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Scythian Discoveries


Aug 19, 2003
Scythian mummy shown in Germany


The ice had helped to preserve the mummy, scientists say

An international group of archaeologists has shown photos of a well-preserved 2,500-year-old mummy of a Scythian warrior found in Mongolia. The mummy was hailed as a "fabulous find" at a news conference in Berlin.

It was unearthed at a height of 2,600m (8,500ft) in an intact burial mound in the Altai Mountains this summer.

Until now remains of the Scythians - who were Iranian nomadic peoples - had only been found on the Russian side of the Altai, the scientists said.

The mummy was found in the snow-capped mountains by the team of scientists from Germany, Russia and Mongolia.

Presenting the find, the president of the German Archaeological Institute, Hermann Parzinger, said the ice had helped to preserve the mummy.

"We just had to sweep away some dust and could begin," Mr Parzinger said.

Skin on the warrior's upper body was virtually intact, revealing tattoos.

The man - who the archaeologists believe was a noblemen - was dressed in a fur coat and wrapped into sheep's wool lining that was in remarkably good condition.

Two horses with saddles and weapons and also vessels were also found in the burial mound, or kurgan.

The archaeologists say they were placed in the tomb to accompany the warrior into the next life.

The recovered items are currently in storage in Mongolia's capital, Ulan Bator.

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Scythian skeletons tell of ancient cultural crossover

15:33 13 November 2012
Picture of the Day
Joanna Carver, reporter

(Image: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB))

It's a warriors' tomb, but we now know it says more about culture than conquest. It contains ancient Scythian skeletons discovered in the Altai mountains of Mongolia in 2005, and their DNA is part of the first hard evidence of genetic blending between Europe and Asia.

Researchers at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain, extracted mitochondrial DNA from the bones and teeth of skeletons found in the mountains. Bronze-Age skeletons, dating from the seventh to the 10th century BC, showed no sign of mixed lineages: those from the western side of the mountain range were European, and those from the eastern side were Asian. However, come the Iron Age - seventh to second centuries BC - and the coming of the Scythian culture, and the skeletons display a neat 50-50 blend of lineages.

The Scythians were already known to be the first large Eurasian culture, but were believed to be the product of migration from Europe. The researchers now suggest that the genetic blending is actually a result of the expansion of Scythian culture over the mountains.

That culture was based on nomadic pasturing and horse breeding - as you may have guessed from the presence of a horse alongside humans in this tomb.

Scythians weren't confirmed to exist in east Asia before this tomb and others were found in 2005 in the Altai mountains, where Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan share borders. In ancient times the mountain range prevented cultural and genetic blending, dividing the Asian and European populations until the Scythian culture expanded from the west.
http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/short ... etons.html
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Scholars decipher names of Amazon warrior women from ancient pottery
From an article in National Geographic
Study lead author Adrienne Mayor and J. Paul Getty Museum assistant curator David Saunders managed to translate Greek inscriptions found on 12 ancient vases from Athens dating from 550 BC to 450 BC. The inscriptions appear next to scenes of Amazons fighting, hunting, or shooting arrows.

The inscriptions had long been a puzzle to researchers, as they were written with Greek characters but didn’t form any known words in ancient Greek. The researchers had a hunch that the Greeks may have been writing out foreign words phonetically, and sought to test out this theory.
The names include "Princess’, ‘Don't Fail’, ‘Hot Flanks’, an archer named ‘Battle-Cry’ and a horsewoman named ‘Worthy of Armour’
Ongoing discoveries and analyses are closing the distance between evidence of Scythian female warriors and legends of Amazons.
New DNA Analysis Reveals Ancient Scythian Warrior Was a 13-Year-Old Girl

In a time of ancient gods, warriors and kings, the tale of a tribe of warrior women was established in Greek mythology. Said to be daughters of the gods, these fierce female fighters from Asia Minor have caught people's imaginations for centuries and still permeate through popular culture today as legendary Amazon warriors.

For a long time these warrior women were assumed to be figments of ancient imaginations, but archaeological evidence has since revealed that the warrior women, who may have inspired these myths, really did exist.

