Category Archives: RUSSIA

In a Siberian cave, a 60,000-year-old Neanderthal ‘Swiss Army Knife’ was discovered

In a Siberian cave, a 60,000-year-old Neanderthal ‘Swiss Army Knife’ was discovered

Experiment shows multi-purpose tool can still be used for butchering: it highlights the skills of these extinct early humans. This week has seen the revelation from an international study that Neanderthals twice invaded cold Siberia, around 120,000 and 60,000 years ago.

‘This thing for Neanderthals was like a Swiss Army knife for us now.’

Scientists have also unearthed the tools used by the early humans when they settled in the Altai Mountains

Professor Kseniya Kolobova, of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk, suggested that the tool called by scientists ‘asymmetrical backed biface’ was the ancient equivalent of the famous modern Swiss Army knife.


It was a ‘multi-functional tool, which can cut whatever you like, (butcher) and process skin, or make other tools. Pictures: The Siberian Times

They were discovered among 90,000 stone artefacts at Chagyrskaya Cave.

‘This thing for Neanderthals was like a Swiss Army knife for us now,’ she said, holding the stone tool, which is made of chalcedonite

‘We have a blunt end, so it is convenient to hold.’

Retouchers were made of bones, which were used to sharpen stone tools. Picture: Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of SBRAS

Remarkably, scientists show that it is still usable after 60,000 years. 

‘You can butcher for about an hour with this tool, as our experiment showed until it blunts…

‘Then they sharpened it again and again and again.’

Kseniya Kolobova shows how the bifacew could be used to make another tool.

It was a ‘multi-functional tool, which can cut whatever you like, (butcher) and process skin, or make other tools.

‘This is a Palaeolithic Swiss Army knife.’

Intriguing, too, is how small the world was in those times. 

Excavations site

Analysis of stone tools from Chagyrskaya Cave in the Altai Mountains shows striking similarities to those found at Sesselfelsgrotte in Germany, some 5,000 kilometres away. 

‘If we put our bifaces next to Europeans we do not see any differences, except the raw materials,’ she said.

‘European tools were made of flint, ours of chalcedony and jasper. 

‘That is, they brought the tradition of making their tools through several thousand kilometres almost unchanged.’

The Neanderthals in their conquests of Siberia killed and ate bison to survive say, archaeologists.  Finds linked to these archaic humans show ‘the cognitive abilities of the Neanderthals were wider than previously thought, said the professor.

Perfectly preserved lion cubs that died 44,000 years ago ‘after being abandoned by mum’ found in Siberia

Perfectly preserved lion cubs that died 44,000 years ago ‘after being abandoned by mum’ found in Siberia

‘Male siblings born 44,000 years ago’ found ten metres apart in Yakutia but the truth is rather different – amid hopes to bring species back to life. The pair of cubs were believed to be siblings both born 44,000 years ago. 

Some 26000 years ago Sparta’s mother either left her in the cave and went hunting, or was killed herself, leaving the tiny cub without food.

In fact, one of the famous extinct cave lions named Spartak has been found to be female, not male, and will need to be rechristened as Sparta. And she was born 18,000 years after the cub found next to her named Boris, it now emerges.

Complete restoration works on the baby cave lions, preserved superbly in the Siberian permafrost, reveals a sensational level of pelt and hair preservation. Some 26,000 years ago Sparta’s mother either left her in the cave and went hunting, or was killed herself, leaving the tiny cub without food. 

‘She starved to death. We wondered why she looked so skinny when she was found, and then tomography of her internal organs showed there was no fat,’ said scientist Dr Albert Protopopov, an expert in frozen remains from the woolly mammoth era.

‘It was the most extreme stage of starvation.’

‘She starved to death. We wondered why she looked so skinny when she was found, and then tomography of her internal organs showed there was no fat.’

Sparta was found in the Yakutia region in 2018 by the same mammoth bone hunter who discovered a bigger cave lion cub called Boris a year earlier. 

They were just ten metres apart. 

The first theory was that the cubs must have been from the same family – but now scientists know that the cubs are separated by 26,000 years.  Boris lived some 44,000 years ago and was aged between two to three weeks when he died.  Most likely his death came when his mother left him inside a cave, went hunting and the cave rock collapsed, burying the cub. 

‘We found visible traces of internal injuries which we believe could have been caused by a rock falling on him’, Protopopov said. The most important task of this complex research on the cave lion cubs is to restore their appearance. 

