CG reconstruction of costume of Crimean Gothic woman of seventh century (Mike Pole)
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A Crimean Gothic Woman from the Seventh Century

Crimea, Goths and Archaeology

The indigenous people of Crimea are generally regarded as the ‘Crimean Tartars’. But Crimea has older identities than that…. For example, the ‘Crimean Goths‘. The Goths were one of the identities on the move around Europe in the ‘Migration Period’. Their origin is murky, but is often regarded as being in southern Scandinavia. Their language was a branch of Germanic, they were pagan to start with, but along the way, at least some became Christian, and at some point, a group of them settled in Crimea.

Dr Elzara Khayredinova and Dr Alexander Aibabin are archaeologists who have specialised in Crimean archaeology. Together and separately they have published on some of the human burials in the region – and some with a special emphasis on costume (The publications are in Russian, and some Russian technical terms are included below. Contact me if you have the Ukrainian equivalents).

Aibabin and Khairedinova (2016) excavated near the village of Luchistoe (Лучисте in Ukrainian, Лучистое in Russian), northeast of Yalta in Crimea. One of the ‘crypts’ or ‘vaults’ (Склеп in Russian) there was constructed in the early seventh century (Crypt Number 300). Bodies were interred in the crypt until the end of the seventh century. One of these, Burial 4, was particularly impressive. The fragmented skeleton had been crushed and decayed, but it was associated with [translated from the Russian] “an almost complete set of accessories characteristic of women’s costume”. That is, it was regarded as female based on the accessories, not on osteology or DNA.

A Woman’s Costume

The woman had ear-rings of large hoops, on each of which sat a golden fourteen-sided polyhedron (a tetradecahedron. If you want to Google more on these,  try the Russian:  ‘серьги с многограннико’, or German: ‘Polyederohrringe’). The polyhedron is decorated with filigree and other material. This basic style of ear-ring, often with red garnet inlay, appeared either in the Danube or the Mediterranean (see Eger, 2005) area around the end of the fourth century AD, and spread out from there. The style reached Crimea in the early fifth century, and lasted to the mid-seventh century (Khairedinova, 2015).

She had a necklace, or necklaces, The amber beads reflect the particular interest this culture had in this, to them, highly exotic material. The amber is fossilised plant resin, and considered to have been collected on the shores of the Baltic. For a long time it was then distributed far and wide by an ‘Amber Trail’. But eventually its popularity had faded – except for the Crimea area. Here, the elite women continued the ancient tradition of a necklaces strung with amber beads (Curta, 2007).

There were also a pair of striking silver ‘double-plate brooches’ (or ‘fibulae’, ‘двупластинчатых фибул’ in Aibabin and Khairedinova’s report). The wearing of such a pair of brooches, near the shoulders, was also a widespread ‘barbarian’ style across ‘Migration-era’ Europe.

Her attire also included a pair of silver bracelets, a finger-ring. and then something which probably screamed her local-identity and elite-status: a belt with an ‘eagle-headed buckle’ (an ‘орлиноголовой пряжкой’). Aibabin and Khairedinova considered that this buckle had been “in use and repaired for a long time” (translated from the Russian). All in all, they concluded this woman had been buried in the first quarter of the 7th century.

Aibabin and Khairedinova provided a reconstruction of the Burial 4 costume (as their Figure 21), and concluded it was “similar to ethnic costume of the Ostrogoths and Visigoths”. In contrast to some Western interpretations of the paired-fibulae costume, which had them fastening a ‘peplos’, Aibabin and Khairedinova interpreted the Crimean fibulae as fastening a cloak onto a sewn, sleeved garment. This reconstruction is followed here, though the broader issue is food for thought. Aibabin and Khairedinova’s reconstruction suggest that, in addition to one string of amber beads around the neck, another may have hung between the two fibulae. This is also followed here.

One other point – in the broader region and time, artificially deformed skulls were common (Poulianos, 1975; Ivanov, 2003; Mayall and Pilbrow, 2019; Balabanova, 2019.). Since the skull of Burial 4 wasn’t preserved, we don’t know if this was the case. But it remains a possibility.

