UNUSUAL BURIAL IN THE BARROW OF SCYTHIAN AGE NEAR ZHABOTIN VILLAGE


  • O. D. Kozak Institute of Archaeology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
  • T. I. Slobodуan Institute of Archaeology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
Keywords: Scythian culture, forest steppe, barrow grave, funeral rite, mummified tissue, cremation.

Abstract

The funeral rite is a complex ritual process. It combines traditional worldview norms and rituals, includes various stages — the preparatory, process of burial and post-funeral actions as the funeral fest etc. From the archaeological point of view, the funeral rite is considered as the system of interrelated features which includes the funeral method, type of burial, form of the burial structure, grave goods and the remains of the buried people or animals.

Mostly the reconstruction of the funeral rite is quite simple. However, there are the burials, practically having no analogies in archaeological culture and literature. Unusual postmortem transformations on the bones that appear during the preparation process or at the time of burial are sometimes hard to be seen, even more difficult to interpret. Recently, thanks to the spread of research methods, gaining the experience and opportunities to international consultations as well as fruitful cooperation with archaeologists we began (albeit very slowly) to collect the database of «unusual» cases of rites. The vast majority of such cases can be traced at the populations of Scythian Age. The examples are decapitated accompanying persons; skull fragments with signs of scalping and deliberate destruction; possibly boiled human bones found on the ash hills of the Bielsk hill-fort etc.

From this point of view the Early Scythian grave in the barrow 524 near Zhabotin village in the basin of the Tyasmin River is undoubtedly interesting. The primary burial (N 1) was completely destroyed and has no traces of any skeleton. Our paper is focused on the anthropological study of human remains from the other grave.

This is the burial of teenager aged 13—15 with the body of very gracile structure. Features on the skeleton indicate poor health from early childhood. The teenager suffered from frequent prolonged illnesses or starvation.

The process of preparing the body for burial in this case is very complicated. The body and a wooden platform located near grave were exposed to low-temperature fire (100—200 °C). One can assume that the body was placed on the platform. There are no reasons yet to determine the motive of such rite — the ritual cleaning the wooden structure or body by fire or the purposeful process of mummification by low-temperature drying of the body on a smoldering fire. Spectrometric analysis of the black plaque on the skull fragments confirms the presence of mummified organic tissues of the human body. Cases of this type of mummification are known from ethnographic sources. The incision in the skull may have been caused by a procedure to clean the bones of soft tissue or by cutting certain tendons before burial.

Until other similar cases would be found in similar cultural milieu the purpose and exact nature of the manipulation with the child’s body in the barrow near Zhabotin remain unknown.

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Published
2020-06-11
How to Cite
Kozak, O. D., & Slobodуan T. I. (2020). UNUSUAL BURIAL IN THE BARROW OF SCYTHIAN AGE NEAR ZHABOTIN VILLAGE . Archaeology and Early History of Ukraine, 36(3), 445-451. https://doi.org/10.37445/adiu.2020.03.32