‘It is still an enigma, in that on hundreds of published drawings of cave lions they are depicted without manes. Yet we notice spots and stripes of pigmentation in that area… which are not seen in modern-day lions. So we are moving towards re-creating the way the cave lions looked.

‘Their living conditions were very different to modern lions in that cave lions lives in a much colder climate and we believe therefore had to look different. 

‘There was less prey in cold climate. 

‘If we understand this question about mane we might get an idea of their social hierarchy – for example, we don’t know if they created prides with alpha males and several females alike to modern lions.’

Boris, the older cub, has a severed tail.

Tests are underway on the lions to extract as much information as possible.  The cave lions were the largest predators after bears in ancient, and in the area where we find skulls of cave lions, there is only a handful of bear skulls.  Lions reigned in ancient Siberia because at the time it was savanna, bears needed more woods. 

‘Cave lion cubs are superbly preserved, you can even see their whiskers, and we are hoping to fetch a lot more information from them.’

The scientist predicted: ‘There is a very realistic chance to recreate cave lions and it would be a lot easier than to clone a woolly mammoth. 

‘Cave and modern lions separated only 300,000 years ago, in other words, they are different species of the same genus.

‘It means that we can take the DNA of the modern African lion and use it to recreate cave lions.

’It would be a lot easier than the mammoths.

‘But if we find methods to bring back woolly mammoths it would be a revolution and a payback by humans who helped extinguishing of so many species.’ 

Boris, the older cub, has a severed tail.

This led to speculation he was an ancient lynx, not a cave lion.

‘We were all worried by the lack of a tail on Boris,’ said Dr Protopopov.

‘But the man who found him explained that it got cut off when the cub was taken out of the permafrost.

‘I know it raised suspicion that the lion cub was in fact a lynx, but we know from the very first tests that this was clearly a cave lion cub.’

5,000-Year-Old Rock Art Depicting “Celestial Bodies” Revealed in Siberia

5,000-Year-Old Rock Art Depicting “Celestial Bodies” Revealed in Siberia

Rock art images painted some 5,000 years ago during the Bronze Age were made with a sophisticated scientific understanding which has stunned experts. Images, discovered near Karakol village in the Altai Republic in Russia, show alien figures with round horns and feathers on their heads.

The depictions in red, black and white were found in 1985 in a gravesite in a remote village in Siberia have uncovered the extraordinary talent of the prehistoric artists.  

They have found that the red hues in the tomb drawings were made of thermally modified ocher, a clay made from Earth.

5,000-Year-Old Rock Art Depicting “Celestial Bodies” Revealed in Siberia
Celestial’ rock art images by ancient painters some 5,000 years ago were made with a sophisticated scientific understanding which has stunned experts. Paintings from the Altai Mountains of Siberia show alien or heavenly figures with horns and feathers on their heads

The white shades were made by scraping which revealed light-reflecting rock crystals, while soot was used for the black in the paintings. 

Scientists from the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow, Russia’s leading research and development centre for nuclear energy, said that the red colours especially fascinate the experts.

It is apparent that some 5,000 years ago the tomb painters knew how to carry out a chemical reaction in order to create not just a red colour but the precise tones they desired by varying the temperature of heating.

Roman Senin, head of the synchrotron research department at Kurchatov Institute, said: ‘We determined the phased composition of pigments, that is, the structure of the crystal lattice of individual grains of the dye.

‘Some structures are not typical for natural samples but are the product of heat treatment.

‘Simply put, the primitive artist heated the mineral to a certain temperature in order to get the colour he needed.’

Alexander Pakhunov, of Russia’s Institute of Archeology, said: ‘The results of the analysis of the composition of paints used in the funeral rite of Karakol people testify to the ability of the ancient inhabitants of Altai to distinguish pigments by colour and properties.’

The weird and wonderful depictions in red, black and white dating to the Bronze Age were found in 1985 in a remote village but now Russian nuclear scientists have uncovered the extraordinary talent of the prehistoric artists.
It is apparent that some 5,000 years ago the tomb painters knew how to carry out a chemical reaction in order to create not just a red colour but the precise tones they desired by varying the temperature of heating.

Full results of the new study will be presented at the 43rd International Symposium on Archeometry in May 2020 in Lisbon.

It is also clear that ancient people broke off rocks on local mountains already decorated at an earlier time with petroglyphs.

