Category Archives: RUSSIA

The Ancient Mystery of the Dolmens of the North Caucasus

The Ancient Mystery of the Dolmens of the North Caucasus

Scattered around in some previously inaccessible parts of Russia are some mysterious stone structures built by an ancient megalithic civilization that have endured centuries of both veneration and plunder.

If you ever travel to the North-West Caucasus, you might encounter some strange stone structures that look like miniature houses with round holes in their front walls.

These are the dolmens, ancient megalithic monuments that date back to the early Bronze Age, from the middle of the 4th millennium BC to the end of the 2nd millennium BC.

The dolmens are scattered across the region, from Abkhazia to the Taman Peninsula in an area of approximately 12,000 square kilometers (around 4650 square miles), and are known by the locals as “ispun”, meaning the “houses of dwarves”.

Around 3,000 such megalithic monuments are known in the North Caucasus, with more discoveries regularly happening. The area has the largest concentration of dolmens on Earth.

The construction is remarkable, with massive stone plates fit together without the use of mortar or cement, precisely interlocking via specially crafted grooves. Some joints are so tight that a knife blade cannot pass through.

In 2007, an attempt to reconstruct a dolmen using high-precision electric tools with stones from Gelendzhik’s destroyed structures fell short of the precision achieved by Bronze Age builders.

The dolmens usually consist of a chamber with a large roof slab and an access portal formed by projecting blocks from the side walls and the overhanging roof slab. Most dolmens have a square, semi-circular, or oval access porthole in the center of the façade, which is thought to have been used to place offerings or burials inside the chamber.

Some dolmens have raised patterns (petroglyphs) on their face slabs, such as vertical and horizontal zigzags, hanging triangles, concentric circles, and some depicting pairs of breasts.

These symbols may have had religious or cultural meanings for the builders, but their exact interpretation is still unknown. The dolmens were mainly constructed from fluidogenic rock masses, such as sandstone or limestone, which were hand-carried from nearby quarries to the construction sites.

The purpose and function of the dolmens are still debated by scholars. Some of the dolmens are aligned with astronomical phenomena, such as solstices or equinoxes, indicating that they may have had an astrological or calendrical function.

Some of them are clustered in groups or rows, suggesting that they may have marked territorial boundaries or sacred landscapes. Some of them contain human remains or offerings, indicating that they may have been used for funerary or ceremonial purposes.

The proponents of the theory that the sites were used for tribal worship or ritual ceremonies point out that some dolmens are located in remote areas or on hilltops, away from settlements or cemeteries, and that some dolmens have no traces of burials at all. They also suggest that the petroglyphs may have represented deities or ancestors that were revered by the Dolmen builders.

The identity and origin of the Dolmen builders are also unclear. Some propose that they were associated with the Klin-Yar community in the North Caucasus, or the Koban culture from the Great Caucasus Range.

Others suggest that they were a separate group of people with their own unique culture and traditions. The dolmens may have been built by different tribes or clans over a long period, reflecting their social and political organization.

The dolmens are an enigmatic and fascinating part mysterious prehistoric civilization that left behind these impressive stone monuments. They are also threatened by natural erosion and vandalism, of the Caucasus heritage, revealing glimpses of looting, and urban development.

Many dolmens have been damaged or destroyed over time, and some have been moved or reconstructed for tourism purposes. Efforts are being made to preserve and protect these ancient structures, which are part of the cultural and historical legacy of the region.

1,000-year-old grave of Siberian warlord horseman who lost arm in battle revealed

1,000-year-old grave of Siberian warlord horseman who lost arm in battle revealed

Archaeologists in Siberia have unearthed an elaborate grave belonging to an 11 th century warlord horseman who lost his left arm in his final battle, according to a news release in the Siberian Times .

  The ancient warrior towered nearly a foot over his peers and was buried with a bear fang on his face, a symbol of his great strength.

