
their northern neighbors by the peoples of Northern China and Southern
Manchuria, was already in existence among the tribes of the Early Iron
Age Krounovka culture in the Primorye. It was the ingenious invention of
the aboriginal inhabitants of these areas, dictated by their severe climate.
The kan was passed on by the Jurchen to their lineal descendants-the contemporary
Amur tribes, Nanai and Olcha - together with the entire set of principles
on which the system of construction was based. However much the Jurchen
surpassed their ancestors and predecessors in economical, political, and
spiritual development, in their culture we can see traces of the age-old
culture of the Amur peoples. One of the most important is the spiral decoration.
The spiral motifs on the bronze and silver ornaments recall the predominance
of spirals on the earthenware vessels from the island of Suchu or from
Kondon. The earrings with discs made of white jade-the sacred stone of
the forest hunters-also go back to ancient traditions. Those objects, like
the belts with variously shaped plaques, which form part of the traditional
folk art of the Amur tribes, were in everyday use not only among the Jurchen
but also among the related tribes on the northern outskirts of the former
Jurchen state, which survived the Mongol invasion. We must conclude that
it was precisely these tribes (the ancestors of the Nanai, Olcha, and Nivkh)
who used the ancient style of ornamentation. No longer suitable for pottery,
because of the new techniques of production, it was probably used to decorate
objects of wood, birch-bark, and bone, and fish-skin clothing, which have
not survived in the damp Amur soil; these are just the materials on which
nineteenth-century ethnographers found the ancient patterns.
After the fall of the Jurchen state, the aboriginal tribes of the Amur region and the Primorye territory were left without a state power. They were still subject to no authority when they were found in the seventeenth century by the first Russian explorers to make their way from the Urals to the Pacific Ocean. Since then the lot of the Far East has been indissolubly linked with Russia and the Russian people. It fell to Russians to lead this region out of its centuries-old isolation, and to facilitate the rebirth of a culture whose foundations, as we have been able to convince ourselves on the basis of ethnographical finds, lie in the most ancient traditions of the native peoples. It is these traditions that determine the characteristic color, the vital currents of national individuality in the art of the Amur peoples.