Sunday 31 October 2021

Gold of the Great Steppe at the Fitzwilliam Museum: Curator's preview

Rebecca Roberts introduces Gold of The Great Steppe, the first UK exhibition of recently excavated 2,700 year-old gold artefacts unearthed in remote burial mounds of East Kazakhstan. The Saka culture of Central Asia, flourishing from the 8th-3rd centuries BCE, was part of the Scythian world that dominated the Eurasian steppe zone from the Black Sea to Siberia. Located in the Altai mountain system, the Saka of East Kazakhstan were a vibrant society that occupied a landscape of open skies, rolling plains, winding rivers, creeping marshes, and soaring mountains.   Based on discoveries made during an ongoing programme of excavation by archaeologists in the East Kazakhstan region, many of the artefacts were unearthed during the pandemic. They represent the resilience and determination of Kazakhstani archaeologists to protect and document their heritage, which is under threat from looting and degradation due to climate change.    This exhibition is a partnership between the East Kazakhstan Regional Museum of Local History and the University of Cambridge. It will bring to the UK and display Kazakhstani archaeological finds and research from three different burial complexes in East Kazakhstan: Berel, Shilikti and Eleke Sazy.    The show places archaeological finds discovered in the last three years by Kazakh archaeologists on a western global stage for the first time, amplifying voices that often go unheard in UK museums.

Friday 11 September 2020

Rebuilding Anatolia after the Mongol Conquest

Rebuilding Anatolia after the Mongol Conquest: Islamic Architecture in the Lands of Rum, 1240–1330 

(Birmingham Byzantine and Ottoman Studies) Hardcover / Paperback/ Kindle

Wednesday 9 September 2020

Islam, Literature and Society in Mongol Anatolia

Islam, Literature and Society in Mongol Anatolia

  • ISBN-10 : 1108713483
  • Paperback : 323 pages
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1108713481
  • Publisher : Cambridge University Press (12 Nov. 2020)
  • Language: : English

From a Christian, Greek- and Armenian-speaking land to a predominantly Muslim and Turkish speaking one, the Islamisation of medieval Anatolia would lay the groundwork for the emergence of the Ottoman Empire as a world power and ultimately the modern Republic of Turkey. Bringing together previously unpublished sources in Arabic, Persian and Turkish, Peacock offers a new understanding of the crucial but neglected period in Anatolian history, that of Mongol domination, between c. 1240 and 1380. This represents a decisive phase in the process of Islamisation, with the popularisation of Sufism and the development of new forms of literature to spread Islam. This book integrates the study of Anatolia with that of the broader Islamic world, shedding new light on this crucial turning point in the history of the Middle East.

The Great Mongol Shahnameh

By Robert Hillenbrand

  • Hardcover : 544 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1898113831
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1898113836
  • Product Dimensions : 30 x 15 x 32.7 cm
  • Publisher : Yale University Press (23 Feb. 2021)
  • Language: : English

A detailed study of the Great Mongol Shahnameh, considered to be the greatest of all Persian illustrated manuscripts The Great Mongol Shahnameh is widely considered to be the definitive version of Firdausi's epic poem, and the greatest of all Persian illustrated manuscripts. The paintings from this manuscript are held in private collections and institutions around the world, and have only been seen together in a single volume once since they were originally dispersed. This monograph reunites the paintings and reproduces them as 67 full-page, high quality color plates, alongside an analysis by leading scholar of Islamic art, Robert Hillenbrand. With newly commissioned photographs and insights into technical aspects of the paintings, The Great Mongol Shahnameh is a comprehensive resource for those interested in Persian art and manuscripts.

Tuesday 8 September 2020

1700 year old face behind stunning mask from Eastern Siberia region ( north of Mongolia)


Lifelike face of a tattooed Tashtyk man seen for first time behind a stunning gypsum death mask

By Anna Ledovskikh and Svetlana Pankova
12 July 2020

Aged 25 to 30 when he died 1,700 years ago, he is from the mountainous region of modern-day Khakassia.

Male Tashtyk mask is kept in the State Hermatage Museum. CT of the mask layer. Pictures: © The State Hermitage MuseumPhoto by Vladimir Terebenin, Pavel Demidov, Darya Bobrova 

A new CT scan has revealed the face behind his painted gypsum death mask that were all the rage with the ancient Tashtyk people, who were settled cattle-breeders and farmers known for their idiosyncratic burial rituals.

