Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I love a good mystery, and when it involves the past, it’s even better. Here’s one I just read about.

In Siberia, about 18 miles from the Arctic Circle, archaeologists have excavated 34 shallow graves at a place called Zeleniy Yar. They think the remote spot could have been an important trading crossroads about a thousand years ago.

The graves include 11 bodies with smashed skeletons and shattered or missing skulls. Among the bodies found were five mummies shrouded in copper plating and covered in animal fur. Only one female body was found—a child with her face masked by copper plates. No bodies of adult women were found.

A red-haired man was found, also protected by copper plating. In his grave were furs, an iron hatchet, and a bronze head buckle depicting a bear. Another grave contained an iron combat knife, silver medallion, and a bronze bird figurine which possibility dated from seventh century. Yet another spot on the site contained bronze bowls originating in Persia, about 3,700 miles to the south-west. These dated from the tenth or eleventh centuries.

The bodies weren’t preserved on purpose like those of the Egyptian pharaohs.  The mummification in this case was due to a combination of copper, which prevented oxidation, plus the sinking temperature in the 14th century.

The site was discovered earlier, but digging in the area halted in 2002 due to objections by the locals, who feared the scientists were disturbing the souls of their ancestors. Work is underway again, but I was unable to discover whether the locals ceased to object or were just told to live with it.

When I read about this kind of discovery, I have so many questions. Archaeologists say the shattering of the bones and the missing skulls might have some sort of religious significance. I've noticed archaeologists say that a lot--that things are religious in nature--but I wonder in this case if perhaps there was some sort of fight and the people were just crushed. I also wonder where the people came from. Were some of the people in the graves from Persia? Was the site once a thriving crossroads? If so, what happened to it? Did people actually live there or did they just pass through. And why were there no women buried at the site?

And just for fun, here are some events that happened in the rest of the world one thousand years ago, in 1014: February 14th - Pope Benedict VIII crowns Henry II Roman German Emperor. April 23rd - King Brian Boru of Ireland beats Danes at Battle of Clontarf. July 29th - Battle of Strumitsa-valley: Byzantine destroys Bulgarian armies.

Yes, so many questions. So fascinating.

If you want to read the article from which I got information about Zeleniy Yar, or if you want to see more pictures, go to the Siberian Times.


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