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The mid 7th-century Gaponovo Costume of Russia

In the mid 7th-century someone wrapped 411 objects in a cloth, and buried them in a pit, near what is now the Kursk region of Russia. They obviously never came back to get them, so presumably, things did not end well. The hoard was accidentally rediscovered centuries later, and then published in a report edited by the Russian archaeologists Igor Gavritukhin and Andrey Oblomsky (1996).

The hoard included many items that are traditionally regarded as ‘female jewellery’, as well as belt fittings (also female?), and bits of horse harness. Archaeologists decided two ‘sets’ were represented amongst that ‘female’ jewellery. This was based on their experience with a few actual burials in the region, particularly on the Crimean Peninsula. One ‘set’ was reconstructed as figure 57 in Gavritukhin and Oblomsky (1996). On the head, there is a silver diadem, and items that were possibly on either side of the head. Around the neck, there are a couple of bronze neck rings. There is a pair of bronze fibulae – one over either collar bone, and a third one at the throat. Bronze and silver ornaments hang on loops over her chest. There were also glass, amber and coral beads in the hoard, but not included in this set (they may have also hung around the neck).

Other items are notable for their absence: earrings, finger rings, and bracelets. There were a couple of objects that just might have been earrings, but basically the set came from a culture in which they were very rare. Likewise, finger rings were not part of the culture. On the other hand, bracelets typically were common, and their absence from the Gaponovski hoard may be just accidental.

The Gaponovski Hoard was then included in a broader study of hoards by Olga Shcheglova (1999), but with focus on the costume aspect.

The position of the various items of this ‘set’ follow figure 57 of Gavritukhin and Oblomsky (1996). I’ve chosen to give the woman a fine tunic, which is open down the middle, and clasped at the throat with the single fibulae. On top of that, she has a thicker peplos, which is fastened by the pair of fibulae. There are certainly other possibilities – many reconstructions of ‘two fibulae’ costumes show them attaching a cloak to an undergarment. I’ve shown the diadem as holding a veil in place – no evidence for that, but quite likely.

Archaeologists recognise the Gaponovski hoard as part of the ‘Kolochin culture’ (Mallory et al.,  1997), which was centred on the Dnieper River (it covered parts of what are now Ukraine and Russia). How these people fitted in to the complex milieu of the time, is complicated. For example, what language did they speak? Linguistically they may have been Balt or Slavic speaking people, or perhaps a blend of them. But answering this question means getting into dangerous ground – the ‘origin of the Slavs’. The location and broad date means the people were part of the Avar Khaganate. They were a long way from the centre of power, but probably not far enough that repercussions of power-play led someone to bury a treasure.

Technical stuff

I started making the Gaponovo fibulae back in 2005, using Rhino. Wow – time has gone by! If there are things (and there are many!) that aren’t quite right about this reconstruction, that’s the reason. Time to round it off…. In 2019 I exported the files to Blender, and rebuilt them there. The basic problem was, that as a beginner, I went for far too much detail. Even those patterns on the surface of the fibulae were ‘modelled’. The files sizes were huuuuuge. Hopefully you can’t tell, but there’s no mostly longer any ‘detail’ there. It’s been fudged by a kind of optical illusion.

The other is that in 3D modeling, you’re often told to make sure everything is built from rectangles. No tris or ‘ngons’ (polygons with more than four sides). And all those rectangles should be in nice, flowing, rows. That gets real hard when you what is effectively a a hand with four fingers. I think I managed it, but would not waste the time on that perfection any more.

The real hard part here was getting Marvelous Designer to drape the peplos over the tunic. There’s a lot of ‘self collisions’ going on in a peplos. Bits of the tunic seemed desperate to worm their way through the peplos, then sort of eat it alive. To make it harder, the peplos has that folded over top, where inside becomes outside….

The other tricky bits are the necklace cords. There are ways to do this in Marvellous Designer or Blender so that the cord hangs accurately under gravity, and conforms to the clothing and back of the neck. But in the end, I decided life is short, drew Bezier curves, then edited them manually.


Gavritukhin, I.O. and Oblomsky, A.M. (Eds). 1996. Gaponovo Hoard and its cultural and historical Context. Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Kursk Regional Museum of Archaeology.

Mallory, J. P.; Adams, Douglas Q. 1997. Kolochin culture. Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Taylor & Francis. pp. 337–338. ISBN 1884964982.

Shcheglova, O. 1999. Женский убор из кладов “древностей антов”: готское влияние или готское наследие?  (In Russian. Female Adornment from the Hoards of the “Antiquities of Antes”: Gothic Influence or Gothic Heritage?). Stratum plus, 5: 287-312.

Filed under: History/Archaeology

About the Author

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From New Zealand. Traveling the weyward path trying to figure out how the world works. I study fossil plants, past climates, travel, walk, hike, read, take photos, struggle with computer graphics and plant trees.


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