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Two ceramic vessels were found along the southern wall of the grave.

Photo by G. Gerster

The Katandinsky burial mound is famous for being the first investigated burial monument of the population of the Scythian time in Gorny Altai with the so-called frozen burial. When Radlov’s expedition, with great difficulties, kindling fires and thawing the ground, opened one third of the burial chamber of this mound, taking the robbery passage outside the grave pit, they saw two wooden boxes standing next to each other at the bottom of the log house, on which the skeletons of two buried people lay with their heads to the west. without any stuff. The skeletons, as it was written in the report, “completely decayed and crumbled to dust when touched” (Radlov, 1989, p. 448). Therefore, it will never be possible to establish the sex, age and anthropological type of the buried.

Well-preserved burial beds, one of which had “copper rims” on the legs, remained in the grave, and by 1954 there was no trace of them (Gavrilova, 1956). But Radlov nevertheless took something very unusual with him: “On the western log lay some kind of leather knot, about three tops covered with a strong crust of ice. I ordered the log to be cut down and taken out of the pit along with the ice. After the ice melted, it turned out that this knot was some kind of tailcoat-like clothing made of sable fur, covered with silk, trimmed with leather and small pieces of gold along the edge … A little lower than the transverse logs among birch bark and in a piece of ice was a folded garment of ermine fur dyed in green and red was found, with buttons and small gold plates as decoration, with long, narrow sleeves and a high collar. There was also a bib made of ermine fur and images of horses and fabulous animals carved from wood, fixed on a silk ribbon ”(ibid., P. 448). Why was this clothing not on the buried? Maybe the robbers took it from the mummified bodies and for some reason forgot to pick it up? Why then did the skeletons look undisturbed?

Judging by the description, these so-called Katandin coat and Katandin caftan (the first discovered clothing of the Pazyryk people) were very well preserved. For a long time they were exhibited in the State Historical Museum (Moscow), but time and imperfect methods of restoration did not spare the unique items. Now they are in storage and a new restoration, which, we hope, will save these priceless clothes, which are still of paramount importance for studying the history of the costume of the ancient population of Central Asia.

Unusual in this burial is that the buried people are accompanied by 22 horses – more than in any other of the known royal Pazyryk mounds, although the Kantandinsky mound itself is not too large (diameter 40 m, height a little over 2 m). In addition, fragments of three ceramic vessels were found together with the horses, two of them have an original shape and an elegant molded ornament. And in the Pazyryk burials, the vessels, as a rule, stand next to the buried.

Another deviation from the rules – a bed instead of burial decks, usual for all excavated mounds of the Pazyryk nobility. A table similar to a bed from the Katanda kurgan was found in the burial chamber of only one kurgan – the First Tuekta (Central Altai) (Rudenko, 1960). In this burial mound, the buried person lay in a block, and the bed-table stood at the western wall of the log house. It has been suggested that this is a “pathological” table on which the body of the deceased was manipulated to mummify it (Mylnikov, Stepanova, 2016).

But nevertheless, the clue, obviously, lies in the Katanda burial mound. Judging by the information and drawings of Radlov, these were precisely the lodge. As we know, some ordinary Pazyryk people were buried on simple wooden couches up to 50 cm high and more. Among the latest finds of this kind are beds in burials in the Verkh-Kaldzhin-2 and Ak-Alakhe-5 burial grounds in Ukok. The principle of making all these beds was the same: the blocks were tightly placed on a wooden frame with legs, and although the beds from the royal mounds were higher and better made, this only testifies to the high status of the buried and the presence of spacious dwellings in them. It is possible that those buried in the Katanda burial mound were buried on their own beds: they simply did not have time or could not make logs for them, the manufacturing process of which is lengthy and requires a skilled craftsman and seasoned wood.

It is also unusual that this large mound of the Pazyryk elite in the Katanda Valley is lonely; it is not surrounded, as usual, by mounds of fellow tribesmen. However, when it was being erected, the valley was already marked by traces of its former life: the graves of their former owners were also located on the surrounding pastures.

It is known that the burial mounds of the Pazyryk culture are arranged in chains in the meridional direction. The mound that attracted our attention is located about 150-200 m from the Bolshoi Katandinsky mound and is the second in a chain of six mounds stretching from north to south from it. Although about 70 years ago, when Leningrad archaeologists worked at the site and other, now destroyed mounds were clearly visible, such chains were not traced (Gavrilova, 1956). Nevertheless, there were reasons to believe that our chosen mound (one of the largest in this burial field) would also belong to the Pazyryk culture. But, as it turned out during the excavations, this mound and the Bolshoi Katandinsky are separated not by space, but by time – more than 2 thousand years.

