British Museum displays 2,000-year-old face of mummified Scythian warrior for first time

Shehab Khan
Scythians were feared warriors: State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

The 2,000-year-old face of a mummified Scythian warrior is being displayed for the first time at the British Museum.

The face, concealed by a clay mask, was the subject of a range of scans made in St Petersburg, which revealed it had fine teeth, a pierced ear and a ginger moustache.

It also indicated there was a hole in the skull where the brain had been removed and a wound which originally ran from the eye socket to the jaw but had been stitched together.

The head is now on show at the British Museum and the scans were completed and processed so recently they were seen for the first time in London.

The original head, from a tomb in Oglakhty, Russia (State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg/ V Terebenin)

The Scythians were exceptional horsemen and warriors, and feared adversaries and neighbours of the ancient Greeks, Assyrians and Persians between 900 and 200 BC.

The CT scan showed a terrible scar on his right cheek which was expertly stitched (State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg)

The BP exhibition Scythians: Warriors of ancient Siberia also has loans from the new National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Ashmolean and the Royal Collection in the UK.

Hartwig Fischer, director of the British Museum, said: “We are delighted to be collaborating with the State Hermitage Museum on such a generous loan of Scythian objects and look forward to welcoming these important loans, and objects from other lenders, to London, to bring the extraordinary history of the Scythians to life.”

The exhibition has a range of pieces including gold jewellery, wooden drinking bowls, and a highly decorated leather bag containing remarkably well-preserved lumps of cheese that are over 2,000 years old.

It is open until 14 January.