Archaeologists discovered the remains of the man they named Bogatyr (‘Great Warrior’) in an ancient burial mound near Omsk in south western Siberia. An analysis of the bones suggests that the warrior had been trained in combat since childhood.

He belonged to the tribes of the Ust-Ishim culture, which were the ancestors of modern indigenous Khanty and Mansi peoples. These people were known to have been small in stature at the time, so the fact that Bogatyr measured 180cm would have made him appear like a giant.

The features of Bogatyr’s grave and the fact that his lower arm and hand were buried with the rest of the corpse, but severed from it, suggests that this Siberian warrior died in battle.

“Our warrior was killed in the battle. His left arm was severed in battle and placed near the body, and his shoulder was broken. But he was buried according to ritual which means he was a respected person.

All the elements of the ritual give us an opportunity to discover historical and political conditions of the epoch the warrior lived in,” said archaeologist Mikhail Korusenko, who led the expedition.

The grave of the Siberian warlord. His left lower arm can be seen severed from the rest of his body. Credit: Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, Siberian branch of Russian Academy of Sciences.

Bogatyr was buried with mirror and a bronze plate, which lay on his chest, 25 war arrows made from metal and bone that are still sharp, bronze tools, a bronze cauldron with the remains of food to nourish him in the afterlife, a horse’s bridle, suggesting he was a horseman, and remains of leather and fur, which may have formed part of his clothing or were the quiver decorations on his arrow.

The researchers believe that the mirror, which measured 10cm in diameter, may have been worn as an amulet and was placed on his chest as a tool to communicate with the gods. 

The bronze mirror measuring 10cm in diameter, which was found on the warrior’s chest. Picture: Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Siberian branch of Russian Academy of Sciences

Bogatyr was buried with a death mask, most of which had disintegrated. However, researchers were able to determine that the mask was originally comprised of fabric and included pockets over the eyes and mouth which contained metal fish figurines.

The fish were deliberately snapped in half, which may have been a ritualistic act that held some religious importance. Next to his nose was the massive fang of a bear, a sign of his strength and power, according to Mr. Korusenko.

The death mask, with number 4 marking the bear’s fang, and numbers 2 and 4 showing metal fish figurines with broken-off heads that were covering the warrior’s eye sockets. Picture: Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Siberian branch of Russian Academy of Sciences

Mr. Korusenko said that the grave of the warrior is “a truly unique find which would allow us to fill pages about not only the cultural, but the military history of this part of the region, as we know very little about this particular period of time.”

46,000-yr-old “Icebird” Found Totally Intact with Feathers and Beak

46,000-yr-old “Icebird” Found Totally Intact with Feathers and Beak

A prehistoric “Icebird” has been found in Siberian permafrost in remarkably good shape. The freezing temperatures in parts of Russia, particularly Siberia, may be tough for most folks to cope with, especially during the long winter months.

But for scientists, the region can provide tremendous learning opportunities, because the permafrost often captures, and preserves, animal and bird specimens that the cold keeps largely unchanged from their original forms for.

That enables scientists and researchers to discover a great deal about these species, as they arrive in labs almost identical to the way they looked thousands of years ago.

In early December 2019, for example, the body of an 18,000 year-old puppy, either a dog or a wolf, was found in the permafrost near Yakutsk with it hair, teeth, tail and even its eyelashes intact.

It is undergoing tests now, and scientists predict it would reveal a great deal about how wolves evolved into the domestic dogs we know today.

The 18,000-yr-old permafrost puppy.

In 2010, a baby woolly mammoth was found on Russia’s Arctic coast that was approximately 39,000 years old. In spite of its age, it was so well preserved that researchers even found hair on large portions of its carcass.

Russia has again brought such a specimen to the doorstep of scientists, this time a 46,000 year old bird, so well preserved that the hunters who found it, deep in a mine shaft, thought it had been alive only 24 hours earlier.

It is complete with feathers and even a beak so researchers know it is an ancestor of the modern day horned lark. (They have dubbed it “icebird.”)

