Temple rings, and female headdress of the Eastern Slavs in Rus (Part I)
Peter Beatson - NVG Mikligard
Temple rings (visochnye koltsa) are the most characteristic part of Slavic2 medieval dress to survive in burials, and are so-called because they are located on the skull, near the temples of the deceased woman or girl (Fig. 1). Most were made of base metals - copper alloys or iron, though silver and even gold were occasionally used.
Figure 1 - Severian girl with temple rings, 10th century from Brovarki, Ukraine (from Thrane, 1994). Full details can be found in Part II of this paper.
Figure 2 - Map of central Rus, showing the territories of some East Slavic tribes c. 850-950 (after Mongait, 1959 and Rybakov, 1984). Major towns () of the 11-12th centuries, as well as some of the gravefields and other sites mentioned in the text (), are marked.
Figure 3 - Grave 30 from Starokievska Hill, Kiev early 10th century. Four gold wire rings were found by each temple (only 2 visible here). More details in Part II of this paper (after Karger, 1958).
Figure 4 - Some tribal forms of East Slavic temple rings. 1. Krivichian. 2. Polianian. 3. Novgorodskii (Ilmenskii) Slovenes. 4. Radimichi. 5. Viatichi. 6. Severian. After Avdusin, 1967 and Rusanova, 1966, not all to same scale.
Figure 5 - Temple rings from mounds in Polianian territory, 10-12th cent. (after Rusanova, 1966). 1-11 Finger ring style: 1-2 with butted ends; 3-5 with overlapping ends (6 on leather ?headband); 7-8 with knotted ends; 9-10 with curled ends (similar to Polish temple rings); 11 with glass bead. 11-12 three-bead rings, granulated and filigree decorations.
Figure 6 - Bracelet-style temple rings, (1-3) from the Smolensk-Polotsk region (the Krivitchian homeland), and (4-7) from neighbouring Finno-Ugrian tribes - 4. Meri; 5-6. Cheremis; 7. Muromians. Dating: 11-13th cent., except 3, 10th cent. After Sedov, 1994, except 3, sketch from original. Find sites - 1 - Nedolbitsy; 2 - Fedovo; 3 - Gnezdovo (hoard: silver, and glass paste beads); 4 - Vasilki; 5 & 6 - Veselovsko; 7 - Malyshevo.
Figure 7 - Temple rings. Novinki I and II cemetaries (Vologda oblast, Russia), 11-13th century (Saburova, 1974). 1-2, 6. Finger ring style. 3-5, 7. Krivitchian bracelet-like style. 8-12. Novgorodskii Slovenes style with rhomboidal flattenings. 13-18. Beaded style. Dating: 1. 11-13th cent.; 2-6. 11-12th cent.; 7-18. 12-13th cent.
Figure 8 - Temple rings. Examples from cemetaries near Kostroma (upper Volga), 12-13th century (Riabinin, 1986). 1. Finger ring style. 2-4. Krivitchian bracelet-like style. 5-6. Novgorodskii Slovenes style with rhomboidal flattenings. 7-12. Beaded style. 13. Earring. 14-16. Finnish crescent style. 17. Two wires twisted together. 18. Medium sized ring. Dating: all 11-13th cent. Materials: 11-13. silver; others bronze.
Figure 9 - Early (A: 9-10th cent.) and late (B: 11-12th cent.) forms of seven-bladed temple rings, showing relationships between types, according to Soloveva, 1978: A-1 to B-1, the classic, most common form of Radimichian temple ring; A-2 to B-2, types with hoop continuing onto body; A-3 to B-3, types with blades with pointed ends; A-4 to B-4, types with decorated body and blades, including semicircular proturberances; A-5, type with three balls on tip of blades, evolves into so-called Desne type (B-5), and also into early Viatichian types (B-6 and B-7). A-6 an unusual early type possibly derived from Czech prototypes of the 7-9th cent.; B-8 an unclassifiable type with archaic features from the Smolensk area. Most of the early finds are from buried hoards, and so are of higher quality (silver) and better decoration (granulation) than the late examples- usually grave finds of bronze or billon (low grade silver-copper alloy). Scale approximate.
Figure 10 - Viatichian seven-bladed temple rings from gravefield near Bitiagovo (Moscow oblast, Russia). 1-4 from mound 1, date late 11th- early 12th cent.; 5-7 from mound 17, date late 11th-early 12th cent. 8 from mound 6, date late 13th-early 14th cent. After Rozenfeldt, 1973.
Figure 11 - Spiral Severian temple rings. 1. Gnezdovo, Smolensk oblast, Russia, 10th cent.?; 2. Burial 5 (fragment), Kisnemsko, Vologda oblast, Russia, 10-11th cent.; 3. unknown, silver, 11th cent. From Avdusin, 1967; Golubeva, 1961; sketch after Vasilenko, 1977. Approximate scale only.