He had brown hair, although the scan gives him a red punk look, and it is believed the pigtail he would have worn had been cut off before his burial.

He is also the only Tashtyk mummy so far found with tattoos. 

But the most striking and unexpected aspect is a long suture on the side of his face: from the left eye to the ear.

A scar that had been sewn up. 

CT scan

The most striking and unexpected aspect is a long scar on the side of his face: from the left eye to the ear. Picture: The State Hermitage Museum

Archaeologists want more research on this but the current best guess is that this suture was stitched after his death - perhaps to mend his disfigured face after a wound, possibly a fatal blow.

In other words, to improve his looks before his journey to the afterlife. 

Final confirmation is still needed that this facial embroidery was postmortem, however. 

For now it is not ruled out that this repair job was done at the end of his life. 

Svetlana Pankova

Dr Svetlana Pankova put the male head into the CT scan. Picture: The State Hermitage Museum

Nor was this the only evidence of intervention by ancient surgeons on this Tashtyk man found at the Oglakhty burial ground, and laid to rest in a burial log house. 

‘His skull was trepanned in the temporal area on the left side,’ explained Dr Svetlana Pankova, curator at the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, and keeper of the Siberian collection of the Department of Archeology.

‘The hole is rather big - 6 by 7 centimetres. It was made postmortem. 

‘Expert analysis shows the hole was made by the series of blows with a chisel type or hammer type tool.’


‘His skull was trepanned in the temporal area on the left side.' Pictures: Paul Goodhead, The State Hermitage Museum

Dr Pankova said: ‘We think that it was made to remove the brain during an elaborate burial rite.’

Likewise she thinks the facial scar can be explained in similar fashion. 

‘They took all these postmortem rites very seriously, and did not save on this,’ she said.  

‘They could not just put a mask on the disfigured face.

‘It would be great to attract an experienced surgeon to research this suture, to get full clarity.  Was it postmortem or might it have been been made in his lifetime? 

‘Our research is complicated by the fact that we cannot take the mask away from the face (it would cause too much damage)  so we must research  this stitching using other methods.’

Male mask

Male mask has black stripes on a red background, plus the lower part of the mask was destroyed and man's teeth can be seen. © The State Hermitage MuseumPhoto by Vladimir Terebenin, Pavel Demidov, Darya Bobrova.

The archadologists were intrigued to finally see the face under the death mask, the painting of which ‘adds some unnecessary emotional impressions’

Dr Pankova said the mask 'has black stripes on a red background, plus the lower part of the mask was somewhat destroyed and man's teeth can be seen. 

‘So all together it creates such an aggressive look.’

Yet under the mask ‘there was nothing aggressive in this face. 

‘It was the face of a calmly sleeping person. 

Mask and skull

‘It was the face of calmly sleeping person.' Picture: The State Hermitage Museum

‘The mask was very close in appearance to the real face.

‘For the first time we see the real face of a young man of this time…

‘The computer scan allowed us to see, so to say, three layers - the layer of the mask, the layer of the face without the mask and layer of the skull.’

Female head with the mask

Svetlana Pankova: ‘I would really like to make CT scan of female mummified head.' © The State Hermitage Museum. Photo by Vladimir Terebenin, Pavel Demidov.

The face of the woman lying in the same burial chamber - also buried in a fur coat - has not been revealed with a CT scan.

Or anyway not yet. 

‘I would really like to make CT scan of female mummified head,’ she said.

‘I am planning to find a clinic which can do this research and decipher it for us.’

For now we do not know who the woman was and how she and the man were related. 

Children's fur coat

Children's fur coat was also found in the grave. © The State Hermitage Museum. Photo by Vladimir Terebenin, Pavel Demidov.

A child’s skeleton was also found in the same grave. 

So, too, were two burial ‘dummies’ - an extraordinary phenomenon akin to stuffed dolls or mannequins. 

These may be explained by the merging of two cultures or traditions: one that buried their dead, the other that cremated. 

Tattoos on the male's back

Tattoos on the male's chest

He is also the only Tashtyk mummy so far found with tattoos. Infrared photography. Pictures: The State Hermitage Museum

The dummies appear to represent the remains of those who were cremated.

Yet there is also evidence that men were more usually cremated while women and children were buried. 

‘The dummies in full height, kind of mannequins, were made of leather, filled with tightly twisted grass,’ said Dr Pankova.

‘In the chest area there were leather pouches with charred bones remaining from cremations.’