These were then moved into the graves – and superimposed their own fantastical images on stone slabs which were used as the tomb walls.

‘The remains of people buried inside the stone graves were also painted with the same colours, with spots of red ocher found below eye sockets and traces of a black and silvery mineral called Specularite prominent in eyebrows area,’ reported The Siberian Times – 

The earliest images were engravings of elks, mountains goats and running people with round horns on their heads.

White shades were made by scraping which revealed light-reflecting rock crystals, while soot was used for the black in the paintings. It is the red colours that especially fascinate the experts
5,000-Year-Old Rock Art Depicting “Celestial Bodies” Revealed in Siberia
Full results of the new study will be presented at the 43rd International Symposium on Archeometry in May 2020 in Lisbon. It is also clear that ancient people broke off rocks on local mountains already decorated at an earlier time with petroglyphs

On top of the petroglyphs were superimposed pictures of 11 human-like figures. The different colour tones are seen as carrying meanings to the prehistoric people.

While the funeral rites of these ancient mountain-dwellers are not yet understood, the techniques of the painters is now clear, say the scientists. The Karakol artworks date to the early and middle Bronze Age.

The 4,000-year-old Aryan city discovered in Russia

The 4,000-year-old Aryan city discovered in Russia

Russian archaeologists have unearthed some ancient and virtually unknown settlements which they believe were built by the original Aryan race about 4000 years ago.

According to the team which has discovered 20 of the spiral-shaped settlements in a remote part of the Russian steppe in southern Siberia bordering Kazakhstan, the buildings date back to the beginning of Western civilisation in Europe.

The Bronze-age settlements, the experts said, could have been built shortly after the Great Pyramid some 4000 years ago by the original Aryan race whose swastika symbol was later adopted by the Nazis in the 1930s.

Swastika symbol.

TV historian Bettany Hughes, who explored the desolate part of the Russian steppe for the BBC programme ‘Tracking The Aryans’, said: “Potentially, this could rival ancient Greece in the age of the heroes.”

“Because I have written a lot about the Bronze Age world, there always seemed to be this huge missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle,” Hughes was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

She said: “We are all told that there is this kind of mother tongue, proto-Indo-European, from which all the languages we know emerge.

“I was very excited to hear on the archaeological grapevine that in exactly the period I am an expert in, this whole new Bronze Age civilisation had been discovered on the steppe of southern Siberia.”

The remains of the ancient city were explored for the first time around 20 years ago shortly after then Soviet officials relaxed strict laws banning non-military aerial photography.

But because the region is so remote the incredible cities have remained virtually unknown to the rest of Europe until now, according to the archaeologists.

They are about the same size as several of the city-states of ancient Greece and would have housed between 1,000 and 2,000 people, they said.

Hughes was driven to the vast region by the expedition’s chief archaeologist Professor Gennady Zdanovich who pointed to the cities that were buried in the ground beneath them.

The Aryan’s language has been identified as the precursor to a number of modern European tongues. English uses many similar words such as brother, oxen and guest which have all been tracked to the Aryans.

Items that have so far been dug up at the sites include make-up equipment, a chariot and numerous pieces of pottery.

The artefacts were daubed in swastikas which were used in ancient times as symbols of the sun and eternal life. But the swastika and Aryan race were adopted by Hitler and the Nazis as symbols of their so-called master race.

Evidence of ritual horse burials was found at the site which ties in with ancient Aryan texts that describe the animals being sliced up and buried with their masters.

Hughes, a visiting research fellow at King’s College London, said that “ancient Indian texts and hymns describe sacrifices of horses and burials and the way the meat is cut off and the way the horse is buried with its master”.

“If you match this with the way the skeletons and graves are being dug up in Russia, they are a millimetre-perfect match.”

Dirty secrets: sediment DNA reveals a 300,000-year timeline of ancient and modern humans living in Siberia

Dirty secrets: sediment DNA reveals a 300,000-year timeline of ancient and modern humans living in Siberia

Dirty secrets: sediment DNA reveals a 300,000-year timeline of ancient and modern humans living in Siberia
In Siberia, researchers lay out a grid in Denisova Cave to systematically sample soil layers for DNA.

Science Magazine reports that analysis of more than 700 soil samples from Siberia’s Denisova Cave has detected traces of modern human DNA, which suggests that modern humans may have occupied the cave alongside Denisovans and Neanderthals.

