Archaeology, Ethnology & Anthropology of Eurasia

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Vol 46, No 4 (2018)
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3-12 296

One of the most important recent discoveries made on the Vitim River (Baikal-Patom plateau, Eastern Siberia) is that of a Paleolithic dwelling at Kovrizhka IV, layer 6. It reveals markers of symbolic activity, such as two anthropomorphic ivory figurines. They were associated with a likewise non-utilitarian context: reiterating boulder and slab pavements, ocher on lithics, on a figurine, and around, evidence of manipulations with the central hearth in the dwelling. One of the figurines shows a triangle pointing downward and possibly rendering the pubes, as in female figurines. Stylistically it resembles Neolithic and Bronze Age anthropomorphic figurines from the Baikal area. Its head, painted with ocher, was directed eastwards. The second ivory figurine has a contour barely reminiscent of the human body. There is no engraving on it. Near its head, a cluster of ocher pieces was found. The radiocarbon date of the dwelling is ca 15.7 ka BP. The two figurines and a fragment of a graphite pendant are the first objects of portable art to be found in the area north of Lake Baikal. The first figurine is thus far the only unambiguously anthropomorphic Upper Paleolithic representation from northeastern Siberia.

13-21 337

On the basis of interdisciplinary and semiotic approaches, the paper interprets the meaning of vertical stelae/pillars/ pilasters at the cult complexes of Northern Mesopotamia during the transition to the Neolithic. General trends in the content of the rituals practiced at the initial stage of sedentism are described. One of the central ideas was that of procreation/ fertility/prosperity. Monumental stelae, pillars, and pilasters of sacral complexes of that time in Upper Mesopotamia, while representing zoo-anthropomorphic divine patrons, might have another meaning, referring to the male procreative force. The shift to sedentism likely contributed to the formation of the cult of deities associated with specific locations and human groups. The ancestor cult was related to the groups’ totems, as evidenced by Northern Mesopotamian totemic beliefs typical of the hunting-gathering societies and differing from those practiced by the early farmers. Certain religious innovations, while being transformed, regularly appear in later cultures of the Ancient Near East, and are attested by both the archaeological evidence and written sources.

22-32 147

Finds unearthed at the Suchu settlement in 1974 include lithics, ceramics, and portable art and ritual objects, now owned by the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk. Most of them have not been described before. In this study, they are analyzed using methods of stratigraphy, planigraphy (assessment of position within and between dwellings), petrography and typology (lithics), binocular microscopy (ceramics), and chronology (ceramics, objects of portable art and ritual). The results suggest that finds from excavation I (1974) mostly represent the Middle Neolithic (Malyshevo and Kondon cultures and the Belkachi complex),Late Neolithic (Voznesenovskoye culture), and Final Neolithic. Certain artifacts date to the later periods (Bronze and Early Iron Ages and the Middle Ages). Certain ceramics are unrelated to the Lower Amur complexes. A reconstruction of dwellings is attempted. The typological analysis of lithics revealed a variety of tool and spall types. Various minerals were employed, the principal ones being aleurolite, argillite, and siliceous rocks. Most ceramics, portable art, and ritual objects represent the Middle Neolithic Malyshevo and the Late Neolithic Voznesenovskoye cultures.


33-41 436

This study describes all known 150 jade items from ten Early Bronze Age cemeteries on the western coast of Lake Baikal. Although the outcrops of jade are located far away, the material was widely used. Green jade was employed for making tools, whereas ornaments were made of white or light-colored jade. The choice was motivated by durability, color, translucency, and rarity. Binocular microscopy was used to reconstruct manufacturing technologies. Most artifacts belong to the Glazkovo culture. Calibrated radiocarbon dates of burials with jade items, corrected for the reservoir effect, fall within the 4597–3726 BP interval. Results of the mineralogical analysis indicate two remote sources––the Eastern Sayan Range and the Middle Vitim Highland.