Late last year, an archaeological discovery of two women thought to be nomadic Scythians from around 2,500 years ago (4th century BCE) was revealed. They were buried in what's now the western Russian village of Devitsa, with parts of a horse-riding harness and weapons, including iron knives and 30 arrowheads.

"We can certainly say that these two women were horse warriors," said archaeologist Valerii Guliaev of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Archaeology at the time. ...

Now, another team from Russia has mapped the genome of 2,600-year-old Scythian remains that had been discovered in a wooden sarcophagus with an array of weapons back in 1988.

"This child was initially considered to be male because with him were found characteristics [usually attributed to male] archaeological finds: an axe, a bow, arrows," archaeologist Varvara Busova from the Russian Academy of Sciences told ScienceAlert.

But the child's DNA revealed the remains were actually female. "That means we can say with some probability that [Scythian] girls have also participated in hunting or military campaigns," Busova added.

The warrior girl was buried in Siberia's modern-day Tuva republic, with an axe, a birch bow and a quiver with ten arrows - some wood, bone or bronze tipped. Due to the larch coffin sealing tightly against fresh air, her remains were partially mummified. ...

The finding "unwittingly brings us back to the myth about the Amazons that have survived to this day thanks to Herodotus (Herod. IV: 110-118)," the team wrote in their paper.

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus claimed Amazons fought the Scythians, but it seems they could actually be the Scythian women who trained, hunted and fought alongside their male counterparts. ...


Abstract Of The Published Research Paper:
Here's a new burial site associated with the Tagar culture - one of the core groups within the Scythian cultural complex.
Ancient Siberian grave holds 'warrior woman' and huge weapons stash

Archaeologists in Siberia have unearthed a 2,500-year-old grave holding the remains of four people from the ancient Tagar culture — including two warriors, a male and female — and a stash of their metal weaponry.

The early Iron Age burial contained the skeletal remains of a Tagarian man, woman, infant and older woman, as well as a slew of weapons and artifacts, including bronze daggers, knives, axes, bronze mirrors and a miniature comb made from an animal horn, according to the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The Tagar culture, a part of the Scythian civilization (nomadic warriors who lived in what is now southern Siberia), often buried its dead with miniature versions of real-life objects, likely to symbolize possessions they thought were needed in the afterlife. In this case, however, the deceased were laid to rest with full-size objects, the archaeologists said. ...

The Tagar culture lasted for about 500 years, from about the eighth to the third centuries B.C.; its people were spread across the Minusinsk Basin, a landscape that is a mix of steppe, forest-steppe and foothills, according to the statement. ...

FULL STORY: https://www.livescience.com/iron-age-burial-with-weapons-siberia.html
Newly published research results suggest there was considerable diversity in Scythian lifestyles, and the stereotype of them as nomadic warriors needs to be revised and refined.
Secrets From Ancient Bones Have Changed What We Know About The Scythians

In both popular culture and the academic record, the Scythians have been described as a force to be reckoned with. For hundreds of years, they ruled the Eurasian steppe, fierce warriors given an even bigger advantage by their highly mobile, nomadic lifestyle.

Or so we have thought, for millennia. According to a new analysis of Scythian bones, this perception is not quite the full picture; in fact, some of the people we group in with the Scythians often did settle down, living more agrarian lifestyles with urban centers.

"Our study demonstrates overall low levels of human mobility in the vicinity of key urban locales of the Scythian era, in contrast to previous stereotypes of highly nomadic populations," said anthropologist Alicia Ventresca Miller of the University of Michigan. ...

Our understanding of the people we classify as Scythians, who rose and thrived between 700 BCE and 200 BCE, is based on a number of different sources. There are historical records, including reports from the contemporaneous Greek historian Herodotus; and there's the archaeological record, which is rich with the trappings of a warlike nomadic lifestyle, such as weapons, horse tack and burial mounds.

But the steppe is a large place, 500 years is a fairly long time, and humans are complex. Although all the people in that place and time tend to get grouped together under the Scythian label, the research of Ventresca Miller and her colleagues suggests that several, perhaps even many, diverse groups lived on the Pontic steppe during that time. ...

"It is clear that if we are to truly uncover the 'Scythians' we need to accept that the Eurasian steppe was home to a myriad of dynamic cultures and subsistence strategies during the Iron Age," the researchers wrote in their paper.

