Ludy Europy Wschodniej

The set of ornaments used by the Polovtsians of both sexes has been reconstructed well, due to the images on the anthropomorphic steles and the analysis of the material, coming mainly form the sepulchral sites. The richness and diversity of items used or being ornaments gives an image of the rich world of the Polovtsian material culture.


Depending on the social status, women had a richer or poorer collection of jewelry, consisting of various kinds of earrings, bracelets, coins, as well as necklaces, badges, clips, amulets, beads, caftan and shoe decorations and also, “horns” that were a typically Polovtsian headdress.

„Horns” and head-gear

In medieval Europe, „horns” were an kind of ornament used only in the environment of the Polovtsians, known from many statues and imaged as twisted and surrounding the woman’s face. “Horns”, attached in different ways to the cap, which is illustrated by the steles perfectly. In some cases, a woman was wearing two pairs of “horns”.

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0077 Donieck 2007-8
Headgear and „horns”   

“Horns” underline the oval shape of face   

The head-gear category contains also earrings, chains and diverse badges, attached to the headdress. The earrings were image on the status as massive rings. In some cases, the lower part of it was enlarged. It was probably a schematic representation of a bead. The earrings with a two-conical enlargement just near the ear were meant to image the Polovtsian type earrings. The earrings on the steles were also presented as small oval blades with beads, installed with an additionally twisted line or a chain, to the ribbon on the temples. They were also imaged as massive, open rings, with a cone-like badge.

Round small metal blades, attached to a ribbon around the temple that hung, reaching to the cheeks were carved on one of the steles. Perhaps that in his manner, the artist wanted to image “kołty”.

The remains of these “horns”, found in the graves, were slightly curved small metal blades or rings, made of bronze, silver and seldom of gold, though they were often gilded. Some rings were richly inlaid. The traces of the holding constructions were tubes of leather, often decorated with brocade, or slightly curved tubes, made of wood or wire and covered with material, on which the ornaments were installed. Small blades or rings, for that matter, were connected with such semi-precious stones as (turquoise, lazurite, carnelian, coral). In some cases, the constructions were more complex (“fish scales” type). It is possible, that boar tusks were used as “natural horn structures”. These items, beside their ornamental role, had a magical significance, linked to an ancient and widespread cult of the ram, a symbol of a feminine deity of fertility, fecundation and prosperity. The anthropological research on the bone remains, “horns” were worn by women from 25 to 35 year old.

7-3 (Skarby Doniecczyzny)
   Polovtsian type earrings (Yasinovataya,   
Starobeshivskyi raion, Donetsk Oblast)   

One of the sings of the female burials were the earrings, described in Russian literature as: earrings in shape of a question mark – „серьги в виде знака вопроса”. They were imaged on the statues as open rings, with a cone-like ending. They were made of bronze, silver or gold. In some cases, the rods were decorated with pearl or turquoise beads at the end. The pieces of the grave inventory, relevant to the massive rings on the status were, so-called „височныe кольцa”. The „височные кольца” of the Polovtsians were identified as flat, massive rings by some researchers, while the others use this term to refer to the Polovtsian type earrings.

The Polovtsian type earrings were rings, adorned with two semi-spheres or two cut cones, attached to each other and decorated with granulation. These elements were adorned with oval-polished, semi-precious, stones, placed in sockets and decorated with filigree and granulation. They occur very seldom in the graves of the women of high social status.

A great majority of the finds of this category were earrings in form of massive rings, made of silver or gold, mostly of a wire of round section, twisted 1,5 rounds. Tape or bronze tube were used much less frequently. In some cases, rectangular badges or small circles-beads, were attached to the lower part of the ring. Earrings of birch bark, covered with, for example, a pearl application, were an untypical ornament. The relationships with the courts of Ruthenian princes were shown by the “kołty”, a product of the Ruthenian jewelers, found in the graves of the Polovtsians.

It needs to be mentioned, that in female burial, near the head of the dead, various other small ornaments, which could be installed on the earrings, sewed or attached to e.g.: ribbons, caps or scarves, were found. These were diverse stones, small blades, beads and bells.