Her Identity

Aibabin and Khairedinova (2018, see also Khairedinova and Aibabin, 2017), concluded that the woman in Burial 4 appears to have been part of the ‘Gothic-Alan’ community. They appear to have fought with, then mixed with, invading Muslims – the Khazars. Over time, they lost their language and their Gothic identity – and apparently assimilated with Crimean Tartars. The woman in Burial 4, of Crypt 300, Luchistoe, was buried with a range of symbols of her identity. She would have had no idea that a few centuries hence, that her ‘identity’ would have vanished. It’s a sobering reminder that ‘identities’ seem to come and go….

Technical Stuff

The tough part of these digital humans is getting the eyes right, and this one is still far from right…. The posing here was done in DAZ Studio, where a constraint can be set to have each eye look directly at the camera. However, in the Daz to Blender process, once they get to Blender, the eyes are looking elsewhere. So, instead, I lined up the eyes in DAZ, then exported. That seemed to work, but meant I had to line the Blender view with the eyes, which I think are now sighted parallel, rather than converging on the camera.

She also looks like she has chronic insomnia (join the club!) – looks fine in DAZ, but the iRay shader in Blender is too opaque for me to ease off on the red SSS.

Blue lines along the edges of the finger nails, and weird greenish lacrimals were solved by swapping (from what Daz to Blender gives you) the final Mix and BSDF nodes between the Cycles and Eevee Outputs.

The hair was also an issue (It’s the ‘3-in-1 Low Ponytails Hair for Genesis 8 and 8.1 Females’ by outoftouch). Works fine in DAZ, but something happens with the export using Daz to Blender. It seemed to require both a manual (Z-axis) reposition of a few millimetres, as well as setting the Transparent Max Bounces of the Light Paths to 20.

The fine detail on the brooches and the belt buckle use Aibabin and Khairedinova’s ink drawing (I hope they won’t mind) as bump maps.

The scene is lit with an HDRI forest scene (autumn forest 01 by Andreas Mischok on Polyhaven), as well as two light-emitting planes, which give her a couple of catch-lights in her eyes.


Aibabin, A.I., Khairedinova, E.А (Айбабин А.И., Хайрединова Э.А.) 2016. Исследования могильника у села Лучистое в 2015 году. Материалы по археологии, истории и этнографии Таврии. Вып. XXI. 135-173. ( The Excavations of a Cemetery near Luchistoe Village in 2015).

Balabanova, M. A. 2019. Reconsidering the issue of Eastern Migrations in connection with the artificial cranial deformation practices among the Late Sarmatians Social Evolution and History, 18, 191-209.

Curta, F. 2007. The Amber Trail in early medieval Eastern Europe. pp. 61-79, In C. Chazelle and F. Lifshitz (Eds.), Paradigms and Methods in Early Medieval Studies. The New Middle Ages. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

Eger, C. 2005. Zur Verbreitung und Herkunft der Polyederohrringe im südwestlichen Mittelmeerraum. Madrider Mitteilungen, 46, 437-471.

Ivanov, A.V. (Иванов, А. В.) 2003 О практике искусственной деформации головы на территории Крымского полуострова (On the practice of artificial head deformation in the Territory of the Crimean Peninsula). Вестник антропологии, 10, 75-90.

Khairedinova, E.A. (Хайрединова, Э.А.) 2015. Серьги С Литым Неподвижным Многогранникомиз Крыма. Материалы по археологии, истории и этнографии Таврии. Вып. XX. Pp 95-132. ( Earrings with a Cast Immobile Polyhedron in the Crimea).

Khairedinova E. and Aibabin, A.I. 2017, Крымские Готы Страны Дори (Середина Iii – Vii В.) (Crimean Goths in the region of Dory (mid-third to seventh century)).

Mayall, P., and Pilbrow, V. 2019. A review of the practice of intentional cranial modification in Eurasia during the Migration Period (4th – 7th c AD). Journal of Archaeological Science, 105: 19-30.

Poulianos, A.N. 1975. Ancient and Medieval Crimean skulls. Anthropologie, 13, 71-79.

The two authors of the main paper are:

Elzara Aiderovna Khayredinova, Deputy Director of the Institute of Archaeology of Crimea RAS. Candidate of Historical Sciences

Alexander Ilyich Aibabin. Institute of Archaeology of the Crimea Rasv. I. Vernadsky Crimean Federal University


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