42-48 206

One mound and five stone enclosures were excavated at the Andronovo cemetery of Sherubai-1 in Kazakhstan. Within the enclosures, there were ten graves and burials in cists. Size differences between the funerary structures of low-ranking and highranking persons indicate considerable social stratification. In the center of the kurgan there was a triple burial—two inhumations and a cremation. Certain cultural traits point to contacts between the two Andronovo populations associated with the Fedorovka and Alakul traditions. The radial arrangement of burials, as well as graves dug in the ground, are typical of Alakul. While being rare at Fedorovka cemeteries, triple central burials, such as the one under mound 1, occur in all areas where the tradition is distributed—southern Siberia, Middle Yenisei basins, and eastern and central Kazakhstan. The Sherubai ceramic assemblage includes 14 vessels with typical features, such as round shoulders, oblique hatching, and geometric designs. The vessel shapes belong to the same type, but the paste formation techniques were different, evidencing ethnic heterogeneity. Radiocarbon analysis, conducted at the 14CHRONO laboratory of the Queen’s University Belfast, suggest a date between the early 17th and the early 16th century BC.

49-58 145

We present the results of a technological analysis of details of the horse harness—the most numerous and the most representative category of wooden artifacts found in the Scythian Age (Pazyryk) tombs. Basic techniques and specific operations involved in the manufacturing of horse masks are described. Especially noteworthy are the tops of these masks, fashioned like horns of mountain goats. Such masks were found in nearly all high-ranking burials. We reconstruct the carpentry of the Early Iron Age nomads. Wooden horns, being the principal elements of the horse’s headgear, differ in terms of technique and complexity: some are solid, while others are composed of two and more parts. In terms of size and shape, some horns are robust, and some are thin and elegant. Separate groups include composite horns with sophisticated carved figurines of feline carnivores, bone collets, bipartite semicircular inserts, and leather tops shaped like antlers. The analysis of horse harness decoration from burials differing in status suggests that wooden horns were mostly attributes of the nomadic elite members. Their size, accessory ornaments, and intricacy were markers of social status.

59-66 266

Attempts to push the Archaic Scythian culture back in time have led to a disagreement between archaeological and written sources relevant to the appearance of Scythians in the region north of the Black Sea. In the recent two decades, this event was moved from the late 7th century BC, as the documents suggest, to the mid-7th century BC. In this study, one of the chronological markers motivating this date is subjected to a critical revision. Based on new facts, the dates of “Scythian” and Greek mirrors found at Northern Pontic sites are analyzed. Importantly, both “Scythian” and Greek specimens were cultural innovations marking the migration of Scythians from eastern Eurasia and the Greek colonization of the area. Because the nomads lacked the skills required for manufacturing the “Scythian” mirrors, the tradition declined in the 5th century BC. The contacts between Scythians and people of the Northern Pontic forest-steppe zone and of the Greek colonies caused the change in the construction of the “Scythian” mirrors: instead of the central (“Scythian”) lug, a “Greek” side lug appeared, rendering the mirrors “Greek” in shape. It is concluded that replicas of Greek prototypes in the Northern Pontic region can serve as chronological indicators since we know the centers where these prototypes were manufactured––Corinth and Argos. Because Archaic Greek mirrors appeared in the 6th century BC, Scythian assemblages with such artifacts cannot be earlier.

67-73 140

This article describes a group of horsemen depicted on a plaque decorating a rectangular gold casing from the Siberian collection of Peter I. Based on a drawing of the item, published in 1890, the number of characters, their postures and state are assessed. Four horsemen are evidently alive and three are dead. The absence of stirrups indicates the Scytho-Sarmatian age. Judging by the evidence relating to the transportation of the dead among the Turco-Mongol peoples, the scene may be that of a funerary procession. In certain early nomadic burials, the “straddling” position of the deceased (supine with flexed and widely spread legs) is suggestive of dancing or riding. According to a convincing hypothesis proposed by O.V. Obelchenko, who reported such cases in the kurgans of Sogd dating to the 2nd to 1st century BC, the straddling posture of the deceased likely suggests that they had been transported to the grave in the saddle. The funerary procession shown on the gold casing supports such an interpretation. The scene, however, is hardly mundane. More likely, the characters are those of the Scytho-Sarmatian mythology or folklore.