Until 2020, at the archaeological site Katanda-2, located near the village. Katanda between the rivers Malaya and Bolshaya Katanda, in addition to the Big Katanda mound of the Pazyryk culture, 12 mounds of the 7th – 8th centuries were excavated. Nine of them were investigated in 1865 by Academician Radlov, two more in 1924 by S. I. Rudenko. In 1954, the Katandinsky detachment of the Gorno-Altai expedition of the Hermitage worked here, excavating five more mounds, among which only one undisturbed one belonged to this time.

It should be noted that in 1984 on another grave field, 7-8 km north-west of the village. Katanda on the right bank of the Katun (at one time V.V.Radlov designated it as Katanda-3), three small mounds of the Pazyryk culture were investigated, destroyed during reclamation and plundered in antiquity (Mamadakov, 1995).

Covered with ocher, head west …

Today, the valley of the river. Katanda in the upper reaches of the Katun is fully involved in economic activities. Earlier, reclamation channels lined with concrete slabs were laid here, which are very well preserved, but have not been used for a long time. Now the main part of the valley is occupied by sowing of forage crops, the rest of the area is adapted for mowing. Stones are removed from the fields, areas are plowed up, and as a result of such agricultural work, many previously known archaeological sites simply disappear. If on the plan-scheme, drawn up in 1954 by A. A. Gavrilova, in the Katandinsky valley, more than 60 various burial mounds and stone calculations are indicated, then at the present time you will not see even a third of them. The mound we investigated is marked as disturbed on the plan of A. A. Gavrilova.

The mound that we excavated in 2020 was heavily turfed, and the stones were only guessed. There was no hole in the center that could indicate a robbery. The cleaning of the stone structure revealed a powerful structure – a ring about 2.5–3.5 m wide, made of boulders and channel pebbles. And this ring was not flat, but in the form of a mound, smoothly rising towards the center. You can imagine how the construction of this structure took place: first, a grave was dug, above which, after burial, they first erected an embankment of excavated soil and earth (about 11 m in diameter), and then a ring of smooth stones was laid on it around the perimeter. Already during the cleaning of the eastern part of the stone ring, fragments of pottery from the Afanasyev culture were found between the stones, and animal bones were found in the western part.

Excavations of the Afanasyev culture mound in 2020 by the South Altai detachment of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography SB RAS. Katanda-2, Republic of Altai

The grave pit was marked by the passage of a very old marmot burrow, which was built right in the grave. Archaeologists know that marmots, gophers and other burrowing animals often violate and disturb ancient burials, causing damage no less than two-legged robbers: animals take small objects through their holes and destroy the integrity of skeletons. For such animals, the mounds represent a very convenient habitat, since the dug soil in the graves is always softer. In our case, the beast walked over the skull of the deceased, took off the front part, which it dragged into the pelvic area, and moved the phalanges of the toes; a copper earring – a one and a half turn ring – was found outside the masonry.

Burrowing animals, such as gophers and marmots, often disturb and disturb ancient burials, causing harm as much as two-legged robbers.

The deceased was lying on his back, head to the west, leaning over on his right side, with his legs bent at the knees. According to M.P. Gryaznov, this position of the skeleton is explained by the fact that the dead were buried on their backs with their knees bent up – this position was assumed by the body, which for some time before the burial was in a sitting position.

The skull, ribcage and leg bones of the deceased were painted in burgundy-red tones. This may indicate that either the body was covered with ocher, or ocher was transferred to the bones from the painted parts of clothing. Merging ocher spots were recorded next to the bones of the skeleton, along the northern wall of the grave pit, marking the places where some disappeared objects were probably located. We can judge about the latter by the finds in the Afanasyevo burials of Ukok, the only burial ground where the remains of objects made of organic materials (birch bark vessels, wooden ladles, staff or wand), which the Afanasyevites placed in burials, are partly preserved (Savinov, 1994).