Burial mannequin

‘The dummies in full height, kind of mannequins, were made of leather, filled with tightly twisted grass.’ © The State Hermitage Museum. Photo by Vladimir Terebenin, Pavel Demidov

She told The Siberian Times: ‘The mummies, male and female, were dressed in fur coats, and they had masks on their faces. 

‘The head of one of the dummies did not preserve. 

‘Sadly, probably rodents sneaked in and spoiled it. 

‘The second dummy has the face, covered with bright red woollen fabric, with eyes and a nose. On the head was a piece of Chinese silk.’ 

Burial mannequin's face

Piece of silk

‘The second dummy has the face, covered with bright red woollen fabric, with eyes and a nose. On the head was a piece of Chinese silk.’ © The State Hermitage Museum. Photo by Vladimir Terebenin, Pavel Demidov. 

The Tashtyk culture existed between the first and seventh centuries AD in the area of so-called Minusinsk Basin of the Yenisei valley.

They were settled cattle breeders and farmers.

In 1969 Professor Leonid Kyzlasov excavated the Oglakhty burial ground and found this masked man in tomb number four. 

‘We made the radiocarbon dating using larch of the log house indicating the third to fourth centuries AD.'


Log house

In 1969 Professor Leonid Kyzlasov excavated the Oglakhty burial ground and found this masked man in tomb number four. Pictures: Leonid Kyzlasov, The State Hermitage Museum/ Vladimir Terebenin

The Oglakhty necropolis was originally found in 1902 by a shepherd, who fell into one of the graves, saw the people in a wooden chamber with whitish masks on their faces, got scared, and fled.

His mother-in-law was more fearless, sneaking in and looting some items.

Local official and researcher Alexander Adrianov heard about this and started excavations in 1903, unearthing three graves.

Monday 15 June 2020

The Cultures of Ancient Xinjiang

The Cultures of Ancient Xinjiang, Western China: Crossroads of the Silk Roads

  • Paperback: 218 pages
  • Publisher: Archaeopress (19 Dec. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 178969406X

The Cultures of Ancient Xinjiang, Western China: Crossroads of the Silk Roads unveils the ancient secrets of Xinjiang, western China, one of the least known but culturally rich and complex regions located at the heart of Asia. Historically, Xinjiang has been the geographic hub of the Silk Roads, serving international links between cultures to the west, east, north and south. Trade, artefacts, foods, technologies, ideas, beliefs, animals and people have traversed the glacier covered mountain and desert boundaries. Perhaps best known for the Taklamakan desert, whose name translates in the Uyghur language as 'You can go in, you will never come out', here the region is portrayed as the centre of an ancient Bronze Age culture, revealed in the form of the famous Tarim Mummies and their grave goods. Three authoritative chapters by Chinese archaeologists appear here for the first time in English, giving international audiences direct access to the latest research ranging from the central-eastern Xiaohe region to the western valleys of the Bortala and Yili Rivers. Other contributions by European, Australian and Chinese archaeologists address the many complexities of the cultural exchanges that ranged from Mongolia, through to Kashgar, South Asia, Central Asia and finally Europe in pre-modern times.

Wednesday 6 May 2020

The Wonders of Creation and the Singularities of Painting

  • A Study of the Ilkhanid London Qazvini (Edinburgh Studies in Islamic Art)

    by Stefano Carboni

  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Edinburgh University Press (11 Feb. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1474461395

Al-Qazwini's Wonders of Creation is one of a handful of extant illustrated codices produced under the Mongols of Persia. Al-Qazwini collected, edited and assembled a large body of literary works into a single text that reflects the cultural world of a medieval Arab encyclopaedist. In this lavishly illustrated volume, Stefan Carboni analyses the manuscript's miniatures, discusses the 368 paintings that illustrate the codex, and includes a partial critical translation of the related Arabic text. The codex contains a copy of a cosmographical text written in Arabic in Baghdad towards the end of the 13th century. The cosmography represents a physical description of the world arranged from the outer spheres of the universe, where the throne of God, the Angels and the Planets are located, down to Earth where the Peoples living in the Islands of the Oceans, the Mineral, the Vegetal and the Animal Kingdoms are described throughout the text. About the series: Edinburgh Studies in Islamic Art offers readers easy access to the most up-to-date research across the whole range of Islamic art, representing various parts of the Islamic world, media and approaches. Books in the series are beautifully illustrated academic monographs of intellectual distinction that mark a significant advance in the field.

