Ancient Bronzes from the Eurasian Grasslands
Ancient Bronzes of the Asian Grasslands presents a major sampling of the art of the Steppes from the collections of the late Arthur M. Sackler, M.D. Curated by Trudy S. Kawami, Ph.D., Director of Research for the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, the exhibition presents eighty-five works illustrating the personal decorations and equipment of the horse-riding Steppe nomads of the second and first century BCE – often referred to as the Xiongnu as well as examples of ancient Chinese bronze vessels. The Eurasian grasslands, also known as the Steppes, cover a region extending from northern China
westward through Mongolia, to the plains of Eastern Europe. This segment of the exhibition focuses on the eastern or Eurasian Steppes where rolling grassy plains are punctuated by snow-topped Tien Shan (Heavenly Mountains) and the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts. In keeping with Dr. Sackler‘s scientific approach to art, the exhibit objects are studied and presented less for their aesthetic qualities, than for their wealth of untapped clues into cultures so long misunderstood or obscured by lack of primary source material.
Exploring Eurasia and the Grasslands
While visiting our first two galleries leading up to the traveling exhibit of Ancient Bronzes from the Eurasian Grasslands, attendees will discover the lay of the land, the early explorers, and the cultures of the Steppes region through a study of 19th century maps, historical books, body art, yurts, textiles, photomurals and more.
The creation of material goods within indigenous cultures is inextricably tied to the habitat and lifestyle of those who produce the utilitarian objects. Functional items, like those produced by the nomadic people of the Eurasian Grasslands, also known as the Steppes, reflect the makers’ understanding of and attention to the world around them, including animals, botany and agriculture. While several early explorers mapped the region, others documented its botanical and animal life. The efforts of archaeologists and anthropologists have deepened our understanding of this region and the material culture produced by men and women, including functional bronze work, textiles and domestic structures. In addition to presenting the foundations for the nomadic culture of the Steppes, this introductory material serves as a preface to the Arthur M. Sackler exhibition of Ancient Bronzes from the Eurasian Grasslands on display in Gallery III of the Miami University Art Museum.