The group was named “Denisovans” in its honour. Now, an extensive analysis of DNA in the cave’s soils reveals it also hosted modern humans—who arrived early enough that they may have once lived there alongside Denisovans and Neanderthals.

The new study “gives [researchers] unprecedented insight into the past,” says Mikkel Winther Pedersen, a molecular paleoecologist at the University of Copenhagen who was not involved with the work. “It literally shows what [before] they have only been able to hypothesize.”

Humans—including Neanderthals and Denisovans—are known to have occupied Denisova Cave for at least 300,000 years.

Among the eight human fossils unearthed there are the pinkie, three bones from Neanderthals, and even one from a child with one Neanderthal and one Denisovan parent.

Selection of stone tools and personal ornaments made from bone, tooth and ivory recovered from the same sediment layers as modern human ancient DNA.

The cave also contains sophisticated stone tools and jewellery at higher, later levels. But no modern human fossils have been found there.

Those artefacts, extensive studies of DNA from these bones, and even one early study of DNA from soils have cemented the cave’s importance for piecing together human evolution.

But eight fossils are not much to go on, so Elena Zavala, a graduate student at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and colleagues teamed up with Russian researchers to see what kind of DNA was present in the soils of the three-chamber cave (see the video, below).

Researchers have been studying DNA isolated from soils for more than 40 years, including sequencing DNA from permafrost, but only in the past 4 years has anyone found DNA from extinct humans in ancient soils.

Working with another team of experts who had previously dated the layers of the cave, the researchers dug out 728 soil samples. After 2 years of analysis, in which they isolated and sequenced the samples, the researchers found human DNA in 175 of them. That makes the study “the largest and most systematic of its kind,” says Katerina Douka, an archaeological scientist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History who was not involved in the work.

The data reveal a complex history of human and animal habitation, with different groups moving in and out of the cave over time, Zavala and her colleagues report today in Nature. Their work confirms that Denisovans were the cave’s first human inhabitants, about 300,000 years ago.

They disappeared 130,000 years ago, only to be followed by a different group of Denisovans, who likely made many of the stone tools, some 30,000 years later. Neanderthals appeared on the scene about 170,000 years ago, with different groups using the cave at various points in time, some overlapping with the Denisovans.

The last to arrive were modern humans, who showed up about 45,000 years ago. The soil layer that corresponds with that period contained DNA from all three human groups, the researchers report.

“The time periods [of each layer] are quite large, so we can’t concretely say if they overlapped or not,” Zavala says. But, Douka adds, “I cannot think of another site where three human species lived through time.”

Given the jewellery and sophisticated artefacts in later layers, some researchers had suspected moderns had been there. But no one knew they had arrived as early as 45,000 years ago—and overlapped with both of our archaic cousins.

“It suggests a more complicated interplay between archaic and modern humans,” says Ron Pinhasi, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Vienna who was not involved with the work.

The soil samples also yielded DNA from many species of animals. About 170,000 years ago, the climate went from warmer to colder, and Neanderthals moved in, so did different species of hyenas and bears.

It’s the combination of genomic data from both the fossils and the soil samples that really makes the new work stand out, Pinhasi says. “It’s a super promising direction [for future work].” Douka agrees, and says the new study should help ancient soil DNA become “a mainstream archaeological tool.”

She is already amazed at the progress that it, combined with other studies, has made possible. “Let’s not forget that as recently as in 2010 we had absolutely no evidence that Denisovans existed, and that these various hominins ever met, let alone that they interbred repeatedly and co-existed for millennia,” she wrote in an email.

DNA shows Scythian warrior mummy was a 13-year-old girl

DNA shows Scythian warrior mummy was a 13-year-old girl

DNA shows Scythian warrior mummy was a 13-year-old girl
Remains of the young ancient Scythian warrior

The story of a clan of warrior women was formed in Greek mythology during a time when there were ancient gods, warriors, and rulers. These powerful female combatants from Asia Minor said to be daughters of the gods, have captured people’s imaginations for ages and continue to pervade popular culture today as mythical Amazon warriors.

For a long time, these warrior women were assumed to be figments of ancient imaginations, but archaeological evidence has since revealed that the warrior women, who may have inspired these myths, really did exist. Late last year, an archaeological discovery of two women thought to be nomadic Scythians from around 2,500 years ago (4th century BCE) was revealed. They were buried in what’s now the western Russian village of Devitsa, with parts of a horse-riding harness and weapons, including iron knives and 30 arrowheads.

