SOCIAL STRATIFICATION OF FOREST-STEPPE POPULATION OF THE LEFT-BANK OF THE DNIEPERLAND DURING THE CLASSICAL SCYTHIA (the 2nd half of 6th—4th/3rd century BC). PART 2: INTERPRETATION


Keywords: funeral rites, social stratification, forest-steppe Dnieper, Scythians.

Abstract

The paper presents some remarks concerning social stratification of the inhabitants of the forest-steppe areas of the left-bank Dnieperland between the 2nd half of the 6th and 4th/3rd century BC. The main aim of the article was to propose a new interpretation of the status of deceased buried in various grave complexes of this cultural phenomenon. The process of identifying groups occupying different positions in hierarchy was multi-level. One of the first things considered in the analysis was the context of graves of individuals belonging to subsequent clusters. The next stage of the study involved an attempt to recognize social classes and groups known from written sources and / or described for other societies of similar (Scythian) cultural model among previously distinguished clusters of grave complexes. It was established that the highest place in social hierarchy of the analysed communities was occupied by the individuals of the higher classes. This social class was not homogeneous; thus, we could divide it into at least few smaller subgroups. The richest and the most elaborate graves belong to local leaders of groups of various sizes (e. g. individual tribes or their federations) of diverse statuses. Slightly lower position was attributed to the forest-steppe aristocracy of the middle rank. This social stratum included of members of the (ancestral and / or tribal) aristocracy, leaders of small groups (clans) of the forest-steppe elites of the lowest rank, as well as the so-called «elite troopers». At the bottom of the social hierarchy of the forest-steppe elites was aristocracy of the lowest rank — the most diverse group belonging to the higher classes. It seems that leaders of smaller groups utilizing specific cemeteries / kurgan groups might have had similar social status. Yet, formally speaking, the latter social stratum most likely already belonged to the middle classes. The so-called «ordinary people», or simply common folk, constituted the majority of the analysed communities. This large social class could be divided into two main groups — wealthy individuals of slightly higher social status among the middle class, and the remaining «ordinary people». The lowest place in the presented hierarchy of nominally free members of the studied populations was taken by not so numerous representatives of «the poor». The list of social classes and groups distinguished within the analyzed society is completed by people with more or less limited rights, who were socially dependent on the members of higher classes (servants or enslaved domestic workers). The interpretation of the system of social stratification presented in the study was supplemented by the analysis of differences in the number of grave complexes assigned to a specific place in hierarchy. The obtained results raise the question of the level of representativeness of the social structure of the populations of the forest-steppe areas of the left-bank Dnieperland described in the study. First and foremost, in the analysed set there is an extremely high percentage of grave complexes assigned to the higher classes. The article offers fer possible explanations of this phenomena, including the theory that the unusually high percentage of grave complexes linked to the more privileged groups was a consequence of a vast underestimation of the number of burials of the individuals occupying lower positions in hierarchy. It seems that the disrupted proportions between burials belonging to the higher and the lower classes may have resulted from various factors, including the source database itself. We should keep in mind that most of the grave complexes that had to be excluded from the statistical analysis have features characteristic for burials of the individuals of middle and lower social status.

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Published
2022-04-06
How to Cite
Burghardt, M. (2022). SOCIAL STRATIFICATION OF FOREST-STEPPE POPULATION OF THE LEFT-BANK OF THE DNIEPERLAND DURING THE CLASSICAL SCYTHIA (the 2nd half of 6th—4th/3rd century BC). PART 2: INTERPRETATION . Archaeology and Early History of Ukraine, 42(1), 33-43. https://doi.org/10.37445/adiu.2022.01.02