Neck ornaments and other rim ornaments
0112 (Donieck 2007-8)
Two carved hryvnias and a necklace
with rhomboid beads.

The statues present women, with necks adorned by necklaces with badges. These badges had different shapes, mostly square or trapezoid. Triangle, square, rhomboid and round amulets or amulet cases, hanged on strap or ribbon were another kind of ornaments.

The most popular type of neck ornaments were the hryvnias – flat or convexed, worn one, two or three a time. On one of the preserved statues, a woman wearing two convexed hryvnias, a necklace with rhomboid badges also had a round pendant adorned with lines on the edge, hanged on a ribbon (a solar shield?). In several cases, the only ornaments visible on the steles, are the hryvnias.

The images of women were adorned with different combinations of necklaces, made of rectangular, trapezoid and rhomboid beads-badges. The beads also were round, triangle or square. In some cases, it may be said with a lot of probability, that a necklace was made of connected twigs of coral. Interesting in the matter of shape, the badges-boxes for amulets, were imaged in form of a square attached to a rhombus, in form of two rhombuses, or in form of a small round blades, adorned apparently with beads.

The hryvnias were found in the grave frequently enough. They were made of wires, round or rectangular in section, made of bronze, iron, silver and rarely of gold. They were often silverplated.

Singular badges were represented by: an amber pendant, a silver badge, a badge of coral, a lazurite badge, clink-badges and bronze and silver amulet boxes.

Necklaces of beads and badges, made of semi-precious stones: agate, carnelian, the Polovtsian favourite, lazurite, and also of amber and twigs of coral, were ornaments very frequently found in graves. Necklaces were also made of glass and metal beads (e.g.: lead beads, covered with bronze foil).

The so-called tamaxa, was a unique neck ornament, the only known so far and mentioned in the literature necklace, made of a curved bronze rod, covered with leather. In the lower part of the cover, trapezoid and petal-like badges, made of lazurite and coral twigs interchangeably, were placed. The clip was made of pearl bows, installed on the edge of the leather cover. The tamaxa was discovered at the Kamienka site, during the exploration of a rich sub-kurgan burial of a couple of Polovtsian aristocrats.

In many cases, it is difficult to define, if the items on the wrists of the characters, imaged on the anthropomorphic steles, are bracelets or sleeve trimmings. Bracelets were not frequently found in the burial inventories. They were usually made of thin, silver wire, of glass.

Seldom were the bronze, silver or golden rings, in some cases with glass stones, found in feminine burials. The stone of one of the rings discovered had a carved adornment, possibly a family tamga, on it.

Dress adornments

The dress adornments category contains small blades, beads, badges and applications of various types, made of metal or glass and used to adorn the caftans. The fragments of sleeves had a hem of, e.g.: a silver thread with beads. The hooks, used to install the sleeves and the applications adorned with filigree, relief and glass additions, were sewed on the caftans. Metal badges and beads of different kinds, were seldom used to adorn shirts and caftans. Sometimes, brooches, clinkers, or amulets (bone or metal shields and mountain crystal lenses), sewed upon dress were found. Metal balls of silver, bronze or small buckles were used to pull the lanyards of the caftan. Details of footwear and adorned belt forges were more frequently found in grave.

Leather belts were adorned with metal forges and fastened by a metal buckle, often rich adorned with relieves, made of iron and copper. Sometimes beads were sewed on the belts as well.

Ceremonial dress was decorated with small blades and beads.


In the male burial discovered so far, many fragments of bottom and top layer dress and all kinds of head-gear and neck ornaments have been conserved, of which the images have been known to the researchers earlier from the statues. A comparative analysis of the details of both sources confirmed the proficiency of the artists in showing the true appearance of the people presented.

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Warrior's braid – detail   

Visible ornament of helm's band    
and massive ring shaped earring    

Due to the statue images, the hairdressing methods of the Polovtsian warriors may be reconstructed. Long hair was shaped into plaits – usually three – which hanged freely along the back. In some cases, they were shaped into one plait, by a decorative buckle. The images are known, in which the warrior has one plait in the back, or in the side of the head, loose freely to the back. The ends of the plaits were placed in small covers.

