«THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN». THE SKYTHIAN GRAVE IN THE BARROW NEAR KUSTORIVKA VILLAGE


Keywords: archaeology, anthropology, Iron Age, Scythians, funeral rite, decapitation, horseman osteological complex, osteological signs of archery.

Abstract

In 2013 near Kustorivka village of Krasnokutsky district, Kharkov region the Scythian burial mound (5th—4th centuries BC.) was excavated. The inserted burial of a beheaded man has been discovered there. Fragments of horse bones, horse harness, numerous arrowheads, the spearhead and knife were unearthed in the grave. Funeral inventory dates the burial to the 2nd half or the end of 5th — the early 4th century BC.

The grave goods allowed us to suggest that the man was a horseman and possessed a bow with arrows, javelin or lance. These assumptions have been confirmed by anthropological studies of the development of muscles relief, injuries and specific skeletal markers. The skeleton showed clear signs of a horseman’ and archer’ osteological complexes.

The man died at the age of 20—25. The skull, first and second cervical vertebrae were absent in the undisturbed burial. The upper part of the left intervertebral condyle of the 3rd vertebra was cut off by the hit from left behind and below. These signs are evidence of decapitation. In addition, numerous cut marks made with a sharp blade were found on the anterior and lateral surfaces of the 3rd and 4th cervical vertebrae, as well as on the left femur above the knee. Thus could be the signs of the body cleaning of waste tissue for its transportation or in course of the preparation for the burial.

Studies of the horse’s remains showed that it has deceased at the age of 10—12 years. The horse was decapitated as well by the hit directed between first and second cervical vertebra. The head was also cut in half and only one part of it was present in the burial. There were also some bones of the animal’s skeleton, which do not belong to the edible parts of the body. The severed head of the horse was located above the place where the man’s head was supposed to be, thus the horse harness was situated on the level of the human skeleton.

Traces of the possible preparation of the human body for burial and the location of the remains of a horse over a lost human head along with other changes in the skeleton indicate a certain funeral rite, direct analogies of which have not yet been found in the North Pontic region.

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Published
2021-11-03
How to Cite
Kozak, O. D., Okatenko, V. M., & Bitkovska, T. V. (2021). «THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN». THE SKYTHIAN GRAVE IN THE BARROW NEAR KUSTORIVKA VILLAGE. Archaeology and Early History of Ukraine, 40(3), 264-281. https://doi.org/10.37445/adiu.2021.03.17