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Unique 2,000-year-old statuette of dancing man, likely made in Northern India, dug up in Siberia

By Anna Liesowska, Svetlana Skarbo
26 April 2021

Mystery how the bronze dancer, his arms raised in an ecstatic trance, reached modern-day Novosibirsk region.

Currently the Indian dancer can only be seen on pictures and video, because its owner does not wish to share the discovery with the public. Picture: Vesti Novosibirsk 

A ten-centimetre-tall figurine was found during excavations for a new bridge across Ob River in Novosibirsk, Russia’s third most populous city.

The precious discovery, described by archaeology expert Andrey Borodovsky as ‘one of the most significant’ ever made in the region, came after bulldozers started digging at a construction site of the forth bridge across the Ob.

It is the narrowest part of the mighty, wide Siberian river, the world’s seventh longest, and was used as a crossing point by travellers in the deep past. 

Likely the little dancer was left on the river bank as a sacrifice to water spirits to ensure a safe crossing.

Likely, too, that on its journey from India to Siberia it changed several hands.  

Unique 2,000-year-old statuette of dancing man, ‘made in Northern India’, dug up in Siberia 


Unique 2,000-year-old statuette of dancing man, ‘made in Northern India’, dug up in Siberia 


Unique 2,000-year-old statuette of dancing man, ‘made in Northern India’, dug up in Siberia 
Dr Borodovsky, who was reached by a middleman, said that negotiations to arrange the statuette to be passed to a museum so far were unsuccessful. Pictures: Andrey Borodovsky, The Siberian Times


So far nothing is known of how or when the bronze dancer came to be in the heart of Siberia. 

‘The statuette’s alloy (62.1 per cent copper, 15.3 per cent tin, 15.2 per cent lead and 7.4 per cent zinc) is very different from modern bronze, and is the closest to antique bronzes.

'The dancer is male, since there is no clearly-defined breast, and he is shown in a moment of an ecstatic or religious trance,’ explained Andrey Borodovsky, the only scientist who was allowed to see the statuette, and who ran a series of tests to verify its authenticity.

Currently the Indian dancer can only be seen on pictures and video, because its owner does not wish to share the discovery with the public.

Dr Borodovsky, who was reached by a middleman, said that negotiations to arrange the statuette to be passed to a museum so far were unsuccessful.

Unique 2,000-year-old statuette of dancing man, ‘made in Northern India’, dug up in Siberia 


Unique 2,000-year-old statuette of dancing man, ‘made in Northern India’, dug up in Siberia 


Unique 2,000-year-old statuette of dancing man, ‘made in Northern India’, dug up in Siberia 
Unique 2,000-year-old statuette of dancing man, likely made in Northern India, dug up in Siberia. Pictures: Vesti Novosibirsk, Andrey Borodovsky


The dancing man is shown leaning right, with the statuette’s broken arms raised in the air and head tilted to the left and down, as if the sculptor tried to show a moment of the dancer twirling counter-clockwise, possibly during a whirling dance.

This could have been one of those ecstatic dances known in Oriental practice as a way for priests or worshippers to communicate with a deity.

The man was portrayed wearing a spacious shirt with draping over his shoulder, which could have been made from thin silk, a shirt-like hem and a long belt.

‘I see the tilt of the head as something similar to what Semazen dervishes did when they danced. They tilted heads to the left to put pressure on the carotid artery, which then led to them getting into trance while whirling. The man also has a dot on the forehead, which we see in golden toreutics of Afghanistan,’ said Dr Borodovsky.

He believes that the dancer was most likely made in Northern India around 2,100 years ago, and that it was a part of a bigger composition, possibly a circular ritual table with several dancers placed along its edges.

The dancing man is shown leaning right, with the statuette’s broken arms raised in the air and head tilted to the left and down, as if the sculptor tried to show a moment of the dancer twirling counter-clockwise, possibly during a whirling dance. Pictures: Andrey Borodovsky

Unique 2,000-year-old statuette of dancing man, ‘made in Northern India’, dug up in Siberia 


Unique 2,000-year-old statuette of dancing man, ‘made in Northern India’, dug up in Siberia 


Unique 2,000-year-old statuette of dancing man, ‘made in Northern India’, dug up in Siberia 

Comments (2)

maybe as -trade- or -exchange - goods via the Silk Road?
Benedikt MORAK, Russia
22/06/2021 09:34
0
0
Hello, how intriguing. I'm from Sweden, and this news instantly reminds me of the Helgö Buddha, the similar-sized bronze seated buddha statue discovered just outside Stockholm in the 1950s, dated to the 6th century AD and found with other exotic items brought from Egypt and Ireland - testimonies to long-distance exchange networks. Your find in Siberia indicates that such networks have existed long before.
There are many pictures of the Helgö Buddha online. One of the best academic comparative discussions of the possible origins in Gandhara areas of Afghanistan-India-Pakistan, is: Gyllensvärd, Bo. “The Buddha Found at Helgö.” In: _Excavations at Helgö, Vol. XVI, Exotic and Sacral Finds from Helgö_. Stockholm: The Royal Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, 2004, pp. 11-27.
Hope to see more published on this statuette from Siberia.
Magnus Fiskesjö, Ithaca, New York
01/05/2021 07:22
12
2
1

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