четверг, 18 июля 2019 г.

Ancient Scythian burial mound excavated in Russia’s Stavropol

Russian archaeologists have confirmed that the Scythians were present in the Ciscaucasia (northern Caucasus) in the last third of the 5th century BC, refuting the testimony of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who claimed that by that time they had left these lands. The scientists drew their conclusions by determining the date of the artefacts found in the mound near the village of Novozavodennoe. There are still a few excavated mounds in Stavropol Territory, the study of which may lead to new discoveries. Features of monuments will allow local archaeologists to study in detail the everyday life of Scythians in Russia.

Ancient Scythian burial mound excavated in Russia's Stavropol
Kurgan embankment section [Credit: Faculty of History of Lomonosov
Moscow State University]

In the 7th century BC, the Scythians regularly undertook campaigns in the Transcaucasus and further south — in the Middle East. The ideal springboard for military operations was the Ciscaucasia, where in the 1970s archaeologists found traces of Scythian presence in the form of burial mounds in which important members of the community were buried (Krasnoznamenskie mounds, Novozavodennoe I, Novozavodennoe II, Nartan I, etc.). And although later the Scythians were displaced from the Middle East, they continued to reside in the Ciscaucasia at the end of the 5th and 4th centuries BC. This conclusion was drawn by scientists on the basis of excavations, which since 2015 have been carried out at the burial mound Novozavodennoe III in the Stavropol Territory discovered in the late 1980s.
«Kurgans are located near the village of the same name and represent multilevel structures: mounds, gravestones and gravestones in which noble Scythians were buried,» said Anatoly Kantorovich, Head of the Department of Archaeology of the Faculty of History at Lomonosov Moscow State University.

During the investigation of each of the burial mounds, the scientists found buried structures consisting of a wooden and reed-bush covering of the grave pit, an earthen buttress (located on the perimeter of the burial structure) and a ritual platform around the grave. In the ditches surrounding the mounds, archaeologists found the remains of sacrificed horses, which the Scythians buried with the aristocracy. In addition, the excavations managed to find the remains of stone stelae, which were allegedly destroyed by the partial looting of graves.

Ancient Scythian burial mound excavated in Russia's Stavropol
Clearing the bottom of the grave pit [Credit: Faculty of History of Lomonosov
Moscow State University]

«A study of the mounds of Novozavodennoe III revealed that, unfortunately, they were plundered in antiquity,» added Anatoly Kantorovich. «However, before the robbery, the space inside the grave pits was partially covered with earth that came from the tumulus embankments through the gravestones. Among them is an aryballos lekythos (ancient Greek ceramic vessel for aromatic oils) depicting the flying goddess Nike with a vase in her hands. And also a number of gold ornaments (for example, strips for garments), made in a typical Scythian ‘animal’ style — via which the artists succinctly depicted existing and mythical animals, showing the gracefulness and power of nature.»
Scientists also discovered fragments of armour and bronze horse-heads, which may have served as amulets. In addition to Scythian and Greek objects, artefacts of the Koban and Meotian cultures that existed in the area during the same historical period were found in the burial grounds.

Chronological examination of the findings helped to establish the age of the mounds. In particular, the aryballos lekythos discovered at the site of excavation dates back to the last third of the 5th century BC. Therefore, the tomb could not have been built before this period.

Ancient Scythian burial mound excavated in Russia's Stavropol
Credit: Faculty of History of Lomonosov Moscow State University

«A high degree of accuracy in determining the age of objects is associated with the ability to compare them with specific types of artefacts, each of which corresponds to a particular stage in the development of art,» explained Vladimir Maslov, a researcher at the Scythian-Sarmatian Archaeology Department of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. «Fortunately, the style changes took place regularly, which makes these periods relatively narrow and the results of the dating reliable.»
According to the writings of Herodotus, which he made in the 5th century BC in his work ‘History’, the Scythians left the Ciscaucasia in an earlier period, probably during the transition from the Scythian ‘Archaic’ period of the 7th — 6th centuries BC to the Scythian ‘Classical’ period of the 5th — 4th centuries BC.

However, as a result of the analysis of the recovered artefacts from the mound group Novozavodennoe III, the researchers managed to establish that the burials were made later than this time, that is, the Scythians stayed in the Ciscaucasia for a longer period than Herodotus had supposed.

The scientific importance of studying the mounds was confirmed by the State Museum of Oriental Studies: «The research of the monument Novozavodennoe III has demonstrated that the Scythians stayed in the Pre-Caucasus until the 4th century BC, whereas earlier it was believed that by that time they had already left for the Dnieper River and partially mixed with the local population», noted Vladimir Ehrlich, the chief research fellow of the Department of the History of Material Culture and Ancient Art of the State Museum of Oriental Art. «And the Scythians remained together with their elite, having preserved the traditional burial rites of chiefs and elite military leaders, who could afford to own expensive Greek pottery and gold jewellery.»

According to the results of the latest research, Novozavodennoe III is a unique site in which there are Scythian burial mounds belonging to two different periods in the Ciscaucasia (the 7th and early 6th century BC and the late 5th and 4th century BC). At the same time, there are still several mounds in the vicinity of the village which have not yet been excavated or attributed to any historical period. According to archaeologists, their research will lead to new discoveries and replenish the collections of museums with Scythian artefacts. However, to achieve the results, archaeologists must work quickly, as some of the mounds are located in agricultural zones and may be destroyed by ploughing with heavy machinery.

Author: Alexander Bulanov | Source: iz.ru [trsl. TANN June 16, 2019]



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