74-82 318
A Mongolian era female headdress of the bocca type is described. It was found in 2015, in a burial at Krokhalevka-5, in the Novosibirsk region of the Ob. The undisturbed burial of an adult female belongs to a group of contemporaneous medieval graves under a large mound 75 and dates to the 13th to 14th centuries. We describe the birch-bark frame (cylindrical base, frontal plate, and cover) and the decorative items (large glass and stone beads, small glass beads, and a bronze earring) with regard to field conservation and subsequent restoration. The size and shape of the headdress are reconstructed. It is one of the northern specimens of the Mongolian and Tian Shan bocca type, and its parallels are known from archaeological finds and written descriptions. Bocca, an attribute of a married woman, had ritual and mundane functions and several meanings. Like the silk items found in the burial, the bocca was a prestigious imported object marking the high status of the woman and of other individuals buried under the same mound. It evidences ties between the local elite and the steppe dwellers––members of the imperial Mongol culture.
83-93 456

Results of an interdisciplinary (archaeological and pedological) study of the ancient soils in the Bozok district (8th to 15th centuries) are presented. Part of the district is a complex irrigation system dating to the 11th to 12th centuries. To detect the traces of ancient irrigation, surface and buried soils were studied. Results of the morphogenetic analysis, as well as the assessment of physical and chemical properties of soils and their microbiomorph composition, suggest that soils relating to various functional parts of the irrigation system within the same catena indicate agricultural use. The multivariate analysis revealed significant differences between irrigated and non-irrigated soils, and a high correlation between the former and the presence of diatom algae, sponge spicules, and phytoliths of Phragmites spp. in the microbiomorph fraction. The observed differences in the microbiomorph concentrations between soils in subordinate catena positions confirm the impact of irrigation on the transformation of the microbiomorph profiles of the ancient irrigated soils in terms of relief. The taxonomy of the buried and anthropogenically transformed surface soils at the type level suggest that over the last 900 years the pedogenic conditions changed from automorphic humus-accumulative to more semihydromorphic solonetzic ones.

94-99 209

This study, based on archival, literary, and field data collected by the author, discusses the role of the snake, the frog, and the mouse in the Buryat mythology, folklore, and ritual. Using the respective lexemes, categories of these animals in the folk ethnozoological classification are described and are shown to be overlapping. The meaning of the principal zoonyms––mogoy, khorkhoy, bakha, and khulgana––is assessed. In traditional beliefs, “reptiles”, “amphibians”, and “murines” have a mostly negative connotation. The snake, however, is ambivalent but mostly positive. Chthonic animals in general are ambivalent, like the elements such as water and earth. Their symbolism is related to the ideas of vital energy, fertility, wealth, but also to illness and death.

100-108 266

On the basis of the materials of the Sayansky Ostrog (fort), built in the Northern Sayan in 1718, we reconstruct the type of building that was common during the initial stage of the Russian colonization (1600s and 1700s). This is one of the few well preserved Russian forts. While its buildings, their function, and location are known from written sources and from the findings of a complete archaeological excavation, their construction has been hitherto unknown. To reconstruct their size and appearance, we collated archaeological and ethnographic findings, museum materials, and written evidence about the layout of buildings and construction techniques. Judging from the totality of data, we suggest the reconstructions of buildings, such as powder magazine, supply depot, barn with cellar, forge, and commandant’s house. We describe traditions and innovations in construction techniques, choice of building materials, details and blocks, layout of floors, ceilings, and roofs. The commandant’s house reproduces the architectural standards of that time, set by Domenico Trezzini, who designed buildings in the capital and in provincial Russian towns.

109-113 268

Despite the success achieved in the tree-ring dating of wood samples from archaeological excavations over the recent years, attempts to apply this method to relatively recent wooden constructions in central Siberia run into considerable difficulties, because the increment of wood in that area shows little variation due to the virtual absence of limiting factors. To solve this problem, we used the blue intensity method, based on measuring the optical density of wood. This method is more sensitive to environmental changes of annual growth rates and is optimal in terms of efficiency and cost. This article describes the techniques of sample preparation, measuring optical density of annual rings, and the construction of chronologies based on this indicator. The efficiency of the method is assessed by comparing it with the traditional approach based on tree-ring width for dating wood from the temperate zone of Siberia. Results of dating two wooden structures (the Gromov house (1870) and the Gafarov store (1909)) indicate the efficiency of the new method virtually without limiting factors affecting increment rates.