The finds of buckles and covers made of birch bark, placed near the arms of the buried men proved that these items were used to pin hair (sometimes hair was also found in these covers). Among these grave finds, unique ornaments, which are silk sweatbands, adorned with small silver blades, inlaid with glass and amber, on the head of a buried aristocrat, probably khan Tigac, deserves attention. The head of the dead person was adorned with a silk tassel with rings at the ends of the string. These items were seemingly used to dress hair in plaits.

Neck ornaments and other rim ornaments
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Gold pendant in drop form - necklace parts,   
a torded hryvnia, two bracelets of twisted wire,   
two rings (Novoivanovka, Donetsk Oblast);   
a Polovtsian type earring, pads - horns’ parts   
(Filatovka, Krasnoperekopskyi Region,   
Symferopolskyi District).   

To the category of ornaments rarely imaged on masculine anthropomorphic steles, belong the flat hryvnias, used as neck ornaments. More common were the badges, amulet cases and earrings in ring shape, as well as massive bracelets, worn on the wrists.

The earrings belong to the ornaments, commonly appearing in the masculine burials. They were usually shaped as rings of gold, silver and bronze. The warriors were wearing „височные кольца” and earrings in form of an question mark, made of gold, silver and bronze.

The Polovtsians used badges made of gold and silver. One of the buried warriors was equipped with an amber badge, interpreter as an amulet, protecting from the „evil eye”. In other burials, the following items have been discovered: an amulet of raw iron, set in gold or an amulet of glass, set in a silver wire. A unique chain of electrum is known to be found as a neck ornament of a Polovtsian aristocrat.

A rare find were rings – made of gold or in form of a rolled up silver foil.

Dress adornments

The caftans were adorned with metal or brocade applications and in some cases, also pearls. The caftans were fastened by bronze balls, bone clasps and buckles, frequently adorned with a relief ornament. Metal hooks, clinkers and lanyards, which were attached by, for example, bone buckles.

Among the adornments sewed on the dress, there were diverse metal applications, as well as metal and bone balls, glass, bone and silver beads. Small bells of bronze, silver and rarely gold, were also commonly sewed on dress.

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0098 Donieck 2007-8
Ceremonial caftan adornments (details)   

Ceremonial caftan adornments (details)   

As it was believed, the belt was where a soul was sealed, which protected man from evil and hardship. It was forbidden to lose it, sale it or give it away. After the owner’s death, the ceremonial and utility belts were deposed into the grave with him.

Ceremonial leather belts had forges made of small metal blades, adorned with the favourite floral or zoomorphic decoration, showing dynamic images, as: water birds or predators. The buckles also belonged to the decorative elements. They were made of bronze, copper, iron and rarely of silver. Other ornamental elements were the forges and rings, adorning the belts and straps, used to hold lanyards and made of iron, of bronze and rarely, of silver.

On a perfectly conserved ceremonial belt, discovered in a rich burial at the Olień-Kołodiez site, a silver buckle was adorned with an image of two adult and two young badgers, playing in waving grass. The silver forge of the end of the belt, an adult badger, with his jaws turned towards two young badgers, biting his tail.

A somewhat poorer type of adornment have been found in other masculine burials. These were lead tapes, covered with foil of electrum and attached to the strap of the belt, or silver-lead covers with the motif of flower. The burials that have also been discovered, contained also ceremonial belts, made of silk, with silver and gold blades forges.

Men boots were often adorned with glass beads and golden or gilded bronze blades.

An interesting find was a leather, studded with small, copper plates mask, covering the face of the dead.


Gołębiowska-Tobiasz A.
2004 - „Inwentarze grobowe a stele antropomorficzne u Połowców”, Katalog – and further sources there. Master Theses, no. 339, stored at IAUJ (The Institute of Archaeology at the Jagiellonian University).