SibFU archaeologists have completed the excavation of a kurgan found on the territory of Shinnoye Cemetery in Krasnoyarsk. The objects of ritual and household use were found during the excavation.

The found objects of ritual and household use — ceramics, tools, miniature daggers and knives, belt buckles and elegant animal-shaped jewelry sewed-on stripes — are now undergoing mandatory procedures: they are cleaned of traces of time, dated and preserved to replenish the holdings of the archaeological sector of the SibFU Museum.

The excavation of the kurgan that was found in 2018 during works at the Shinnoye Cemetery, began in the fall of 2021. According to Dmitry Vinogradov, senior researcher of the Laboratory of Archaeology of Yenisey Siberia, the discovered artifacts belong to the late period of the so-called Tagar culture, named after Tagarsky Island on the Yenisey River.

“In the 3rd – 1st centuries BC people of Caucasian appearance lived in the Krasnoyarsk forest-steppe, close to the world of the legendary Scythians. They were cattle breeders — they bred horses and sheep. The discovered kurgan gave us important information about the tradition of cremation in this culture. Numerous remains have been found that will enrich the museum’s anthropological collection. The objects that were buried with the Tagar are especially interesting — these are tools, and jars for cooking, as well as fine buckles and stripes that wealthy cattle breeders wore on their clothes,” — Dmitry Vinogradov said.

The Tagars had to dig a hole measuring 8×5 meters and about 2 meters deep to perform the obsequial rite. A log frame was built at the bottom and a timber decking — a wooden floor was erected. The deceased were placed into this burial vault belonging to the same clan with the appropriate “gifts”, which, according to the experts’ assumption, could be useful in the afterlife.

“When the burial vault was completely filled, it was set on fire. The bodies were packed very tightly, obviously for space saving. The calcined red soil with fragments of human bones survived to this day. The fire spared the bones, but the lowest layers were practically not affected by the flames — the remains of people and wood were preserved quite well,” the archaeologist continued.

The auxiliary inventory, which the deceased are entitled to for a decent existence after death, included small daggers, chekans (battle axes), miniature knives and mirrors. According to the Krasnoyarsk archaeologists, the size of the objects and the skill required to make them show a sufficiently developed symbolism of Tagar culture — not the objects themselves were put in the burials, but their reduced “impractical” copies.

The uniques of the kurgan collection are the figures of a bronze griffin and a lying deer found in the burial. The latter vividly resembles Hermitage treasure — a golden Scythian deer with “curly” stylized horns. The figurine of the griffin most likely served as the tip of a leather belt, which was used by a noble man to belt. The figure of a lying deer, judging by an intentionally forged loop on the back side, is an elegant badge that decorated the outerwear.

Items found in forest-steppe Altai or the Republic of Tyva can be an analogue of the “griffin buckle” according to Dmitry Vinogradov. The motif of a running or lying deer is also common in the Scythian culture and its “animal style”. The original shade of both figures was warm, bronze, but they are covered with a green patina and need careful cleaning now.

Interestingly, the fragments of fabric were also found in the kurgan, captured as an “imprint” in the soil that had been caked over time. The fibers, destroyed by time, were imprinted clearly enough to understand their interlacing system and approximate pattern.

By the way, the question of the actual belonging of the discovered kurgan to the Tagar culture is not so obvious. Pavel Mandryka, head of the Laboratory of Archaeology of Yenisey Siberia, clarifies: both people of the late Tagar culture and residents of the Tesin culture could be buried there. It was the period when the assimilation of the late Tagar of the Yenisey forest-steppe by the Central Asian population began under the Hunnic influence.

More than 150 kurgans have been discovered in Krasnoyarsk as of today. Shinnoye Cemetery discovery is one of the links in this historical chain. However, there are nuances that distinguish this discovery from the previous ones.

“We haven’t had such discoveries in our region for 65 years. And it should be considered that until the middle of the 20th century the kurgans were not treated very carefully, even the methods of excavating artifacts and remains were completely different, and they seem almost barbaric now. The beauty of this mound is in a large preserved ceramics collection — more than 50 jars and their parts. The collection of bronze objects is peculiar. Quite rare things from organic materials have survived to this day, a perfectly preserved wooden box being an example. I believe that the anthropological part — skulls, bone fragments, teeth — will be further carefully examined by geneticists to find out the historical homeland of these people, what they were sick with, what they ate, what was their average life expectancy,”Pavel Mandryka specified.

It is unusual that the kurgan is not oriented in the cardinal directions, as is customary for similar structures of adjacent territories. SibFU archaeologists have yet to establish why this happened.

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