114-122 170

By the end of the Soviet period, Eastern Slavs (Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians) made up over one fifth of the population of Central Asia. In the USSR, Eastern Slavs were the leading ethnic group, playing the key role in the multinational state. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Eastern Slavs, in essence, became an ethnic minority. The new ethno-political situation had a negative impact on their natural increase, which dropped below simple reproduction level, whereas emigration from Central Asia showed an abrupt rise. As a result, the absolute number of Eastern Slavs decreased twofold, and their relative number nearly threefold. Before the collapse of the USSR, their share in this region was 1/4 to 1/5; by the mid-2010s it dropped to 1/12 to 1/13. In Kazakhstan, the decrease was much slower than in other Central Asian republics, so Kazakhstan has become the place where three quarters of Central Asian Eastern Slavs concentrate. This republic therefore has a good chance to remain the most “Slavic” in the region, whereas in other republics of Central Asia the future preservation of the Slavic population is problematic.

123-131 392

This article presents the results of a paleogenetic study of skeletal remains of a male from burial 688 at Sopka-2, in the Baraba forest-steppe. The artifacts, the burial rite, and the man’s Central Asian Mongoloid physical type unambiguously indicate a foreigner. We analyzed the uniparental markers, such as mitochondrial DNA (HVRI sequence and informative positions in the coding part of mtDNA) and Y-chromosome (allelic profile of 17 STR-loci). The male’s mtDNA belongs to the East Eurasian haplogroup D4b1, and his Y-chromosome haplogroup Q (Q1a) is likewise East Eurasian. Thus, the individual’s eastern origin has been established, consistent with his physical type. The phylogeographic analysis, using data on ancient and modern populations of Eurasia, revealed the presence of the East Eurasian D4b1-haplogroup both in the eastern and western Eurasian steppes. Importantly, it was present in Scythians of the northern Pontic area. Genetic data, then, do not allow to locate the region whence the individual had migrated to Baraba. We propose a scenario that explains the disagreement between the paleogenetic and the craniometrical evidence, indicating eastern origin, on the one hand, and the predominantly western (Sarmato-Alanian) parallels to the funerary items, on the other. We discuss the possibilities and limitations of the paleogenetic approach to reconstructing the origins of ancient individuals.

132-139 324

On the basis of perimortem cranial injuries, we examine armed violence among the Altai Montains nomadic pastoralists during the Xiongnu-Sarmatian period (2nd century BC to 5th century AD), when this region was within the military and political orbit of the Central Asian nomadic empires—Xiongnu, Xianbei, and Zhouzhan. The sample included 470 crania from 20 cemeteries of the Bulan-Koba Culture. Blade wounds, depressed fractures, and penetrating projectile wounds were registered. Additionally, weapon related lesions of the postcranial skeleton (arrowheads stuck in the bones and blade wounds), as well as possible cases of scalping, decapitation, and severed limbs were recorded. The frequency of perimortem cranial traumas is 13.3% in males, 6.4% in females, and 4.8% in subadults. This rate shows considerable variation across local groups. During the Xiongnu-Xianbei period (2nd century BC to early 3rd century), perimortem trauma was mainly related to interpersonal and local intergroup violence. Between the late 3rd century AD and the 5th century AD, following the disintegration of the Xianbei Empire and the rise of intergroup clashes, the Bulan-Koba people became also involved in military clashes with foreign tribes.

140-148 192

We describe an unusual triple burial in southern Bashkiria, dating to 100–400 AD. Its peculiarity is that the two males had been buried on the step of the entrance pit in unusual postures—prone with their knees pulled to the chins. A woman buried in the undercut lay in a normal (supine) posture. The prone position of the dead is quite rare at Late Sarmatian cemeteries, and flexed burials are exceptional. The anthropological examination revealed that the physical types of the buried persons were different: while all of them were narrow-faced Caucasoids, the features of one male, unlike those of other persons, indicate Mongoloid admixture. All the individuals are similar to those buried at Pokrovka-10, a Late Sarmatian cemetery in the Orenburg Region. Graphical reconstructions of the appearance of one male and the woman were made. The postcranial skeletons of all individuals reveal multiple pathologies. To explain the unusual burial rite, we discuss various possibilities, such as that the bodies of the males had been tied up to counter the evil that they might inflict; that they had been sacrificed; or that they all had died of a fulminant infectious disease. The uniqueness of the burial prevents us from selecting one of these options. The humble status of the males may illustrate the words of Ammianus Marcellinus about the maltreatment of the elderly among the Alans.

ISSN 1563-0110 (Print)