Burial of a man in mound 32 of the Katanda-2 burial ground. In the center of the excavated grave pit are the remains of the wooden roof of the grave. Fig. burial plan of E. Shumakova

Two ceramic vessels were found along the southern wall of the grave. One of them, egg-shaped and with an ornamented pattern, was at the level of the chest and was crushed. The second – a round-bottomed pot of bright red color – stood at the right hand of the deceased. There was no ornament on it, but traces of vertical smoothing with a comb stamp were well traced. This vessel looked completely intact, but its integrity turned out to be deceiving: the ceramics were so fragile that they crumbled before our eyes, and the shape was held by the clay that filled the vessel.

The ovoid vessel (left) was crushed and repaired in the laboratory. The lower third has no ornament; horizontal lines are drawn along the upper third. Under the rim and along the widest part of the body, the vessel is ornamented with two rows of impressions with a flat stamp. This small thick-walled clay vessel (on the right) of unknown purpose was found in a small stone ring, “attached” from the north-east to the main one. Such products are usually called incense burners. Fig. E. Shumakova

A very important find was a small thick-walled earthen vessel on a round base found in a stone ring. On the outside, it is ornamented with deeply depressed diagonal lines, giving it the appearance of a Mediterranean shell. Similar products, called incense burners, are rarely found in the burials and mounds of the Afanasyevites in Gorny Altai: they are more often found among the Yenisei Afanasyevites. They are believed to have been used to burn aromatic plants (Vadetskaya, 1986). However, no clear traces from which we can draw conclusions about their application were found. Our cup, in addition to the handle knocked off in antiquity, looks completely new. Such items are usually referred to as professional, meaning the priestly functions of the deceased, or prestigious, indicating his high social status.

The latter is also supported by some non-standard features of this mound. The stone ring itself, which complements the mound of continental soil above the grave, is a fundamental structure that required a lot of labor. The grave also contained objects rarely found in the Afanasyev burials: a round-bottomed vessel and the same censer. In addition, a small ring of large boulders and pebbles, probably of a ritual nature, was attached to the main stone ring from the northeast. It was there that an incense burner was found among the stones, and in the center of the ring was buried a small ovoid, unordered vessel.

The first burial of the Afanasyev culture was excavated by V.V. Radlov on the river. Ursul, in the Ongudai region of Gorny Altai back in 1865. If this date is considered the starting point in the study of this culture, then more than 150 years have passed since its discovery.

During this time, many sites were discovered and explored, most of which are concentrated in the Altai Mountains and the Minusinsk Basin (the Yenisei River basin). Burials of Afanasyevites are also found in Western Tuva and North-Western Mongolia, and some monuments and finds have been found in Chinese Xinjiang, Eastern Kazakhstan and Eastern Uzbekistan. The latest data of radiocarbon analysis, on the basis of which the Afanasyevsk sites in Gorny Altai date back to 3.1–2.9 thousand years BC. BC, and Minusinsk – 3-2.5 thousand years BC. BC, indicate that the Afanasyevites appeared in Altai earlier than in the Minusinsk Basin (Polyakov, 2020).

Who they were and where they came from

A small number of finds in the burial is typical of the Afanasyevites, whose graves are distinguished by a very meager inventory. At the same time, the Karakol culture of the Bronze Age of Gorny Altai, which is next in time, amazes with its extraordinary art with all the small number of the studied monuments: colored painting and fine engraving of stone slabs from which the burial chambers were composed; fantastic images implying a wealth of mythological ideas. But in the more ancient Afanasyev culture, either we do not find traces of art at all, or they are very inexpressive.

But was it really so? How did the Afanasyevites of Altai express themselves? It would be wrong to say that there are no traces of the rich spiritual life of this people left. The funeral rite itself already testifies to complex mythological and religious concepts. And first of all, this is evidenced a tree grows in brooklyn book 2 chapters summary by the grave structures, which first appeared in Altai only with the arrival of the Afanasyevites. A circle, a ring of stones became the main limiter of the sacred space that separates the world of the living from the world of the dead, a security sign that protects the buried from hostile forces – this was a looped space of another world. At the same time, the circle was the embodiment of movement, because the wheel, the heavenly bodies and the shape of the nomads’ dwellings were round …

Afanasievites were primarily cattle breeders. Judging by the bone material from the settlement complexes and partly from the burial structures, they raised small and large horned livestock, mainly sheep and goats, as well as horses (Shulga, 2012). The role of horses was probably small: these animals were not used for riding. The first draft animals with which it was possible to overcome great distances were bulls.

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