“We can certainly say that these two women were horse warriors,” said archaeologist Valerii Guliaev of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Archaeology at the time.

The Scythian remains with the headdress.

They were found in a burial mound with two other women – one aged between 40-50 years old, who wore a golden headdress with decorative floral ornaments. The other, aged 30-35, was buried alongside two spears and positioned like she was riding a horse.

“During the last decade, our expedition has discovered approximately 11 burials of young armed women. Separate barrows were filled for them and all burial rites which were usually made for men were done for them,” explained Guliaev.

Plate from headdress made from an alloy of 65-70 percent gold.

Now, another team from Russia has mapped the genome of 2,600-year-old Scythian remains that had been discovered in a wooden sarcophagus with an array of weapons back in 1988. 

“This child was initially considered to be male because with him were found characteristics [usually attributed to male] archaeological finds: an axe, a bow, arrows,” archaeologist Varvara Busova from the Russian Academy of Sciences told ScienceAlert.

But the child’s DNA revealed the remains were actually female. “That means we can say with some probability that [Scythian] girls have also participated in hunting or military campaigns,” Busova added.

The warrior girl was buried in Siberia’s modern-day Tuva republic, with an axe, a birch bow and a quiver with ten arrows – some wood, bone or bronze tipped. Due to the larch coffin sealing tightly against fresh air, her remains were partially mummified.

The Scythian girl’s battle axe.

“This young ‘Amazon’ had not yet reached the age of 14 years,” said lead author of the new research, archaeologist Marina Kilunovskaya from the Institute for the History of Material Culture, Russian Academy of Sciences.

The girl was clothed in a long fur coat, a shirt, and trousers or a skirt. Using a scanning electron microscope, the researchers found her coat was composed of a patchwork of skins from a rodent related to Jerboa. And carbon dating of other grave items placed the burial complex from 7th-5th centuries BCE, which is early Scythian times.

Busova said the research team would now like to get more accurate dating of the young warrior girl’s remains, investigate the composition of the metal grave objects, and work to restore and conserve what they have found. They’re also hoping CT scans of the remains may give them clues on how the young female warrior died.

The young warrior’s arrows.

The finding “unwittingly brings us back to the myth about the Amazons that have survived to this day thanks to Herodotus (Herod. IV: 110-118),” the team wrote in their paper.

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus claimed Amazons fought the Scythians, but it seems they could actually be the Scythian women who trained, hunted and fought alongside their male counterparts.

“About one-third of all Scythian women are buried with weapons and have war injuries just like the men,” historian Adrienne Mayor told National Geographic in 2014.

“They lived in small tribes, so it makes sense that everyone in the tribe is a stakeholder. They all have to contribute to the defence and to war efforts and hunting.”

Through the centuries, myths of the Amazons have been embellished with outrageous claims, from cutting off their own breasts to improve their archery, to murdering their male children.

But we now have the opportunity to learn more about the true female warriors behind the myths thanks to modern archaeological studies and DNA techniques.

Till death do us part! 3500-year-old tombs with hand-holding couples found

Till death do us part! 3500-year-old tombs with hand-holding couples found

Russian scientists are trying to uncover the secrets of 3,500-year-old Bronze Age graves, where couples are buried together in a seemingly loving embrace – under suspicions of macabre explanation.

These pictures show ancient burials in the village of Staryi Tartas in Siberia where some 600 tombs were examined by experts.

Dozens contain the bones of couples, some with male and female skeletons, facing each other and their hands appear to be held together forever.

Russian scientists have uncovered the bones of dozens of couples buried facing each other in Staryi Tartas village in Siberia

The Siberian Times said: ‘Archeologists are struggling for explanation and hope that DNA testing can provide answers for these remarkable burials.’ One writer, Vasiliy Labetskiy, described the scenes in the graves poignantly as skeletons in ‘post-mortal hugs with bony hands clasped together.

One theory is that these Andronovo burials show the start of the nuclear family, but another version that after the man died, his wife was killed and buried with him.

Still, another suggests that some of the couples were deliberately buried as if in a sexual act, possibly with a young woman sacrificed to play this role in the grave. Other graves at the site in the Novosibirsk region in western Siberia show adults buried with children.

Professor Vyacheslav Molodin, director of research of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said: ‘We can fantasise a lot about all this.

