The zoomorphic juncture seems to have been a late addition
to the compact, sharply edged, richly antlered, animal style of the earliest Scythian
barrows of South Russia, and it can be assumed that they later derived it from the nomads
of Luristan. Such compositions are analogous to eastern European myths, where the Hero is
transformed into a succession of different animals.
Scythian art shows traces of Greek realism. In Siberia, however, the art developed into
structures rendered in geometric schemes: animals twisted into the shape of a circle with
legs forming open-work interlace or contorted into a horizontal S-scroll. The designs then
passed into linear stylization, but throughout this process of development, the form of
the animal never was obscured; the nomad artist rejected the more indistinct and monstrous
forms of zoomorphic design.
These trends directly relate to the art of proto-historic
Europe. The influence becomes notable during the transition from the Bronze to Iron
Age. Scythian style generally, and more particularly the art of the Steppes
influenced the Celtic art of the early La Tène period. Celtic art synthesized these
contributions. In the Germanic art of the Dark Ages, the animal style was retained,
and transmitted via Saxon art to Britain. The purse cover from Sutton Hoo, from A.D. 665,
demonstrates this fact.
Bands of zoomorphic interlacement seem to been a Celtic
invention of this period. The style flourished in the skilled hands of the Christian
artists of Ireland.