Table 1 - Temple rings worn by women in the Starokievska Hill cemetary, Kiev, by type (three bead; so-called Volynsko earring (Polish?); small plain; small ring with single glass bead), * = on right side of the head; ** = on left side; *** = half on left, half on right. Sixteen of the 29 rings are gold or gold alloy, the rest silver. Dates from c.900 to 1000AD. Data Kargev, 1958.
Table 2 - Temple rings worn by women in the Kvetun cemetary bordering Radimichian and Severian territories, by type (seven bladed; multibeaded; single bead; spiral; or small plain), and total numbers. Dating: Mounds 1, 46, 53, & 180 - 10th cent.; mounds 28, 84, & 102 - 10-11th cent.; mounds 6, 25, & 126 - 11th cent.; mound 122 - 11-12th cent. * = 3 on left side, 2 on right. ** = 8x three bead and 2x two bead. Data from Padin, 1976.
Table 3 - Temple rings worn by women in the Bitiagovo cemetary, by type (seven bladed or small plain), side of the head, and total numbers. * = young girl, no rings. B = a single three beaded ring. This Viatichian cemetary was in use from the late 11th to the late 13th century. Data from Rozenfeldt, 1973.
Figure 12 - Mixing of temple rings in two Northern Russian cemetary groups. Number of burials indicated. See Figs. 7 and 8 for examples of the types of temple rings indicated by the symbols. Data from Saburova, 1974 and Riabinin, 1986.
Figure 13 - Examples of the three methods of wearing temple rings discovered at the Novinki graveyards, 11-13th century (Vologda oblast, Russia). After Saburova, 1974; Agapov and Saracheva, 1997.
a, b - Method A (braided in hair): a - Novinki I kurgan 31, 12-13th cent.; b - Novinki I kurgan 76, 12-13th cent. c - Method B (headwear): Novinki I kurgan 17, 12-13th cent. d - Method C (ear piercing): Novinki I kurgan 50, 11-12th cent. e - Preserved remains of an ear with two Viatichian rings, from Stupenki, ?12th cent. (Smolensk oblast, Russia). Thickness of the loops is 2 mm(!).
Notes - Most of these references can be located in the Libraries of the Universities of Sydney and/or Melbourne, or the National Library, Canberra. Transliteration of Cyrillic characters is that used by the US Library of Congress.
Agapov, A.S. and Saracheva, T.G. (1997). O sposobakh nosheniia visochnykh kolets. Rossiyskaia Arkheologiia 1997(1), p.99-108. (English summary).
Avdusin, D.A. (1967). Arkheologiia SSSR. Moscow: Vysshaia Shkola.
Cross, S.H and Sherbowitz-Wetzor, O.P. (1973). The Russian Primary Chronicle: Laurentian Text. Cambridge MA: Medieval Academy of America.
Davidson, G.R. (1952). Corinth: Results of Excavations Conducted by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Vol. XII: The Minor Objects. Princeton NJ: ASCSA.
Franklin, S. and Shepard, J. (1996). The emergence of Rus: 750-1200 (Longman History of Russia, vol. 1). London: Longman.
Golubeva, L.A. (1961). Mogilnik X- serediny XI v. na Belom ozere. Sovietskaia Arkheologiia 1961(1), p.201-215.
Karger, M.K. (1958). Drevnii Kiev, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad: Izdatelstvo Akademii Nauk SSSR.
Mongait, A. (1959). Archaeology in the USSR. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House. Warning: Stalin-era propagandist revision of Russian archaeology, treat with caution.
Padin, V.A. (1976). Kvetunskii drevnerusskii mogilnik. Sovetskaia Arkheologiia 1976(1), p.197-210.
Riabinin, E.A. (1986). Kostromskoe povolzhe v epochy srednevekovr. Leningrad: Nauka.
Rozenfeldt, R.L. (1973). Raskopki kurganov u.s. Bitiagovo v 1968-1970 gg. Sovetskaia Arkheologiia 1973(1), p.192-199. (French summary).
Rybakov, B.A. (1971). Russkoe prikladnoe iskusstvo X-XIII vekov / The Russian Applied Art of Tenth-Thirteenth Centuries. Leningrad: Aurora Art Publishers. (Russian/English dual text).
Rusanova, I.P. (1966). Kurgany polian X-XII vv. Moscow: Nauka.
Rybakov, B. (1984). Kievan Rus. Moscow: Progress.
Saburova, M.A. (1974). Zhenskii golovnoi ubor u slavian (po materialem Vologodskoi ekspeditsii). Sovetskaia Arkheologiia 1974(2), p.85-97. (French summary).
Secret Treasures of Russia (1992). Catalogue of the Australian exhibition, March-October 1992. Sydney: Art Exhibitions Australia Ltd.