Tuesday 5 May 2020

Uzbekistan: The Road to Samarkand

  • by Yaffa Assouline (Author), Laziz Hamani (Photographer)

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Assouline Publishing (February 26, 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1614288917

At the heart of Central Asia lies a land where colossal mountains and sweeping valleys sleep under a blanket of lush greenery. Crowned with golden palaces and wondrous monuments, the architectural landscape of the region is so rich with detail, the structures have been said to mirror the heavens themselves. One of the few destinations on Earth where imagination aligns with reality, Uzbekistan flourishes with unparalleled scenery and unforgotten traditions. The towns and cities are like ‘open museums’, each edifice offering a unique and intricate aesthetic, each a testament to diverse cultural influences and diverse periods of history. Nature and architecture have a unique relationship, seemingly inspired by each other, as if they were trying to to outdo each other with their beauty. Discover the beautiful colors, textures and flavors of this incredible culture and journey through the cities of the Silk Road and the lands of Alexander The Great with stunning original photography by Laziz Hamani.

Visualizing Dunhuang

  • Seeing, Studying, and Conserving the Caves 

    Publications of the Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University 


    17 Nov. 2020

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (17 Nov. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691208166

A beautifully illustrated study of the caves at Dunhuang, exploring how this important Buddhist site has been visualized from its creation to today. 
Situated at the crossroads of the northern and southern routes of the ancient silk routes in western China, Dunhuang is one of the richest Buddhist sites in the world, with more than 500 richly decorated cave temples constructed between the fourth and fourteenth centuries. The sculptures, murals, portable paintings, and manuscripts found in the Mogao and Yulin Caves at Dunhuang represent every aspect of Buddhism. From its earliest construction to the present, this location has been visualized by many individuals, from the architects, builders, and artists who built the caves to twentieth-century explorers, photographers, and conservators, as well as contemporary artists. 
Visualizing Dunhuang: Seeing, Studying, and Conserving the Caves examines how the Lo Archive, a vast collection of photographs taken in the 1940s of the Mogao and Yulin Caves, inspires a broad range of scholarship. Lavishly illustrated with selected Lo Archive and modern photographs, the essays address three main areas
-Dunhuang as historical record, as site, and as art and art history. 
Leading experts across three continents examine a wealth of topics, including expeditionary photography and cave architecture, to demonstrate the intellectual richness of Dunhuang. Diverse as they are in their subjects and methodologies, the essays represent only a fraction of what can be researched about Dunhuang. The high concentration of caves at Mogao and Yulin and their exceptional contents chronicle centuries of artistic styles, shifts in Buddhist doctrine, and patterns of political and private patronage-providing an endless source of material for future work. 
Contributors include Neville Agnew, Dora Ching, Jun Hu, Annette Juliano, Richard Kent, Wei-Cheng Lin, Cary Liu, Maria Menshikova, Jerome Silbergeld, Roderick Whitfield, and Zhao Shengliang. 
Published in association with the Tang Center for East Asian Art, Princeton University

Saturday 2 May 2020

Mystery of unique 2,100-year-old human clay head

with a Ram's skull inside!
Modern fluoroscopy identifies sheep bones inside the Tagar culture death mask.

X-ray technology of the period indicated something was unusual about the bones inside the clay head - but could not reveal more. Picture: Vyacheslav Porosev, Instutute of Nuclear Physics, SB RAS
The discovery of the magnificent clay likeness of a young man in the Shestakovsky burial mound No 6 has long intrigued Russian archeologists.
Among cremated people this elegant mask of, perhaps, a handsome warrior immediately stood out as a remarkable find when it was first unearthed in Khakassia in 1968 by Professor Anatoly Martynov.
X-ray technology of the period indicated something was unusual about the bones inside the clay head - but could not reveal more. 
‘There are skull bones and a small hollow space, which, however, does not correspond to the inner size of the human skull but is much smaller,’ noted the prescient Martynov in 1971. 
Then - and later - opening the clay head was deemed impossible since it would destroy this ancient relic. 
‘It was suggested that there was a human skull inside. It was of course quite surprising to see instead a sheep’s skull.’ Picture: Evgeny BabichevInstutute of Nuclear Physics, SB RAS
Almost four decades later scientists returned to the mystery of this man from the Tagar culture which is known for its elaborate funeral rites, for example the use of large pit-crypts containing some 200 bodies which were set ablaze. 
As scientist Dr Elga Vadetskaya had observed, the heads of the dead were covered in clay, moulding a new face on the skull, and often covering the clay face with gypsum. 
So the expectation was - in deploying new technology on the man’s death mask - that the bones inside, though small fragments, would be human.
But they were not. 
The research was led by Professor Natalya Polosmak, from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, and Dr Konstantin Kuper, of the Institute of Nuclear Physics, both in Novosibirsk, and part of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. 
Clay head from Shestakovo burial

