A well-preserved quiver and wooden utensils were found in the burial of Scythian aristocrats

(ORDO NEWS) — Archaeologists have studied materials from a paired Scythian burial of the 4th century BC, excavated in Ukraine in a mound near the village of Bulgakovo.

Apparently, it contained the remains of a man and a woman who belonged to the lower strata of the aristocracy. In their burial, items of leather, wood and textiles, such as shoes, wooden utensils, as well as a quiver with arrows, were preserved.

In addition, the deceased had a spear, Greek vessels, precious jewelry and a bronze cauldron. This is reported in an article published in the Oxford Journal of Archaeology.

In the early Iron Age, cultures of the Scytho-Siberian world existed in the vast expanses of the Eurasian steppe and forest-steppe zone from the Lower Danube to Southern Siberia. They were united by the so-called “Scythian triad”: similar weapons, elements of horse equipment, as well as the animal style of art.

The Scythians were not a single people, but they probably spoke ancient Iranian languages. This community is known not only thanks to archeological data, but also from written sources. Although the Scythians themselves did not know writing, other peoples reported a lot about them – Greeks, Romans, Persians and Chinese.

The Scythian archaeological culture itself is a complex of monuments of the middle of the 7th – beginning of the 3rd century BC, discovered in the steppe and forest-steppe zones of the Northern Black Sea region and in the North Caucasus.

Although Herodotus wrote about these tribes, scientists obtained most of the information about them by examining numerous burial and memorial complexes. Basically, these are earth mounds, the size of which, as a rule, depended on the social status of the dead.

The mound was often supplemented with a stone wall – the so-called crepid – or surrounded by a moat, where evidence of sacrifices is sometimes found. The dominant rite was inhumation (deposition of corpses), and along with the dead, dependent people, horses were often buried, and rich accompanying inventory was also left.

A well preserved quiver and wooden utensils were found in the burial of Scythian aristocrats 2
The number 1 indicates the location of the excavated mound near the village of Bulgakovo

Marina Daragan from the Institute of Archeology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, together with colleagues from Belgium, Great Britain, Denmark, Italy and Russia, studied materials found in 1971 during excavations of kurgan-5 of the second quarter of the 4th century BC near the village of Bulgakovo.

The scientists noted that, unlike the Scythian-Siberian cultures, where organic matter is sometimes very well preserved, little is known about food, textiles, leather, bone or wood products of the Black Sea Scythians.

The excavated burial mound was a mound with a diameter of 22 meters and a height of 0.8 meters, under which there were four burials. The only unlooted burial (number two) was a catacomb with an entrance closed by a pile of stones, in which two skeletons were in an extended position on their backs.

Due to the fact that shortly after the burial part of the arch of the catacomb collapsed, a microclimate was created in it that favored the preservation of organic materials, with the exception of human bones, which have survived to this day in extremely poor condition.

A well preserved quiver and wooden utensils were found in the burial of Scythian aristocrats 3
Marina Daragan et al

Archaeologists have determined that the dead were buried on a thick “mattress” stuffed with grass, on top of which was the skin of an animal. The deceased were wearing clothes made of leather and fabric, fragments of which were found during excavations.

So, on the feet of individual 2 were the remains of leather shoes made from the skin of a goat (Capra hircus). Near the wall in the burial chamber stood two wooden trays with animal bones and an iron knife with a bone handle. In addition, a small wooden bowl and a vessel were located nearby.

Individual-1 was buried with a very valuable inventory. So, next to his skull were two antique kanthara and a bronze mirror with an iron handle. In addition, a wooden spear with an iron tip and more than a dozen bronze arrowheads lay nearby.

A silver hryvnia was located on the neck of the deceased, a bronze earring (or temporal ring) was located near the collarbone, several gold, silver and bronze rings adorned the fingers, and two bracelets adorned the wrist. In addition, four small amulet bags and costume jewelry were found next to the remains.

A well preserved quiver and wooden utensils were found in the burial of Scythian aristocrats 4
Reconstruction of leather shoes

On the contrary, the inventory of the second individual turned out to be more modest. So, on his left hand there was a bronze ring, three more silver rings and gold plaques and rings were discovered by archaeologists when clearing the floor of the chamber.

Between the remains of people also lay the best-preserved leather quiver in Scythia, inside of which there were 31 bronze and four iron arrowheads and the remains of shafts. Under the quiver, it seems, lay the remnants of fabrics.

The scientists also decided to use ZooMS to find out what kind of skin this item was made of. After selecting several samples, they found that the main material was probably goatskin, but one sample appeared to be from a great ape (Hominoidea).

Perhaps this is a confirmation of the testimony of Herodotus that the Scythians used the skin of their enemies to make quivers.

Individual-1’s feet also contained other wooden objects, apparently damaged by the collapse of the catacomb vault.

Apparently, they originally lay in a wooden chest, from which one part with a carved ornament has survived (possibly, an image of a deer). Inside the chest were two caskets containing various artifacts, such as iron needles, wooden spinning wheels, a comb, a spindle, and other things.

In one of the corners of the chamber stood a Greek commercial amphora, and not far from it was a bronze cauldron with handles. The height of this object, filled with the remains of animal bones, is 36.7 centimeters.

A well preserved quiver and wooden utensils were found in the burial of Scythian aristocrats 5
Bronze cauldron found in a burial

Since the bones of the skeletons were preserved in extremely poor condition, it was not possible to determine the sex of people by anthropological methods. At the same time, it was difficult to guess who the remains belonged to even from the grave goods.

At the same time, scientists are inclined to believe that individual 1 is an adult woman, and individual 2 is possibly a man.

The parallel arrangement of the skeletons in the burial probably indicates that they had an “equal” status in society. Archaeologists believe that these people are representatives of the lower strata of the aristocracy, some of whose things may have been made in Greek centers.


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