Russian farmer unearths the remains of a 2,000-year-old nomadic ‘royal’ buried alongside a ‘laughing’ man with an egg-shaped head and a haul of jewellery, weapons and animal sacrifices
A farmer digging a pit on his land unearthed 2,000-year-old treasure inside the ancient burial mound of the tomb of a nomadic ‘royal’, along with a ‘laughing’ man with an artificially deformed egg-shaped skull.
Stunning gold and silver jewellery, weaponry, valuables and artistic household items were found next to the chieftain’s skeleton in a grave close to the Caspian Sea in southern Russia.
Local farmer Rustam Mudayev’s spade made an unusual noise and it emerged he had struck an ancient bronze pot near his village of Nikolskoye in Astrakhan region.
He took it to the Astrakhan History museum for analysis and an experts opinion on the find.
‘As soon as the snow melted we organised an expedition to the village,’ said museum’s scientific researcher Georgy Stukalov.
‘After inspecting the burial site we understood that it to be a royal mound, one of the sites where ancient nomads buried their nobility.’
WHO WERE THE SARMARTIANS?
The Sarmatians were a group of people who lived for almost a millennium from the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD.
Their range stretched, at its largest in the 1st century AD, from the Caspian Sea across Eurasia and towards modern-day Poland.
The territory was known as Sarmatia and included today’s Central Ukraine, South-Eastern Ukraine, Southern Russia, Russian Volga and South-Ural regions, also to a smaller extent north-eastern Balkans and around Moldova.
They had conflicts with the Roman Empire as they expanded east at their peak, allying themselves with Germanic tribes.
Towards the end of their reign they faced compeтιтion from Germanic Goths and the Huns.
The Sarmatians were eventually decisively ᴀssimilated by the burgeoning populations in Eastern Europe.
The burial is believed to belong to a leader of a Sarmatian nomadic tribe that dominated this part of Russia until the 5th century AD, and other VIPs of the ancient world, including a ‘laughing’ young man with an artificially deformed egg-shaped skull and excellent teeth that have survived two millennia.
‘We have been digging now for 12 days,’ said Mr Stukalov.
‘We have found multiple gold jewellery decorated with turquoise and inserts of lapis lazuli and glᴀss.’
The most ‘significant’ finds is seen as a male skeleton buried inside a wooden coffin.
This chieftain’s head was raised as if it rested on a pillow and he wore a cape decorated with gold plagues.
Archaeologists found his collection of knives, items of gold, a small mirror and different pots, evidently signalling his elite status.
They collected a gold and turquoise belt buckle and the chief’s dagger along with a tiny gold horse’s head which was buried between his legs, and other intricate jewellery.
A farmer digging a pit on his land unearthed 2,000-year-old treasure inside the ancient burial mound of the tomb of a nomadic ‘royal’, along with a ‘laughing’ man (pictured) with an artificially deformed egg-shaped skull. Shaping and elongating the skull in this way was popular on various continents among ancient groupings like the Sarmatians, Alans, Huns and others
Nearby was a woman with a bronze mirror who had been buried with a sacrificial offering of a whole lamb, along with various stone items, the meaning of which is unclear.
Another grave was of an elderly man – his skeleton broke by an excavator – but buried with him was the head of his horse, its skull still dressed in an intricate harness richly decorated with silver and bronze.
Also in the burial mound was the skeleton of a young man with an artificially deformed egg-shaped skull.
The shape is likely to have been ‘moulded’ either by multiple bandaging or ‘ringing’ of the head in infancy.
Such bandages and or rings were worn for the first years of a child’s life to contort the skull into the desired shape.
Shaping and elongating the skull in this way was popular on various continents among ancient groupings like the Sarmatians, Alans, Huns and others.
Such deformed heads were seen a sign of a person’s special status and noble roots, and their privileged place in their societies, it is believed.
The burials date to round 2,000 years ago, a period when the Sarmatian nomadic tribes held sway in what is now southern Russia.
‘These finds will help us understand what was happening here at the dawn of civilisation,’ said Astrakhan region governor Sergey Morozov.
Excavation is continuing at the site.