ABYLAI SETTLEMENT — SITE OF THE EARLY IRON AGE IN CENTRAL KAZAKHSTAN


Keywords: Central Kazakhstan, Saka epoch, Tasmola culture, settlements, excavations, ceramics, stone artifacts, archaeozoological studies, trasology

Abstract

The Abylai settlement was discovered by the author in 2006, and in 2016 the excavations of this site began. This settlement is located in the Karkaralinsky district of the Karaganda region of the Republic of Kazakhstan. In 2016-2021 six field campaigns headed by the author were carried out, the total area of which is more than 1200 m2 (fig. 1). The materials of the 2020 excavation, as well as the overview of the main multidisciplinary studies are published in the paper.

Excavation area 5 was 185.5 m2. In this area, the remains of five structures with stone foundation walls, as well as household pits were discovered (fig. 2, 3). One pit has large dimensions: 5.9 × 3.45 m along the top, 5.3 × 2.9 m along the bottom (fig. 4). It was filled with three layers of ash and the soil mixed with ash. Perhaps this pit was used to drain the rain and melt water. The burial (fig. 5, 6), which does not belong to the inhabitants of this culture, was found in the excavation area. Such burials belong to the «Korgantas type» and date to the 4th—5th centuries BC.

Fragments of ceramics (fig. 7), numerous stone tools (fig. 8), among which there are objects for grinding grains and other plant residues, hoes, graters, etc., were found in the excavation area.

Materials, found in 2020, supplement the information previously received about this site. A large amount of data has now been accumulated. In this regard, the complex of multidisciplinary studies has been launched in recent years. Archaeozoological and traceological analyzes have yielded important results. Based on more than 11,000 animal bones found at the settlement, the composition of the herd, having consisted of sheeps, cows and horses was ascertained. A more important result is the determination of the slaughter season: it turned out that the entire mass of livestock was slaughtered in the period from late autumn to early spring. This conclusion proves the author’s hypothesis about the winter character of such settlements. Part of the bones (over 6000) was found in a large pit measuring 8 × 4 × 0.9 m. These were the bones of sheep and cows, thrown into the pit and covered with ashes. Analyzes showed that all the bones were thrown into the pit at the same time and belong to animals that died in the early spring. This fact is the first case in Kazakhstan of finding the remains of animals that died as a result of spring starvation or epizootic. The entire results of the archaeozoological analysis are now preparing for publication.

More than 500 stone tools were found at the site of Abylai. In 2020, 150 items were subjected to trace analysis, as a result of which the functions of 139 tools were determined. Of these, 130 turned out to be tools that were intensively used in various cases: earthworks, vegetation processing, work with livestock products, as well as the processing of metal surfaces (whetstones). Moreover, all bars have traces of iron objects (Beisenov, Gorashchuk, Duysenbay 2021). In 2021, a new group of stone tools was covered by traceological analysis. Out of 250 items, 202 had a function determined. Thus, there is a good prospect to study the economic structures of the Abylai settlement. The few grains of cultivated cereals found by carpological analysis, including millet, barley (fig. 9) and wheat, provide additional information about the life of the ancient inhabitants of the settlement.

The Abylai settlement, like other sites of the Tasmola culture, dates back to the period of the 8th—5th centuries BC (Beisenov et al. 2016; Beisenov 2017). Terminus ante quem of the settlement is additionally confirmed by the burials of the Korgantas time. These burials are dated within the period of the 4th—2nd centuries BC. The presence of them proves that closer to the 4th century BC the Abylai settlement had already been abandoned. A more accurate dating of the settlements of the Saka Age of Central Kazakhstan should be expected in future studies.

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Published
2022-04-06
How to Cite
Beisenov, A. Z. (2022). ABYLAI SETTLEMENT — SITE OF THE EARLY IRON AGE IN CENTRAL KAZAKHSTAN. Archaeology and Early History of Ukraine, 42(1), 120-130. https://doi.org/10.37445/adiu.2022.01.09