Thursday, 1 December 2016

Treasure of Siberia's Valley of the Kings

A broad grassy vale north of Turan, Tuva has become famous in archaeological circles for its pancake-shaped Scythian kurgany (burial mounds). These have produced the most significant archaeological finds ever made in Tuva.

During excavations in 2001 archaeologists unearthed magnificent artifacts dating from the 7th century BC.
Arzhaan I is the largest kurgan in Tuva. A dig in the early 1970s turned up thousands of gold and silver artifacts. The valley holds an amazing 700 burial sites and eight large kurgany.

In addition to the gold, which weighed almost 44 pounds, the archaeologists discovered items made of iron, turquoise, amber and wood. "It is an encyclopedia of Scythian animal art because you have all the animals which roamed the region. This is the original Scythian style, from the Altai region, which eventually came to the Black Sea region and finally in contact with ancient Greece." said Dr. Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the Hermitage Museum.

The royal tomb known as Arzhan 2 was excavated in July, 2015 and is about 2,600 years old. The unknown monarch was entombed with 14 horses, a defining symbol of wealth by the Scythian.

Beside him lay his queen and 33 others lie entombed, including five children. They were likely sacrificed to accompany him to the afterlife. The burial chamber contained some 9,300 decorative gold pieces ... more than 20 kilograms of gold.

DNA analysis indicated those buried were from the Iranian ethno-linguistic group. Analysis of strontium isotopes in the bones reveal all were locals except for the queen. The king was about 50 years old and analysis of his remains revealed that he died of prostate cancer. 'This is the earliest documentation of the disease,' said Michael Schultz, a paleopathologist. It is believed that in the last years of his life, he could not have walked.