Clay head from Shestakovo burial
The man ‘could have got lost in the taiga, drowned, or disappeared in alien lands’. Pictures: Mikhail Vlasenko
‘I had been working with Natalya Polosmak on other research, and she suggested checking this head because they could not simply look inside - and were puzzled,’ explained Dr Kuper. 
‘It was suggested that there was a human skull inside. It was of course quite surprising to see instead a sheep’s skull.’
What made these ancient people fill human remains with a ram's remains?
In the article for the magazine Science First Hand Professor Polosmak offers two options but also acknowledges that ‘as this is the only such case so far, any explanations of this phenomenon will undoubtedly contain, alongside the elements of uniqueness, elements of chance’.
Professor Anatoly Martynov
Professor Anatoly Martynov unearthed the head in 1968 in Khakassia. Picture: Kemerovo State University
She believes the Tagar people ‘may have buried in this extraordinary manner a man whose body had not been found’.
She surmises that the man ‘could have got lost in the taiga, drowned, or disappeared in alien lands’.
For this reason he was ‘replaced with his double – the animal in which his soul was embodied’ and in this was sent to the afterlife alongside the remains of his fellow humans.
‘This must have been the only way to ensure the after-death life of a person who had not returned home.
'Archaeologists know a number of such burials, referred to as cenotaphs, which have no human remains but may contain a symbolic replacement. As the latter, an animal could have been used.’
Head prepared for fluoroscopy
Clay head prepared for fluoroscopy at the Institute of Nuclear Physics, SB RAS. Picture: Vyacheslav Porosev, Instutute of Nuclear Physics, SB RAS
Her other theory for the ‘false burial’ is that it may have been done to give the man ‘a chance to have a fresh start, a new life in a new status.
‘Instead of a living man whose death was staged for some reason, an animal – a sheep in human disguise – was offered.’
One thing is clear: for ancient people the ram had a great significance. 
'What does the sheep’s skull hidden under the clay covers depicting a man’s face tell us? What is it, an accident? Or was the animal the main hero of ancient history?
'The latter hypothesis seems justified. A ram (sheep) is among the most worshipped animals of old times. Initially, the Egyptian god Khnum was depicted as a ram (later, as a man with the head of a ram).’
200 mummified bodies in burial mound at Belaya Gora
Remains of 200 mummified bodies found in one of the Tagar burial mounds at Belaya Gora. Picture: A. Poselyanin
A third version has been proposed by Dr Vadetskaya in her book 'The Ancient Yenisei Masks from Siberia’  after studying elaborate burial rites of ancient people during this Tesinsk period.
Her work was based on research of other archaeologists but also had fascinating input from forensic experts.
She believed the burial rite had two stages - the first of which was putting the dead body in a ‘stone box’ which then went into a shallow grave or under a pile of stones for several years.
The main goal was partial mummification - the skin and tissues decomposed, but tendons and the spinal cord persisted. 
Then the skeleton was taken away intact and was tied by small branches. 
Tagar clay head pictured by Anatoly Martynov

Tagar clay head pictured by Anatoly Martynov
Clay head pictured in 1968. Traces of the ropes and sticks, which were used to attach the head to the "funeral doll", visible on the back of the head. Anatoly Martynov
The skull was trepanned and the rest of the brain was removed. Then the skeleton was turned into kind of ‘doll’ - it was wrapped around with grass and sheathed with pieces of leather and birch bark.
Then, according to Dr Vadetskaya, they reconstructed ‘the face’ on the skull. 
The nose hole, eyes socket and mouth were filled with clay, then the clay was put onto the skull and the ‘face’ was moulded though without necessarily much facial resemblance to the deceased. 
Often this clay face was covered with a thin layer of gypsum and painted with ornaments. 
She suspected that these masked mummies went back to their families pending their second, bigger funeral. 
This might have been for some years: there is evidence that gypsum was repaired and repainted. 
Head with clay modeled face

