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17 August 2011

Kaadyr-ool Bicheldei: "We are praying that they don't find gold here"

Plus-inform. Translated by Heda Jindrak

Kaadyr-ool Bicheldei: "We are praying that they don't find gold here"Everybody wants to know what was found  during the digs in Eerbek district. After the sensational finds in the Valley of the Tsars, many want to know if these burials also contain gold. What did they find, and what are the most valuable finds?


 Gold is not that valuable


No matter how strange it sounds, it is true. Kaadyr-ool Bicheldei says: "We are praying that they don't find gold here. Gold is always a problem and it attracts unhealthy interest. "

Gold served ritual purposes or else it was simply an adornment - that is all.  The material culture is much more interesting. To reconstruct the epoch, to visualize the life of the Scythians, one has to find work tools and armor.

What can you do, only finds from the kurgans can teach us about the life of the Scythians; no encampments have been preserved. From all the objects that have been found, Kaadyr-ool Bicheldei values the grain mill the most; the rest of it arrows, daggers, quivers - these are artifacts of warfare - not of daily existence.

But other tools were found - choppers. These are stone work tools - and not just work tools.  In a way, they are proto-tools and proto-weapons. With them, a person could defend himself from his enemies, dig up plants from the earth, break animal bones to get at the bone marrow. It is very simple to imagine a chopper: a fairly large pebble with one or two facets, forming a primitive  sharp edge. Choppers were used tens as well as hundreds of thousands years ago.

And here is a pitcher - from Kokel culture, a so-far not well studied culture of Hunno-Sarmatian era of Tuva 3-5 centuries of common era. Kokel culture is associated with the post-Xiongnu era, which terminates with the entrance of ancient Turks onto the stage of history.

The scope of the finds through the eras of history is quite large.


Why are bones necessary?


After the excavations, the bones will not be reinterred.  Bulldozers will be coming through here anyway. But even if were no bulldozers, the bones would not get buried again anyway. Earlier, anthropologists use to request mostly skulls from the archeologists. Now they want all the bones. The purpose is not to reconstruct the appearance of the deceased - that is an expensive pleasure. Bones are necessary to diagnose the pathological processes, to determine what diseases peole used to have at that time. And pathologies are seen quite often. For example, a human skull of a very strange form was found during this dig. It is irregular, stretched out from one side - it could be an artificial deformation. Artificially deformed skulls are often found in Hunnic burials, as  Yuri Teterin, senior scientific worker of Novosibirsk  Institute of Archeology and ethnography of SO RAN, one of the leaders of the 2nd team of Sayan Complex expedition, tells us. But these kurgans are from early Scythian period! 

Of course, they won't investigate a homicide from those times, but some people, whose remains have been found in the kurgans were definitely killed. It can be seen from the would visible on the skeletons. For example - one skull definitely has fractures.

Kurgans often hold several burials. And sometimes there are small triangular chambers. It is believed that they may have buried placentas there. The ancients could present us with such surprises as well.


 To find themselves


There are many girls at the digs. Of course it is difficult - to carry the dirt, drag stones from place to place.

If somebody offered them this kind of a job in the city, they would refuse - it is hard work. And really, just as an experiment, offer any of the girls a summer job of  laying curbstones. Nobody will take it. But here, at the excavations, they do not complain. They dig. They move stones. Why?

On one hand, this is not a scientific research project, it is rescue. Once the bulldozers come,  nothing will be left of the kurgans. Such a "rescue" mission is also an incentive. But more accurately, it is curiosity: will we find anything or not? It is a chance to see with one's own eyes how the ancients were buried, a chance to touch the jewelry and weapons of the ancient people.

Recently there was a celebration in the camp - the first shift had left, and some of the students were to leave soon. So they decided to have a celebration, even though it was not yet the end of the season.

They summarized preliminary results, gave awards to the best. They showed off their talents. They sand and danced and partied. And you would never guess that the dancing girls were moving heavy rocks just a short while ago.


And even more later


Only a small proportion of the kurgans has been excavated so far. Next year there will be more students, and also more archeologists. This way, there will be more digs and more finds.

Close to the place where the students have been digging is a large kurgan, that apparently has not been robbed.  It should yield many interesting things. But it is not possible to dig there - it is beyond the boundary of the railway, and Monument protection agency will not allow it. Right now the archeologists are working also in Vavilin backwater, practically right at the dachas. That is a different expedition.  Next year everybody will be working only along the route of the railroad.

The main subject of many adventure movies is to: save the world, defend the girl, kill a monster. The main theme of the excavations is no less noble, and it fits into a similar scheme: save history, defend cultural values, find yourself.

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