Gatineau, November 30, 2006 — Two of the great nomadic cultures in world history are examined side by side for the first time in a major exhibition premiering December 1, 2006 at the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
MASTERS of the Plains: Ancient Nomads of Russia and Canada is the product of a six-year long international research partnership between the CMC and Russia’s Samara Regional Museum (SRM). The exhibition reveals both striking similarities and differences between the ancient bison hunters of the North American Great Plains and the ancient nomadic livestock herders of the vast Eurasian Steppes. Although small in numbers, these hardy and resourceful peoples held dominion over immense tracts of North America, Europe and Asia for a remarkable 5,000 years.
“This project represents the first-ever archaeology and anthropology research partnership of its kind between a Canadian and a Russian museum,” said Victor Rabinovitch, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. “The resulting exhibition reveals previously unknown similarities and differences between cultures that never came into direct contact but developed at the same time on separate continents, in similar grassland environments. It is a fascinating case study, which explains how human societies evolve and how they can be similar in some ways, but very different in others.”
Working in close collaboration, the Museum of Civilization and the Samara Museum developed an exhibition that addresses the cultures of two countries and many peoples. The museums will also co-publish two books based on their research findings.
The cultures examined in MASTERS of the Plains took shape about 5,000 years ago and thrived until modern times, a record of longevity that compares to the great civilizations in history. The nomads’ success was due to their intimate knowledge and sustainable use of the natural environment, as well as their well-honed skills as traders and warriors.
Featuring more than 400 artifacts from Canada and Russia, the exhibition examines everyday life on the ancient grasslands. Among the themes explored are food preparation, sacred ceremonies, artistic expression, trade, housing design, modes of travel, care of children, and methods of warfare.
The exhibition also discusses the end of the nomadic lifestyle — about 300 years ago on the Steppes and 130 years ago on the Plains — brought about by new technology and competition from other peoples and cultures.
Noteworthy artifacts include a 4,000-year-old bronze sickle used by steppe nomads to cut fodder for their livestock; a 3,500-year-old copper spear point used by Prairie hunters; exquisite bone, shell, gold and precious stone jewellery from both regions; iron stirrups and other horse gear invented on the Steppes; richly decorated animal hides and felt clothing; a drum and a stone pipe used in spiritual ceremonies; and a warrior headdress worn at the historic Battle of the Little Big Horn (known popularly as “Custer’s Last Stand”).
Masters of the Plains will have its world premiere at the Canadian Museum of Civilization from December 1, 2006 to September 3, 2007. It will then travel in 2008 to the Samara Regional Museum in Samara, Russia.
Developed by the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Samara Regional Museum, Russia
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