The 46,000-yr-old “Icebird” found in Siberia’s permafrost.

The team studying the bird told the media that it is the first example of a bird from the last Ice Age found in the area.

It was fossil hunters, who go out specifically to look for treasures like this, who found the bird down the mine tunnel, about seven metres below ground. They were scouting the area near the town of Belaya Gora, in northeastern Siberia.

“Icebird” was sent to the Swedish Museum of Natural History, where it is being studied by paleontologist Love Dalen. He told the, “This finding implies that the climactic changes that took place at the end of the last Ice Age led to (the) formation of new subspecies.”

The underside of Iceberg.

Sounding almost awestruck, Dalen added, “I was holding that little bird in my hand, and feeling like it could have died yesterday, but might actually have died tens of thousands of years ago.”

And because “icebird” was whole, with no indications of a fight, or struggle with a predator, Dalen said the bird did not expire in any violent way but rather passed away “easily”.

The fact that such a small and fragile specimen was near intact also suggests that dirt (and) mud must have been deposited gradually. Or at least that the bird’s carcass was preserved in a state very close to its time of passing.

In other words, it flew, it ended peacefully, and the permafrost took care of the rest, bringing the bird forward through time to present modern scientists to study and learn much about species in the last Ice Age.

Modern day North American Horned Lark.

Permafrost gives researchers many opportunities to delve into everything from specimens like this latest find, “icebird,” to mankind himself. Not long ago several bodies, some 2,500 years old, were found in Siberia, and they were so well preserved that even the tattoos on their skin were legible.

2,500-Year-Old Scythian Warrior Grave Found In Siberian Valley Of The Kings

2,500-Year-Old Scythian Warrior Grave Found In Siberian Valley Of The Kings

The 2,500-year-old tomb of a Scythian warrior has been found in the ‘Siberian Valley of the Kings’ in Russia.

Buried with his weapon and golden ornaments, the warrior discovered by archaeologists from Jagiellonian University in Krakow was found in an untouched grave in an area known for both its rich burial sites and notorious grave-robbing.

The so-called ‘Siberian Valley of the Kings’, named after its Egyptian counterpart, is located in the Asian part of the Russian Federation.

It earned its name due to the numerous giant kurgan tombs, often full of treasures thought to belong to royalty.

The warrior discovered by archaeologists from Jagiellonian University in Kraków was found in an untouched grave in an area known for both its rich burial sites and notorious grave-robbing.

The archaeological site of Chinge-Tey where Poles uncovered the new treasures is operated together with the State Hermitage Museum in Sankt Petersburg and Korean Seoul University, reports the Science in Poland website (Nauka w Polsce).

Dr. Lukasz Oleszczak, the Polish expedition’s head, told PAP: “For our research, we chose an inconspicuous, almost invisible kurgan with a diameter of about 25 m.

“We hoped that it remained unnoticed by the robbers.”

Of the two tombs they found only one was robbed, while the other was untouched.

The so-called Siberian Valley of the Kings, named after its Egyptian counterpart, is located in the Asian part of the Russian Federation

He added: “Inside was a young warrior’s skeleton with full equipment. Their area around his head was decorated with a pectoral made of gold sheet, a glass bead, a gold spiral for adorning the braid.”

Archaeologists also found the Scythian buried with a sharpening stone and his weapon – a bronze battle-axe with a stylized eagle’s head, arrows, an iron knife, and fragments of a bow – presenting an array of items a warrior roaming the Siberian wilderness would need.

Dr. Oleszczak said: “Other well-preserved items were made of organic materials. Among them there is a leather quiver, arrow spars, the axe’s shaft and a belt.”

The findings date back to the 7th or 6th century BC. Scythians were nomad people from Central Asia, who expanded into Eastern Europe through their love of combat and war.

Their achievements were described by the Greek historian Herodotus.

The Scythians buried their dead in kurgans, some resembling hills visible from afar.

