Fascinating detail on the depiction of an intriguing era.
The Pontic steppe, land known to the ancient Greeks as Scythia, now modern Ukraine, has played a crucial role in the development of civilisation throughout Europe and beyond. It’s believed to have been where the Indo-European languages originated around 6-7 millennia ago, the area where the horse was domesticated, and the site of origin of the wheel and carts. Fast forward a few thousand years, and the lands on the banks of major rivers like the Dnipro (Dneiper) were populated by a group we now associate more with Russia: Cossacks, the subject of this weekend’s paintings.
No one is too sure when the Cossacks first arrived, but from the early thirteenth century they seem to have started occupying the land on both sides of the Dnipro. Initially, they were mainly nomadic hunters who preyed on merchants travelling on the trade routes crossing the steppe. By the end of the fifteenth…
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