Sedov, V.V. (1994). Iz etnicheskoi istorii naseleniia srednei polosy Vostochnoi Evropy vo vtoroi polovine i tysiacheletiia n. e. Sovetskaia Arkheologiia 1994(2), p.56-70. (English summary).
Soloveva, G.F. (1978). Semiluchevye visochnye koltsa. In: T.V. Nikolaeva (Ed.) Drevniaia Rus i Slaviane, p.171-178. Moscow: Nauka.
Stahlsberg, A. (1996). Varangian women in Old Rus: Who were they? In: Kvinne i arkeologi i Norge, 21, p.83-101 (conference proceedings).
Thrane, Henrik (1994). Steppens nomader - skovens bønder: Ukraines arkhæologi i 2000 år (900 f. Kr - 1240). Odense: Fyns Oldtid, Hollufgård. (English summary).
Thompson. M.W. (1967). Novgorod the Great: Excavations at the Medieval City Directed by A.V. Artsikovsky and B.A. Kolchin. London: Evelyn, Adams & MacKay.
Tkach, Y. (1986). History of Ukrainian Costume. Melbourne: Bayda Books.
Vasilenko, V.M. (1977). Russkoe prikladnoe iskusstvo: istoki i stanovlenie. I vek do nashei ery - XIII vek nashei ery. Moscow: Iskusstvo.
1 Owing chiefly to my illiteracy in Russian, but also to the somewhat limited range of sources obtainable this paper cannot claim to be more than an uncritical and haphazard treatment of the subject, and all resultant misinterpretations of the sources are my responsibility. My aims were to present some impressions about the dating, distribution and typology of temple rings, as well as examples of how these and other head ornaments were worn in pre-Mongol Rus. I encourage others to correct and improve on my work. PB.
2 Apart from the Eastern Slav cultures that formed Rus, temple rings were worn by other Slav peoples, and also Finnic and Baltic tribes. PB.
3 Readers of this paper would benefit from some familiarity with the early history of Russia, alas even a brief coverage is beyond its scope. The interested reader is referred to the recent excellent and easily available work of Franklin and Shepard (1996). PB.
4 Sedov, 1994.
5 Thompson, 1967.
6 For the symbology of temple rings, refer to Rybakov (1971) - also recommended for clear closeup photographs of many kinds of early Russian ornaments. PB.
7 Riabinin, 1986. Possibly these rings were hollow so they would tinkle when worn in sets? PB.
8 Avdusin, 1967, from which infomation on tribal affiliation and temple rings is chiefly drawn.
9 Sedov, 1994.
10 Sedov, 1994.
11 Saburova, 1974.
12 Avdusin, 1967.
13 Cross and Sherbowitz-Wetzor, 1973.
14 Soloveva, 1978.
15 Data from Rusanova, 1966.
16 Such as in Corinth, see Davidson (1952) who in fact leans towards the idea of a Northern style being brought to Greece!
17 See, for examples, Secret Treasures of Russia (1992).
18 Avdusin, 1967. I have not found actual examples of Derevlian and Dregovichian temple rings. PB.
19 Stahlsberg, 1996.
20 Avdusin, 1967.
21 Two examples: The remaining 6% of temple rings from Kostroma (see above) were a mix, and some came from non-neighbouring tribes: Krivitchi (1.8%), Slovenes (1.8%), 3-bead (2.4%), and Finnish (0.1%) styles: Riabinin, 1986. In the 10-12th century Polianian graves (Rusanova, 1966) probably 90% of temple rings were small loops; the breakdown of the remaining 75 or so rings was - three bead (28%), one bead (9%), Radimichian 49%, (Severian?) spiral (12%), and Ilmensky Slovene (1%).
22 Franklin and Shepherd, 1996.
23 In Kostroma, most graves had 2 to 6 small rings, but 13% had as many as 10-20 rings: Riabinin, 1986.
24 Saburova, 1974.
25 Agapov and Saracheva, 1997. The examples were from northern areas of Rus, dating 11-13th centuries.
26 Saburova, 1974.
27 Tkach, 1986.
N. Ristovska Temple pendants in medieval Rus: How were they worn? in: C. Entwhistle & N. Adams (eds.) Intelligible Beauty: Recent research on Byzantine jewellery (British Museum research publication no. 178). British Museum: London 2010, p.203-11. (ISBN 9780861591787).The author takes another look at burials with temple rings (like Novinki, which I have written about here), and also covers a lot of material I planned to discuss in Part 2. Available from the British Museum, or through Oxbow Books.
B.A. Kolchin, T.E. Makarova, ARKHEOLOGIIA. Drevniaia Rus: bit i kultura. Rossiiskaia Akademiia Nauk Institut Arkheologii. Publisher Nauka, Moscow 1997. ISBN 5020101745.
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Webbed by Peter Beatson, 1999. Updated 2012.
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