‘We can allege that husband died and the wife was killed to be interred with him as we see in some Scythian burials, or maybe the grave stood open for some time and they buried the other person or persons later, or maybe it was really simultaneous death.

‘When we speak about a child and an adult, it looks more natural and understandable.

Some graves at the site in Novosibirsk region in western Siberia show adults buried with children

‘When we speak about two adults – it is not so obvious. So we can raise quite a variety of hypotheses, but how it was in fact, we do not know yet.’

Work is underway to establish the ‘kinship’ of these ancient couple burials using DNA research.

‘For example, we found the burial of a man and a child. What is the degree of their kinship? Are they father and son or…? The same question arises when we found a woman and a child. It should seem obvious – she is the mother. But it may not be so. She could be an aunt or not a relative at all. To speak about this scientifically we need the tools of paleogenetics.

One writer described the scenes in the graves poignantly as skeletons in ‘post-mortal hugs with bony hands clasped together’
Work is underway to establish the ‘kinship’ of these ancient couple burials using DNA research

‘We have a joint laboratory with the Institute of Cytology and Genetics, of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science,  and we actively work in this direction. We do such analysis but it is quite expensive still and there are few specialists. We are also solving other questions with help of paleogenetics.’

With such couple burials, Professor Lev Klein, of St Petersburg State University, has proposed they are linked to reincarnation beliefs possibly influenced by Deeksha rituals in the ancient Indian sub-continent at the time when the oldest scriptures of Hinduism were composed.

‘The man during his lifetime donated his body as a sacrifice to all the gods,’ he wrote. ‘The ‘Deeksha was considered as a “second birth” and to complete this ritual the sacrificing one made a ritual sexual act of conceiving.’ In other words, in death, a man should perform a sexual act to impregnate a woman.

‘Perhaps in the pre-Vedic period relatives of the deceased often sought to reproduce the “Deeksha” posthumously, and sacrificed a woman or a girl (or a few), and simulated sexual intercourse in the grave,’ he said.

Archeologists are struggling for explanations and believe DNA tests will provide the answers to these remarkable burials, it was reported

Professor Molodin doesn’t rule out this version, yet makes clear it is only a hypothesis that needs more study.

‘It is again a suggestion. As a suggestion, it could be. This idea of Klein can be extended to Siberia too because a significant part of the researchers think that Andronovo people were Iranians.

‘So this hypothesis can be extended to them. But, I will repeat, it is only a hypothesis.’

2,000-year-old remains of nomadic ‘royal’ unearthed by Russian farmer includes ‘laughing man,’ haul of jewels and weapons

2,000-year-old remains of nomadic ‘royal’ unearthed by Russian farmer includes ‘laughing man,’ haul of jewels and weapons

Russian farmer unearths the remains of a 2,000-year-old nomadic ‘royal’ buried alongside a ‘laughing’ man. A farmer found the haul when digging on his land in the south of Russia near the Caspian Sea.

Stunning gold and silver jewellery, weaponry, valuables and artistic household items were found next to the chieftain’s skeleton in a grave close to the Caspian Sea in southern Russia. Local farmer Rustam Mudayev’s spade made an unusual noise and it emerged he had struck an ancient bronze pot near his village of Nikolskoye in the Astrakhan region.

A chieftain was buried with his head raised as if on a pillow (pictured). It is believed the individual was a high-ranking ‘royal’ of a nomadic society more videos He took it to the Astrakhan History museum for analysis and an experts opinion on the find.

A skeleton uncovered by researchers in Russia.

‘As soon as the snow melted we organised an expedition to the village,’ said museum’s scientific researcher Georgy Stukalov.’After inspecting the burial site we understood that it to be a royal mound, one of the sites where ancient nomads buried their nobility.’

WERE THE SARMARTIANS? 

The Sarmatians were a group of people who lived for almost a millennium from the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD. Their range stretched, at its largest in the 1st century AD, from the Caspian Sea across Eurasia and towards modern-day Poland.

The territory was known as Sarmatia and included today’s Central Ukraine, South-Eastern Ukraine, Southern Russia, Russian Volga and South-Ural regions, also to a smaller extent north-eastern Balkans and around Moldova. They had conflicts with the Roman Empire as they expanded east at their peak, allying themselves with Germanic tribes.

Towards the end of their reign, they faced competition from Germanic Goths and the Huns. The Sarmatians were eventually decisively assimilated by the burgeoning populations in Eastern Europe.