"In fact, it is perhaps variability, rather than a uniformity of nomadic warriors, that truly frames the Scythians as predecessors to incipient globalization in Eurasia." ...


Re-evaluating Scythian lifeways: Isotopic analysis of diet and mobility in Iron Age Ukraine
Alicia R. Ventresca Miller , James Johnson, Sergey Makhortykh, Claudia Gerling, Ludmilla Litvinova, Svetlana Andrukh, Gennady Toschev, Jana Zech, Petrus le Roux, Cheryl Makarewicz, Nicole Boivin, Patrick Roberts
PLOS One: March 10, 2021

When Prokofiev wanted to out-do Stravinsky's Rite of Spring of 1913, he proposed a ballet called Ali i Lolli, set among the Scythians.

They were a mystery-people and that seemed enough.

Diaghilev, never keen to repeat himself, turned it down; the composer reworked it for the concert hall as his Scythian Suite, premiered early in 1916.

It's all a bit masque-like, in its conflict of the sun and moon.

Listeners have never really warmed to it, though it is horrid enough, in Prokofiev's grinding early manner. Same listeners treat the Rite of Spring as a familiar pet, so maybe the Scythians will have their day. :pipe:
A newly excavated burial mound in the Scythians' "Valley of the Kings" in Siberia has yielded multiple remains including those of an obviously prominent woman and a toddler.
2,500-year-old burial mound found in Siberia's 'Valley of the Kings'

Archaeologists have discovered a large burial mound in the Siberian "Valley of the Kings" dating to more than 2,500 years ago. The ancient tomb holds the remains of five people, including those of a woman and toddler who were buried with an array of grave goods, such as a crescent moon-shaped pendant, bronze mirror and gold earrings.

The mounds were made by the Scythians — a term used to describe culturally-related nomadic groups that lived on the steppes between the Black Sea and China from about 800 B.C. to about A.D. 300.

The burial mound, known as a kurgan, is located near a previously excavated kurgan belonging to a Scythian chief. ...

he crescent pendant stood out immediately, he added. "She was buried with this artifact that we had believed to be a sign of male burials," because similarly shaped pendants had previously been found in men's burials in kurgans in southern Siberia ...

Archaeologists have known about the "Valley of the Kings" (a phrase coined by a journalist years ago, harkening Ancient Egypt's Valley of the Kings) for more than a century. This vast valley, known as Touran-Uyuk in Tuva, a Russian republic, is replete with numerous Scythian royal burials.

One of the previously excavated kurgans, dating to the eighth or ninth century B.C., holds the earliest known elite Sythian burial ever found. Most of these kurgans, however, have yet to be formally excavated ...
FULL STORY: https://www.livescience.com/burials-siberia-valley-of-the-kings
They had skin in the game.

The ferocious Scythians, according to the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, were a terrifying and bloodthirsty lot.

With an alacrity and level of detail that could be described as avid, he describes the treatment awaiting the conquered foes of the Scythian warriors – the many uses to which their slain corpses will be put.

Their hides, Herodotus says, will be tanned into leather, and fashioned into quivers to hold Scythian arrows, a final, devastating insult.

Herodotus has been accused of fanciful flights of fib-telling, but on this he appears to have been at least somewhat accurate. An analysis of scraps of leather obtained from Scythian burial sites across southern Ukraine has revealed that some of the samples from quivers are, indeed, of human origin.

"Our results demonstrate that Scythians primarily used domesticated species such as sheep, goat, cattle, and horse for the production of leather, while the furs were made of wild animals such as fox, squirrel and feline species," write a team of archaeologists led by Luise Ørsted Brandt of the University of Copenhagen.

"The surprise discovery is the presence of two human skin samples, which for the first time provide direct evidence of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus' claim that Scythians used the skin of their dead enemies to manufacture leather trophy items."


Some of the leather fragments analyzed in the study. (Ørsted Brandt et al., PLOS One, 2023)

The Scythians are a somewhat mysterious people, but we know a few things about them. They were known for their warlike, nomadic lifestyle, ruling the Eurasian steppe between around 700 BCE and 300 BCE. ...

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