The Many Lives of a Silver Saiga

silver rhyton in the shape of a saiga antelope head; 6th to 8th century CE, northeastern Iran or Central Asia; found in Khoniakiv, Ukraine, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 47.100.82 [image credit: author’s own photograph] / featured image in link: Brummer Archive Inventory Card, N1144 (Recto), [image credit: the Metropolitan Museum of Art]

The Many Lives of a Silver Saiga: A Biography of the Khoniakiv Silver Hoard

This essay traces the later lives of a saiga rhyton now housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as three other silver vessels buried alongside it in a hoard in the village of Khoniakiv (Хоняків), in the Slavuts’kyi Region (Славутський Район) of the Khmel’nyts’ka Province (Хмельницька Область) of present-day Ukraine.

Over 100 years ago Polish archaeologist Professor Piotr Ignacy Bieńkowski (1865–1925) began researching this same question about the later lives of the objects belonging to the Khoniakiv silver hoard. Though Bieńkowski published a short summary of his research in the Bulletin international de l’Académie polonaise des sciences et des lettres, he did not publish his complete research before his death in 1925. His wife Lucyna Emilia Bieńkowska (1876–1937) offered his extensive notes to the Institute of Archaeology of the Jagiellonian University, Kraków, then under the direction of Professor Stanisław Jan Gąsiorowski (1897–1962). The department then posthumously published his research in 1929 in Światowit, an annual publication of the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Warsaw since 1899. In this essay, I recount and build on Bieńkowski’s extensive research. More documents and archives have since become accessible, which help to fill in some earlier gaps, and I also bring the history of these objects up to present-day, year 2020.

This article will be included in a Festschrift honoring the life and work of Dr. Prudence Oliver Harper.