The grave found this year was surrounded by a shallow trench. Inside archaeologists uncovered several dozen fragments of ceramic vessels and animal bones, mainly of cows, horses, goats or sheep.

Most probably they are traces of religious ceremonies and rituals, such as funeral wakes.

The Polish archaeologists will continue their work in Chinge-Tey, as there is still one grave they found, but were unable to fully examine.

Archaeology Found Grave of Siberian Noblewoman Up to 4,500 Years Old

Archaeology Found Grave of Siberian Noblewoman Up to 4,500 Years Old

Archaeologists excavating in Siberia have found a grave containing a 4,500-year-old skeleton of a noblewoman. This intriguing ancient skeleton belongs to a woman who was a member of the mysterious ancient Okunev Culture.

Inside the grave, scientists also came across the woman’s valuable treasures that include an incense burner decorated by solar symbols, 1,500 beads that once adorned her costume, and 100 pendants made from animal teeth.

The incense burner found in the grave contains sun-shaped faces which match previously-discovered ancient rock art in Siberia.

Mystery Of The Ancient Okunev Culture

The Okunev people are seen as the Siberian ethnic grouping most closely related to Native Americans.

According to some experts, it was the ancestors of the Okunevs who populated America, evidently using primitive boats to venture to the ice-covered Beringia land bridge some 12,600 years ago.

Precious Ancient Artifacts And Child Skeleton Found Inside The Grave

The location where the finds were made is known as the Itkol II burial site, in the Shira district of Khakassia.

Inside the grave there was also a skeleton of an ancient child and several precious artifacts that offer a wealth of clues about the life of these ancient people.

The head of the expedition Dr. Andrey Polyakov said the grave of the ‘noblewoman‘ dated back to the Early Bronze Age, between the 25th and 18th centuries BC.

The stone roofs of some graves on a burial hill at Itkol II also bear chiseled images – known as Okunev faces.

“For such an ancient epoch, this woman has a lot of items in her grave. We have not encountered anything like this in other burials from this time, and it leads us to suggest that the items in her grave had some ritual meaning.

We hope to get even more rare and spectacular finds next year when will continue to study this unique (burial) mound and open the central burial plot,” he said.

A Noblewoman With Special Status

Archaeologists believe the woman ‘enjoyed a special status during her lifetime’, as indicated by around 100 decorations made from the teeth of different animals, items carved from bone and horn, two jars, cases with bone needles inside, a bronze knife, and more than 1,500 beads that embellished her funeral costume.

There is particular excitement about the incense burner because it contains sun-shaped faces which match previously-discovered ancient rock art in Siberia. The clay incense burner bearing three sun-shaped facial images, recovered from the grave, is the most important find of all,’ he said.

‘Its importance is hard to overestimate. All such images previously discovered had been found only on cliffs or separate stones. Now there is the prospect to find out when they were made.’

He made clear: ‘Now, thanks to our current research, we can definitely say that these rock arts were made by the representatives of the Okunev culture.’ After precise dating and restoration, the incense burner will be exhibited at the world-famous Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, he said.

Another find is a stone slab with a rare image of a bull having a long rectangular body. These are not common in southern Siberia but are known on the territory of modern-day Kazakhstan. Archaeologists see this as an indication that Okunev people may have migrated to Khakassia from the south.

There is obviously still a lot more to be learned about the mysterious ancient Okunev Culture and future findings will undoubtedly shed more light on the lives and customs of these ancient people.

Surprising 5,000-Year-Old Cannabis Trade: Eurasian Steppe Nomads Were Earliest Pot Dealers

Surprising 5,000-Year-Old Cannabis Trade: Eurasian Steppe Nomads Were Earliest Pot Dealers

The nomad tribe known as the Yamnaya, who were among the founders of the European civilization, may have been the first pot dealers, archaeologists say. Moreover, they were responsible for the first transcontinental trade of cannabis.

The tribe of nomads came from the eastern Steppe region, which is nowadays Russia and Ukraine, and entered Europe about 5,000 years ago, bringing with them herding skills, metallurgy and even the Indo-European languages.

