History & Culture

Scientists reconstructed 5 thousand years old elite tomb discovered in Ukraine

Scientists reconstructed the monumental 5 thousand years old tomb discovered on the border between Ukraine and Moldova. It belonged to a representative of the elite of the community of nomadic shepherds.

"This is the most complex tomb that we have discovered during the excavations carried out since 2010" - told PAP Dr. Danuta Żurkiewicz of the Institute of Prehistory, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań.

The burial is located within the barrow cemetery near the village of Prydnistryanske (Vinnytsia region) on the border of the Ukraine and Moldova near the Dniester.

Members of the community living in this area 5 thousand years ago were mobile shepherds - they moved over longer distances with carts. Consequently, no permanent settlements were built, which is reflected in the lack of discoveries of houses from this period by archaeologists. But there are cemeteries.

"They erected monumental burial mounds, which played an important role in the life of the community. They were clearly visible in the landscape - now they are destroyed and poorly outlined" - said Dr. Żurkiewicz.

Archaeologists have conducted research within several few mounds. In their opinion, findings indicate a dominant role adult males, for whom monumental mounds were erected after their death. Scientists drew particular attention to the burial, which was made with great care - which is it was decided to prepare its colourful reconstruction. It was made by archaeologist Michał Podsiadło. Other discovered burial chambers were partially rebuilt with wood - with roofing made of battens.

In this case, it was different. The rectangular pit was covered with four well-matched limestone slabs. In addition, it was protected from top and bottom with a woven mat - its residues in the form of prints and the organic layer were clearly visible. The interior of the tomb had additional roof made of ash wood. Inside rested a nearly 1.9 meters tall man.

"This is not a typical height for the contemporary community. The man had to stand out with his stature" - said Dr. Żurkiewicz.

The analysis of the skeleton showed that the deceased suffered from rheumatic changes in the upper extremities and degeneration of the spine. The observed pathologies indicate substantial physical activity and the presence of mechanical stresses associated with the nature of performed work - perhaps frequent horse riding. The man died at the age of 35-50 years.

In the tomb, archaeologists found a lump of ochre (red dye). Stone slabs covering the burial chamber were also partly covered with ochre.

The excavations, during which the discovery was made, are part of a wider research project co-funded by the National Programme for the Development of Humanities and conducted by researchers from the Institute of Prehistory, Adam Mickiewicz University, the Institute of Archaeology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology PAS in Kraków. The project objective is to study the area of Podole as a zone of cultural contacts from the end of the fourth to the second millennium BC.

Project leader for the Polish side is Prof. Aleksander Kośko. In addition to archaeologists, participants include biologists, geneticists, physical anthropologists. Preliminary results of the work, including the elite tomb, will be published in September, in the 20th volume of the yearbook "Baltic Pontic Studies".

PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland

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