Head with clay modeled face

Head with clay modeled face
Faces molded on the skulls were often covered with thin gypsum layer painted with ornaments. Pictures: Elga Vadetskaya, The State Hermitage Museum
She wrote: ‘For some mummies the wait was too long. They decomposed, so only the heads were left to be buried. 
‘In some cases even the head did not survive. Then they had to recreate the whole image of the deceased one.’
She believed that this was the case with the mysterious human sheep skull.
The ram remains were used to replace the real human skull of this ‘mummy doll’ lost or destroyed during the decades between the two funeral rites. 
According to Vadetskaya, a large pit was dug for these ‘Big' funerals.
Elga Vadetskaya
Doctor Elga Vadetsakaya. 
A log house was erected and covered with birch bark and fabrics. 
Many such human remains were put inside, and the log house was with the remains of dead were ignited. 
The log house was partly burned down and often the roof collapsed. 
The pit-crypt burial was then covered with turf and earth and formed a mound. 
In this particular case there were relatively few human remains - no more than 15, yet in others the number could rise into the hundreds. 
So - there are three main theories. 
Perhaps future scientists will gain access to more elaborate technology to examine this death mask and unlock more secrets about this extraordinary find.

Monday 27 April 2020

The Cumans and Magyars

  • The History and Legacy of the Steppe Nomads Who Raided Europe Throughout the Late Middle Ages

  • Paperback: 135 pages
  • Publisher: Independently published (8 April 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 979-8635405147

Before the Mongols rode across the steppes of Asia and Eastern Europe, the Cumans were a major military and cultural force that monarchs from China to Hungary and from Russia to the Byzantine Empire faced, often losing armies and cities in the process. The Cumans were a tribe of Turkic nomads who rode the steppes looking for plunder and riches, but they rarely stayed long after they got what they wanted. 
From the late 9th century until the arrival of the Mongols in 1223, there was virtually nothing that could be done to stop the Cumans. Old Russian chronicles, Byzantine texts, Western European chronicles, and travel diaries of Islamic scholars all reveal that the Cumans were a threat to any kingdom in their path. Some kingdoms chose to fight the Cumans and often suffered heavy destruction, while others believed buying them off was the more reasonable course of action. The latter course often brought them into intimate contact with the most powerful kingdoms of medieval Eastern Europe before the Cumans were eventually replaced by the Mongols, with the remaining Cumans dispersing and integrating into various European and central Asian kingdoms in the 13th century. Many Cumans joined the Mongol Golden Horde and later became Muslims, while some helped found dynasties in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania. 
The Cumans came from somewhat mysterious origins before they became the western vanguard of a massive nomadic horde that grew in ferocity and effectiveness as the centuries passed, but they were far more than mindless barbarians interested in violence alone. Although violence did play a major role in early Cuman culture, sources reveal they were also interested in diplomacy and eventually integrated with their sedentary neighbors. Archaeological discoveries further indicate that their culture was unique, complete with mythology and some art, but in the end, the Cumans disappeared as quickly as they appeared on the historical scene, much like other nomadic peoples before and after them.
Of all the steppe peoples in the medieval period, perhaps none were more important to European history than the Magyars. Like the Huns and Avars before them and the Cumans and Mongols after them, the Magyars burst into Europe as a destructive, unstoppable horde, taking whatever they wanted and leaving a steady stream of misery in their wake. They used much of the same tactics as the other steppe peoples and lived a similar, nomadic lifestyle. The Magyars also had many early cultural affinities with other steppe peoples, following a similar religion and ideas of kingship and nobility, among other things. 
That said, as similar as the Magyars may have been to other steppe nomads before and after them, they were noticeably different in one way: the Magyars settled down and became a part of Europe and Western Civilization in the Middle Ages. The Magyars exploded onto the European cultural scene in the late 9th century as foreign marauders, but they made alliances with many important kingdoms in less than a century and established their own dynasty in the area, roughly equivalent to the modern nation-state of Hungary. After establishing themselves as a legitimate dynasty among their European peers, the Magyars formed a sort of cultural bridge between the Roman Catholic kingdoms of Western Europe and the Orthodox Christian kingdoms of Eastern Europe. Ultimately, the Magyars chose the Roman Catholic Church, thereby becoming a part of the West and tying their fate to it for the remainder of the Middle Ages. 
The Cumans and Magyars: The History and Legacy of the Steppe Nomads Who Raided Europe Throughout the Late Middle Ages examines how the Cumans and Magyars became influential players in the region, and the influence they had.