According to a recent analysis, they were also responsible for introducing marijuana and establishing the first transcontinental trade of the herb.

Cannabis sativa plant

According to, the research carried out by specialists from the German Archaeological Institute and the Free University of Berlin, involved a systematic review of archaeological and paleo-environmental records of cannabis fibres, pollen and achene across Europe and East Asia.

During the study, they concluded that the herb was not first used and domesticated somewhere in China or Central Asia. Rather, it was used in Europe and East Asia at the same time – between 11,500 and 10,200 years ago.

As Tengwen Long and Mayke Wagner at the German Archaeological Institute, and Pavel Tarasov at the Free University of Berlin, and colleagues wrote in the journal Vegetation History and Archaeobotany.

What is interesting is the fact that while Eurasians in the West made regular use of the herb down the millennia, there are not too many archeological recordings for an early use of cannabis in East Asia.

It is known that people quickly discovered the plant’s versatility, using it as a medicine, food source, raw fiber material for ropes and textiles and even exploiting its mind-bending properties.

However, the discovery of these uses did not appear in the East until later. This occurred about 5,000 years ago, when the use of cannabis intensified in East Asia, as shown in the archeological records.

The researchers believe that it could be associated with the ” trans-Eurasian exchange-migration network through the steppe zone”. The fact that cannabis had multiple uses made it an ideal candidate for being a “cash crop before cash”.

Ancient Japanese depiction of a Cannabis plant

Carbonized achenes and signs of cannabis burning were discovered at archeological sites which suggests that the Yamnaya brought the practice of cannabis smoking with them as they spread across Eurasia.

Apart from this, bronze objects, technologies, staple food crops such as millets, wheat, and barley, remains of horses, and evidence of pandemic diseases have enabled researches to track the movements of these ancient nomads.

The trade road created by Yamnaya and their neighbors like Botain, became a part of the Silk Road several millennia later. These ancient people created a basis to the trade traditions in Asia.

Bronze artifacts belonging to the Yamnaya culture

While the latest discovery sheds light on the ancient trade of cannabis, it is not the oldest evidence of marijuana ever found. Bryan Hill, a writer of Ancient Origins, reports: ”In 1997, a hemp rope dating back to 26,900 BC was found in Czechoslovakia, making it the oldest known object to be associated with cannabis.

  Since that time, hemp has played an important role in humanity’s development.  For thousands of years marijuana was not only legal, but an important crop among cultures throughout history, and held commercial, medicinal, and spiritual value.

The cultivation of cannabis, commonly known as marijuana, can be traced back at least 12,000 years, which places the plant among humanity’s oldest cultivated crops.  Cannabis plants are believed to have evolved in Central Asia in the regions of Mongolia and southern Siberia. 

The earliest cultural evidence of Cannabis comes from the oldest known Neolithic culture in China, the Yangshao, who appeared along the Yellow River valley.  From 5,000 to 3,000 B.C the economy of the Yangshao was cannabis-driven.  Archaeological evidence shows they wore hemp clothing, wove hemp, and produced hemp pottery. 

Yangshao hemp cord-marked amphora

The first recorded use of marijuana as a medicinal drug occurred in 2737 BC by the Chinese emperor Shen Nung.  He documented the drug’s effectiveness in treating the pains of rheumatism and gout.  Both hemp and psychoactive marijuana were widely used in ancient China. 

The ancient Chinese used virtually every part of the Cannabis plant: the root for medicine; the stem for textiles, rope and paper making; the leaves and flowers for intoxication and medicine; and the seeds for food and oil.  Cannabis seeds were also one of the grains of early China and ancient tombs of China had sacrificial vessels filled with hemp for the afterlife.”

46,000-year-old Bird Found Frozen in Siberia Sheds Light on the End of Ice Age

46,000-year-old Bird Found Frozen in Siberia Sheds Light on the End of Ice Age

The research team said the specimen will help them to understand how the horned lark evolved. They also plan to compare its genomes with all other subspecies of the horned lark.

