Upon determining that the layer of river stones (Level 6) extended over the entire mound, we began excavating the central section of the mound (the high level in nos. 22 ad 23). Within 1.5 meters we were in permafrost (no. 25) which was difficult to excavate as rocks were mixed with frozen clay. Each morning we took the generator to the side of the kurgan, hooked a hose to a sump pump and removed the accumulated water that had melted from the pit sides. Calculating the amount of water that could be pumped out in an hour, we would remove between 900 and 1200 gallons each morning. The students would then remove any loose stones from the wall of the pit before continuing down. Gradually, as the pit became deeper, it was more difficult to break the the icy clay. We went on a scouting mission to see if we could find a jackhammer. The first place we went was off the Beiram mountain near Uureg Nur (lake) , then up a long, narrow valley to a gold mining camp. The miners were dredging the river and didnŐt have a jackhammer, but we saw an amazing variety of kurgans, dating from the Bronze Age through the Turkic period (second millennium B.C. to the 6-9th century A.D. Eventually we found one in Ulangoom, a huge compressor on a truck with an air hose that attached to a small jackhammer that would excavate small chunks for frozen soil to a depth of 5-8 cm (no. 26).

next page

25. Excavating in Permafrost
26. Excavating with a jackhammer