An Antique Gold Tiara From Attila the Hun's Time Stolen From A Ukrainian Museum

An extremely valuable gem of Hun origin has disappeared from a museum in Ukraine. It is an antique gold tiara, inlaid with precious stones by master craftsmen some 1,500 years ago.

The disappearance of the antique gold tiara comes in the context of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Gold Tiara hun
Picture Source: apnews.com
According to officials from the Museum of Local History, the Russian troops stole the golden tiara and a hoard of other antique treasures after capturing the Ukrainian town of Melitopol in February.


Already in its eighth month, the Russian invasion is accompanied by industrial-scale destruction and looting of historical sites and treasures.

The Missing Antique Gold Tiara

One of the most precious artifacts from Attila the Hun's terrible rule, who fought throughout Europe in the fifth century, is an antique gold tiara, which experts worry will never be located.

Russian soldiers had looted antiquities from over 40 Ukrainian museums, Oleksandr Tkachenko, the minister of culture of Ukraine, told The Associated Press.

The minister continued, "Looting and damage of cultural sites have resulted in losses estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars."

The current priority for the Ukrainian government and its Western allies in the arms trade is to defeat Russia militarily.

However, once peace is restored, it will be essential to preserve Ukrainian art collections, such as the antique gold tiara, history, and culture so that war survivors can start the next battle: rebuilding their lives.

When Russian troops attacked the southern town of Melitopol, employees at the Museum of Local History sought to hide the antique gold tiara and hundreds of other valuables at first.

A museum employee told Associated Press that the Russian military eventually located the building's hidden basement, where the staff had stored the museum's most priceless items, including the gold tiara, after weeks of repeated searches.

The museum employee further claims that the Ukrainians are unaware of the location of the 1,700 other antiques and the golden tiara that were moved by Russian forces.

The antique gold tiara, which was dug up from a burial chamber in 1948, is just one of only a handful of Hun crowns in the world.

"These are ancient finds. These are works of art. They are priceless. If the culture disappears, it's an irreparable disaster," said Oleksandr Symonenko, chief researcher at the Institute of Archaeology in Ukraine.

Inquiries on the antique gold tiara and the remainder of the Melitopol art collection were not answered by the Russian ministry of culture.

What Is A "Tiara"?

A tiara (from Latin: tiara, from Ancient Greek: τιάρα) is a jeweled head ornament. Its origins date back to ancient Greece and Rome.

In the late 18th century, the tiara came into fashion in Europe as a prestigious piece of jewelry to be worn by women on formal occasions.

Gemstone Tiara

Tiara of the duchess of Angoulême (1820)
The basic shape of the modern tiara is a (semi-)circle, usually made of silver, gold, or platinum and richly decorated with precious stones, pearls, or cameos.

Common elements in these patterns are arcs, garlands, circles, stars, and stylized flowers or leaves.

Occasionally, flowers, ears of corn, dragonflies, or butterflies are depicted more or less "true to life" by using gemstones in different colors.

Imagination exercise: A festive hall, ballroom dancing, a young woman wearing a golden tiara, like the one that disappeared in Ukraine, about 1,500 years old. What a view!

Tiaras were extremely popular during the late 19th century and were worn at events where the dress code was a white tie.

After World War I, wearing a tiara gradually fell out of fashion, except for official occasions at a royal court.

Interest in tiaras has increased again since the beginning of the 21st century. The word "tiara" is often used interchangeably with the word "diadem".

What Else Did The Russians Steal?

The exiled city council of Mariupol said that, besides the golden tiara, the Russian forces stole more than 2,000 items from the city's museums.

Ancient religious icons, a one-of-a-kind handwritten Torah scroll, a 200-year-old bible, and more than 200 medals were listed as some of the most priceless objects, the council said.

The officials also said that paintings by the well-known seascape artists Ivan Aivazovsky, who was born in Crimea, and Arkhip Kuindzhi, who was born in Mariupol, were also seized.

Also, the museum workers said other treasures that disappeared with the Russian soldiers include 198 pieces of 2,400-year-old gold from the Scythian era.

Scythians were nomads who migrated from Central Asia to southern Russia and Ukraine and founded an empire in Crimea.

fourth century B.C. golden ritual quiver from a Scythian king's burial mound

Picture Source: apnews.com
According to the exiled council, the Russian troops transported the antique gold tiara and the rest of the stolen art pieces to the Russian-occupied Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

Destruction Of Ukraine's Cultural Heritage

The antique gold tiara apparently stolen by the Russian occupiers is just one example of the fact that the cultural heritage of Ukraine was severely damaged and destroyed as a result of the invasion.

The UN cultural agency keeps track of the places that have been shelled, bombed, or impacted by rockets. The agency reports that it has examined damage at 199 sites across 12 districts, with the war now in its eighth month.

According to UNESCO, these include 84 churches and other religious sites, 37 historical structures, 37 structures used for cultural activities, 18 monuments, 13 museums, and 10 libraries.

Also, according to the Ukrainian government, there have been at least 270 religious structures damaged or destroyed, making the total significantly higher.

Protecting The Art

Workers at the Ukrainian museum did everything they could to prevent the treasures from falling into Russian hands while the invasion forces looked for valuables to steal, including the stunning golden tiara.

From the front line and the areas affected by the conflict, tens of thousands of art pieces were moved to safety.

During the first weeks of the invasion, when Russian forces tried unsuccessfully to encircle the Ukrainian capital, the director of the Ukrainian Historical Treasures Museum, Natalia Panchenko, lived in the building to guard precious artifacts like the golden tiara.

She removed the plaque from the museum's entrance in an effort to confuse the Russian forces who she feared would overrun the city.

"These things were fragile, they survived hundreds of years. I couldn't bear the thought that they might be lost", she said.

Additionally, she took down displays and meticulously packaged items in boxes for disposal. For now, the museum shows only copies.

Someday, she hopes, the stolen art pieces will be returned to their rightful place, including the missing golden tiara.

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