A gold pectoral worth $ 1 billion – where is it?

Why is the pectoral so interesting?

The Museum of Historical Values of Ukraine hosts an exhibition featuring the famous golden pectoral found in the Tolstoy Mohyla mound.

The pectoral chest is made of high quality gold and weighs 1 kilogram 150 grams. There are traces of enamel on some details.

The Scythian gold pectoral is valued at $ 1 billion. The cost estimate of the pectoral is approximate. For many years, the amount ranged from 10 to 25 million dollars. But, experts point out that its value could reach 1 billion.

A gold pectoral worth $ 1 billion - where is it?

The pectoral contains sculptural images of 160 objects – figures of people and animals, ornaments, plaits and clips were made separately, and then assembled into a composition. Some of them were lost before the ornament was placed in the grave. This indicates that they were used for their intended purpose – worn on the chest.

The story of how the world found one of the greatest treasures on June 21, 1971 at 2:30 p.m., deserves special attention.

Fifty years ago, on June 21, 1971, archaeologist Boris Mozolevsky found a golden pectoral during a study of the Scythian mound Tolstoy Mogila. This is almost the most famous archaeological find in Ukraine, made Mozolevsky famous far beyond the professional circle and gradually began to grow myths.

Scythians and their “pyramids”

The Scythians lived in Ukraine from the 7th to the 3rd century BC. There is no consensus among researchers as to where exactly the homeland of the Scythians was. But we know for sure that in the 7th century BC they came to the territory of modern Ukraine from the east. And it was here, in its steppes, that the people reached their greatest prosperity.

The Scythians inhabited the area from the Danube in the west to the Don in the east. In the third century, they disappeared from the historical arena, and were replaced by the Sarmatians.

One of the most famous Scythian customs was to build large mounds of earth over burials. In such pyramids, modern archaeologists find valuable things that help to learn about the culture, way of life, religion, habits of the Scythians. Also, for many centuries, the mounds have attracted robbers who hunt for gold.

How to find a pectoral

In June 1971, archaeologist Boris Mozolevsky went on a scientific expedition to the town of Ordzhonikidze (now Pokrov) to study the mounds of Scythian burials. It is worth noting that the Tolstoy tomb began to be explored in the 60’s, but then they decided that it was not Scythian and lost all interest in it.

A gold pectoral worth $ 1 billion - where is it?

Археолог Борис Мозолевский держит в руках оригинал скифской пекторали, найденной им в кургане Толстая могила
Фото: Владимир Жлуденко/Википедія

But the young archaeologist Mozolevsky did not pay attention to the conclusions of his predecessors and insisted on detailed excavations of the mound. The archaeologist was right – at a depth of 8 meters underground, scientists have discovered the tomb of the royal family. Although the mound had already been partially looted, it contained innumerable treasures.

Here is how Boris Mozolevsky described his emotions when he discovered the pectoral: “I saw how gold shone, and with some unknown feeling I realized that this was it: the thing was big and clearly lying in its original place, not moved by robbers. For a moment I was stunned.

Later, UNESCO recognized the find as “one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of mankind in the twentieth century.” Pectoral has visited exhibitions and universities in Germany, America, France and other countries.

Golden pectoral, 10 interesting facts

1. The name “pectoral” was suggested by Evgeny Chernenko, a member of the expedition. Mozolevsky liked the idea, so the name took root.

2. Even a close look will not immediately detect two pairs of grasshoppers at the ends of the ornament; in addition, it turned out that they have differences. The figures are made so precisely that scientists distinguish between females and males. But some scientists believe that it is a locust, as grasshoppers were not of interest to the Scythians.

3. Three of the four main harnesses are hollow. The two halves are connected with such high-quality adhesive that the seam cannot be seen with the naked eye.

A gold pectoral worth $ 1 billion - where is it?

4. The figures on the pectoral are bas-relief, not completely three-dimensional. This is done in order to reduce the weight of the jewelry.

5. The flowers on the middle tier were first covered with blue enamel. But over time, the paint cracked and faded. The restorers decided to leave the original completely gold.

6. The pectoral was actively used by its owner. This is evidenced by the traces of repairs on the left side of the decoration and the replaced hare figurine.

7. The plot depicted on the pectoral is still unsolved. According to the calculations of the scientist Lyubov Klochko, there are 23 scientific hypotheses that explain only the central scene of the upper frieze – two Scythians holding a golden fleece.

A gold pectoral worth $ 1 billion - where is it?

8. “To date, all possibilities for further interpretations of the plot have been exhausted,” sums up the famous Scythologist Yuri Boltrick. “Unless a new find of another Scythian masterpiece can bring us closer to the truth.”

9. The Kiev pectoral is not the only one in the whole world. During excavations of the Bolshaya Bliznitsa mound in Russia, they found a similar thing. This decoration is smaller, consists of one tier, there are no images of people on it. It is believed to have belonged to a priestess.

10. In November 2018, a bronze sculpture of the pectoral appeared on Khreshchatyk. It complements the series of mini-sculptures of the “Look!” Project. Scythian jewelry can be found at Khreshchatyk, 15, in the arch of the Kiev Passage, closer to Maria Zankovetskaya Street.

A gold pectoral worth $ 1 billion - where is it?

Where to see pectoral

An exhibition dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the golden pectoral opened on July 30. The exhibits of the exhibition tell about the expedition, during which they found a Scythian pectoral. The findings of 1971 were placed in the windows according to the chronology of excavations – what was found earlier, what – later. Excerpts from Boris Mozolevsky’s diary, photos from the excavations and the inventory of antiquities seekers will take you to the excavation site and help you feel like a real archaeologist.

The pectoral is exhibited in the reserve “Kiev-Pechersk Lavra” at st. Lavrskaya, 9, building 12. Entrance to the reserve through the main gate. The exhibition will be open to visitors until October 31.

So far, the golden pectoral has not revealed all its secrets and is being studied by scientists from around the world. Perhaps in a few years it will become clear exactly who made this masterpiece of jewelry, to whom it belonged and what significance the Scythians attached to it. For now, all that remains is to admire this work of art and build theories about how such an elegant thing could have appeared 2400 years ago.


Oleksandr Panchenko
Blogger, influencer, author, founder of Lacity Ukraine

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