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CHASTIYE KURGANY

2001 EXCAVATION REPORT

Overview

Chastiye Kurgany cemetery consists of 26 visible mounds and possibly a number of mounds that have been razed by plowing. Excavations began on the site in 2000 when Kurgan 1 was excavated. This kurgan was dated to the early 4th century BC and is considered to have been ritual. In 2001 a complex expedition organized by the Rostov State University (Rostov na-Donu, Russia), the Center for the Study of Eurasian Nomads (CSEN), Berkeley, California, USA, and Donskaya Arkheologia (Rostov na-Donu) journal continued the study.The expedition, which excavated six mounds was made up of two groups: (1) Russian students, headed by Prof.V. Ye.Maksimenko who excavated kurgans 4, 8, and 9; and (2) an international group of volunteers led by the Donskaya Archaeology editor, V. V.Klyutchnikov who excavated kurgans 2, 3, and 11. One kurgan dated to the 4th century B.C, three were Khazar Culture and two were Polovtsian Culture.

Map of the Chastiye Kurgans

Photo Album Index

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3.1 English, Russian, and American (l-r) excavating

Scythian Period Kurgan (possibly Early Sarmatian, 4th century BC)

Kurgan 4. As a result of erosion and loss due to plowing, this mound stood only 25 cm high, but had been robbed several times in the past. In the burial, a male skeleton, age 40-45 when he died, lay supine, oriented to the south. An iron arrowhead was found in his hip bone and a second was found near the femur. These arrows could well have been the cause of his death. In addtion, several dozens of the arrow-heads of various types and the remains of an iron sword were recovered from his burial. Horse and sheep bones were also excavated. The most interesting artifact was the gold foil facings from a wooden cup, now lost. (Photos 5.1 and 5.2).

5.1. Filming in Sarmatian Kurgan 4. Note multiple pits.
5.2. Skeleton in Sarmatian Kurgan 4
Khazar Culture Kurgans (first half of the 8th century AD)

Kurgan 2. The mound was surrounded by a ritual ditch. When excavated it was found that it had also been robbed in the past and the human and the animal bones had been mixed by the robbers. However, it was determined that the skeleton was that of a 35-40 year old male. Artifacts included a silver pendant from a belt and bone facings from a bow, two arrowheads, an iron stirrup, and some unidentified pieces of rusty iron. Photos 3.2–3.5.

Kurgan 3. Surrounded by a ritual ditch, the mound had been robbed in antiquity. Again human and animal bones were mixed. The skeleton was a male 25–35 years old. Artifacts included three bronze belt pendants and pieces of rusty iron. Photos 2.1–2.4

Kurgan 9. Robbed in antiquity, the remaining artifacts were a gold earring, ceramic sherds and two arrowheads.

These mounds are among the most nothern Khazar burials known in the region.

2.1. Excavating Khazar Kurgan 3
2.4. The ritual ditch in Khazar Kurgan 3
2.3 The dark spot on the ancient soil surface indicates the location of the burial in Khazar Kurgan 3
2.2. Russian TV crew filming at Khazar Kurgan 3
3.2. Stones on a Khazar burial 3.4. Khazar burial in Kurgan 2
Polovtsian Culture (end of the 12th, beginning of the 13th centuries AD)

Kurgan 8.The mound was covered with a layer of large stones. The skeleton of a horse lay on the floor of the entrance shaft (dromos). The human burial was separated from the dromos by a wooden partition. Within the burial pit a wooden coffin held a male skeleton, and a bow, quiver and arrows; the extant arrowshafts showed evidence of having been painted. A saddle and stirrups had been placed on top the coffin as evidenced by their remains. Photo 6.1.

Kurgan11.The mound was covered with a layer oflarge stones. Two burials were excavated. Burial 1. The skeleton of a horse was found in the dromos and the burial was separated from the dromos by a wooden partition. A male skeleton along with a quiver and arrowheads were found within a wooden coffin while a saddle and stirrups had been placed along side the coffin. Burial 2. A female skeleton was excavated from within a wooden coffin. Artifacts in this burial included an iron knife fragment and fragments of rolled birch bark. Photos 7.1–7.3.

This is for the first time that Polovtsian mounds of such construction have been excavated in the Lower Seversky Donets region.

6.1. Excavating Polovtsian Kurgan8
7.1. Stones over Polovtsian Kurgan 11
7.3 Skeleton in Polovtsian Kurgan 11
7.2 Excavating Polovtsian Kurgan 11