Sunday, October 17, 2021

Gold of the Great Steppe at the Fitzwilliam Museum

It's been a big week for venturing out again, first to the ballet and today to Cambridge and the Fitzwilliam for the Gold of the Great Steppe exhibition. It'll also probably be the last venturing out for a while as I could really do without Covid and I'm not loving the number of people who have abandoned masks altogether now. Very noticeable as we accidentally hit Cambridge the day a half marathon was being run (it was chaos with nightmare parking) which meant the pavements were extra crowded - to the point that even being outside felt overwhelming at times. Never mind that on a packed park and ride bus only about a quarter of us wore masks. 

At least inside the exhibition numbers were carefully controlled, there was an expectation of mask-wearing, and the layout both neatly divided people and kept them moving. It also meant that we had no idea what treasure would be revealed next as we worked our way through and the element of surprise was brilliant. 

I can't recommend this exhibition highly enough - if you get the chance go and see it. Entry needs to be booked but is free, and the exhibits are fabulous. I knew nothing about the Saka people (and due to mistakenly assuming the exhibition catalogue would be easy to buy elsewhere my big regret of the day is I decided not to get one and carry it around with me). 

A lot of these finds are fairly recent (within the last decade as well as being from a culture little known outside of Kazakhstan) which adds both to the element of surprise - who knew this was out there? And the general sense of awe that a lot of treasure will produce. There are other wow moments that I've just deleted descriptions of because frankly, they would be spoilers, but I will share a picture of the exhibit that really got me.

It's thousands of tiny gold beads no more than a millimetre across heaped together. The skill to make these, never mind a needle fine enough to thread them onto clothes is mind-boggling. The way they glowed under the lighting as if they were their own light source was also magical. There are bigger items that looked more impressive in the moment, but these speak of another level of skill and wealth. They're the thing I went back for another look at and broke my don't take pictures in exhibitions habit for (it's annoying for the people around you and doesn't encourage you to look properly).

On until the end of January - go if you can Gold of the Great Steppe


  1. That sounds like the treasures are sensational, with the gold seeming to glow warmly. The unmasked crowds are a deterrent to me in going out and about.

  2. I don't understand it. It's great to be able to do more things now, but it's only going to work with decent precautions. Inside the exhibition felt okay, outside not so much. I don't like wearing a mask, I don't suppose anybody does, but for those of us who can it's a small inconvenience.