Urartu (biblical Kingdom of Ararat or Kingdom of Van) was a prehistoric Iron Age kingdom centred around Lake Van in the Armenian Highlands. Assyrian inscriptions of Shalmaneser I (c. 1274 BC) first mention Uruartri as one of the states of Nairi – a loose confederation of small kingdoms and tribal states in Armenian Highland in the 13th to 11th centuries BC which he conquered. The Nairi states were repeatedly subjected to further attacks and invasions by the Assyrians.
Urartu re-emerged in Assyrian inscriptions in the 9th century BC as a powerful northern rival of Assyria. The Nairi states and tribes became a unified kingdom under king Aramu (c. 860 – 843 BC). It reached its peak of power in the 9th and 8th centuries.
Urartu was eventually conquered by Media in the early 6th century BC and the Urartian Kingdom was replaced by the Armenian Orontid dynasty. It is often argued that the heirs of Urartu are the Armenians and their successive kingdoms.
Skelbo Castle (aka de Buar’s Castle), Highlands, Scotland
Skelbo Castle is located on the high shore at the mouth of Loch Fleet. It was a seat of the de Moravia or Moray family who acquired lands in the area at some date before 1211. The site is complex, with evidence for a number of different building phases. Initially, it seems to have been an earthwork structure, with the natural motte at the north end of the site probably supporting a wooden tower. Over time, the defenses were rebuilt in stone, and the fragmentary hall/keep now standing on the motte probably dates to the 14th century.
In 1529 the castle was bought by William Sutherland of Duffus. Skelbo was occupied by Jacobites during the first half of the 18th century. After the defeat of the Jacobites in 1715, Skelbo was forfeited to the crown. In 1745 the Earl of Cromarty and his Jacobite army occupied Skelbo Castle again before moving on to Dunrobin where they captured and briefly held Dunrobin castle. By 1769 the Castle was in ruins. The baronial title of Skelbo reverted to the Countess of Sutherland in 1804.
Mikhail de Buar (d.2009), was the last owner of the castle and he died without a will. His legacy is now the subject of a major scandal and litigation. He bought the property to receive the title of “baron” but took no part in the upkeep of the castle.
Greco-Scythian gold horseman appliqué, c. 4th century BC
The Scythians were Iranic equestrian tribes who inhabited large areas in the central Eurasian steppes starting with the 7th century BC up until the 4th century AD.
Strabo (c. 63 BC – 24 AD) reports that King Ateas united under his power the Scythian tribes living between the Maeotian marshes and the Danube. His westward expansion brought him into conflict with Philip II of Macedon (r. 359 to 336 BC), who took military action against the Scythians in 339 BC. Ateas died in battle, and his empire disintegrated. In the aftermath of this defeat, the Celts seem to have displaced the Scythians from the Balkans; while in south Russia, a kindred tribe, the Sarmatians, gradually overwhelmed them. In 329 BC Philip’s son, Alexander the Great, came into conflict with the Scythians at the Battle of Jaxartes. A Scythian army sought to take revenge against the Macedonians for the death of Ateas, as they pushed the borders of their empire north and east, and to take advantage of a revolt by the local Sogdian satrap. However, the Scythian army was defeated by Alexander at the Battle of Jaxartes. Alexander did not intend to subdue the nomads: he wanted to go to the south, where a far more serious crisis demanded his attention. He could do so now without loss of face; and in order to make the outcome acceptable to the Saccae, he released the Scythian prisoners of war without ransom in order to broker a peace agreement. This policy was successful, and the Scythians no longer harassed Alexander’s empire.
The applique: Finely modeled in repoussé with chased details, in the form of an archer mounted on horseback, his bow and arrow drawn ready to fire and pointing downwards, depicted mid canter, reigning his horse back whilst it is chomping at the bit, its ears and forelock flat back, its forelegs raised, the archer with long hair, a full neatly cropped beard and wearing a belted shirt and pantaloons, typical Scythian attire, with circle and cross patterns, his boots tied around his ankles, pierced in places for attachment.