The burial is believed to belong to a leader of a Sarmatian nomadic tribe that dominated this part of Russia until the 5th century AD, and other VIPs of the ancient world, including a ‘laughing’ young man with an artificially deformed egg-shaped skull and excellent teeth that have survived two millennia.

‘We have been digging now for 12 days,’ said Mr Stukalov.’We have found multiple gold jewellery decorated with turquoise and inserts of lapis lazuli and glass.’The most ‘significant’ find is seen as a male skeleton buried inside a wooden coffin. 

This chieftain’s head was raised as if it rested on a pillow and he wore a cape decorated with gold plaques. Archaeologists found his collection of knives, items of gold, a small mirror and different pots, evidently signalling his elite status. They collected a gold and turquoise belt buckle and the chief’s dagger along with a tiny gold horse’s head which was buried between his legs, and other intricate jewellery.

Treasures uncovered by a farmer in southern Russia

Another grave was of an elderly man – his skeleton broke by an excavator – but buried with him was the head of his horse, its skull still dressed in an intricate harness richly decorated with silver and bronze when a farmer digging a pit on his land unearthed 2,000-year-old treasure inside the ancient burial mound of the tomb of a nomadic ‘royal’, along with a ‘laughing’ man (pictured) with an artificially deformed egg-shaped skull. Shaping and elongating the skull in this way was popular on various continents among ancient groupings like the Sarmatians, Alans, Huns and others.

An artificially deformed skull found by researchers in southern Russia.

The burial is believed to belong to a leader of a Sarmatian nomadic tribe that dominated this part of Russia until the 5th-century pieces of jewellery were found in the burial pit alongside the dead humans and animals and experts believe they were gifts for the dead.

The chief’s dagger was buried with him and places alongside his body, between his hand and leg (pictured)They collected a gold and turquoise belt buckle and the chief’s dagger along with a tiny gold horse’s head which was buried between his legs and other intricate jewellery.

Nearby was a woman with a bronze mirror who had been buried with a sacrificial offering of a whole lamb, along with various stone items, the meaning of which is unclear. Another grave was of an elderly man – his skeleton broke by an excavator – but buried with him was the head of his horse, its skull still dressed in an intricate harness richly decorated with silver and bronze.

Also in the burial mound was the skeleton of a young man with an artificially deformed egg-shaped skull. Local farmer Rustam Mudayev’s spade made an unusual noise and it emerged he had struck an ancient bronze pot near his village of Nikolskoye in the Astrakhan region.

A horse’s head buried on top of the old man’s body still carries an intricate silver and bronze harness which was also uncovered after the farmer took his find to the Astrakhan History museum for analysis and an experts opinion on the find. ‘As soon as the snow melted we organised an expedition to the village,’ said museum’s scientific researcher Georgy Stukalov.

‘After inspecting the burial site we understood that it to be a royal mound, one of the sites where ancient nomads buried their nobility,’ the archaeologist said we have been digging now for 12 days,’ said Mr Stukalov. ‘We have found multiple gold jewellery decorated with turquoise and inserts of lapis lazuli and glass’

A chieftain was buried with his head raised as if on a pillow and wearing a cape adorned with gold plagues the most ‘significant’ finds is seen as a male skeleton buried inside a wooden coffin. This chieftain’s head was raised as if it rested on a pillow and he wore a cape decorated with gold plagues.

The shape is likely to have been ‘moulded’ either by multiple bandaging or ‘ringing’ of the head in infancy. Such bandages and or rings were worn for the first years of a child’s life to contort the skull into the desired shape. Shaping and elongating the skull in this way was popular on various continents among ancient groupings like the Sarmatians, Alans, Huns and others.

Such deformed heads were seen as a sign of a person’s special status and noble roots, and their privileged place in their societies, it is believed. The burials date to around 2,000 years ago, a period when the Sarmatian nomadic tribes held sway in what is now southern Russia.

‘These finds will help us understand what was happening here at the dawn of civilisation,’ said Astrakhan region governor Sergey Morozov. Excavation is continuing at the site. Nearby was a woman with a bronze mirror who had been buried with a sacrificial offering of a whole lamb, along with various stone items, the meaning of which is unclear.

The gold jewellery and the buckle (pictured) are thought to be signs of the person’s nobility and would only have been afforded to the most wealthy people.