A well-preserved carcass of a 46,000-year-old bird discovered by ivory hunters in Siberia could help in understanding how the ecosystem evolved at the end of the ice age, new research suggested.

It was found buried and frozen in permafrost near the village of Belaya Gora in north-eastern Siberia, said reports.

The ivory hunters soon passed on the specimen to a team of experts from the Swedish Museum of Natural History for tests and analysis.

Scientists studying the specimen identified it as a horned lark and said it was ‘exceptionally well preserved’.

A frozen bird found on the ground in Siberia is actually about 46,000 years old and was well-preserved by permafrost

DNA of the bird and radiocarbon dating revealed its age to be around 46,000 years old.

The scientists then carried out a genetic analysis to identify the bird as Eremophilia Alpestris, according to a paper published in the journal Communications Biology.

The scientists said the discovery was significant because it offers new information about how the ‘mammoth steppe’ was divided into three types of biological environments when the ice age ended.

The Mammoth steppe was the Earth’s most extensive biome that spanned from Spain eastwards across Euroasia to Canada and from arctic islands southward to China.

Love Dalén, who carried out the study, said the bird may be an ancestor of two subspecies that are still alive today.

“Our results support this theory since the diversification of the horned lark into these subspecies seems to have happened about at the same time as the mammoth steppe disappeared,” Dalen said in a statement.

The research team said the specimen will help them understand how the horned lark evolved. They also plan to compare its genomes with all other subspecies of the horned lark.

About its well-preserved state, team members said it can be explained by the cold state of the permafrost.

However, everyone agreed the specimen was exceptionally well preserved as compared to other discoveries.

Researchers Discover The “Decapitated” Skeleton Of An Extinct “Creature” More Than 200 Years Ago

Researchers Discover The “Decapitated” Skeleton Of An Extinct “Creature” More Than 200 Years Ago

During a routine survey of the coastline of Komandorsky Nature Reserve in Russia, researchers came across a rather bizarre discovery.

While performing excavations at the Kamchatka peninsula, Russian researchers found a headless skeleton of a 6-meter-long creature that has been extinct for more than two centuries.

Researcher Marina Shitova from the Komandorsky Nature Reserve noticed the dead creature’s ribs poking out from the sand and pebbles. However, they weren’t sure what they had come across until excavations revealed 45 vertebrae, 27 ribs, a left scapula and other bones of an ancient—now-extinct—creature referred to as the Sea Cow.

“The discovery of such a sufficiently complete skeleton of Steller’s sea cow is an extremely important event not only for the Komandorsky reserve but for science in general,” read a statement by Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources.

Despite the fact that the Sea Cow’s head is missing, the specimen is relatively well-preserved.

After excavating for four hours, the headless skeleton of the sea cow, a mammal endemic to this region that became extinct in the 18th century, was eventually revealed to the surprise of researchers.

This discovery could help researchers understand more about the extinct animal as researchers do not know how many vertebrae the Se Cow had, and what its flippers looked like, said Daryl Domning, a professor of anatomy and a Steller’s sea cow expert at Howard University in Washington, D.C in an interview with Live Science.

The sea creature was hunted in great numbers until its extinction in 1768.

“According to historical records, in the eighteenth century the species had declined to remain populations only around Bering and Medni Island, Russia,” said researchers from George Mason University years ago, in the scientific journal Biology Letters.

The species was named after the German explorer George Steller, who first documented its existence during a voyage through the North Pacific in 1741, according to the Encyclopaedia Brittanica.

According to statements, the skeleton will go on display at the Komandorsky Nature Reserve visitor center.

The animal was huge in terms of weight. According to experts, the specimen could grow in weight to 10 metric tons, which eventually allowed it to survive without problems in the ‘frozen’ environment.

However, its incredible weight also made it ‘easy’ prey for predators and hunters, according to experts.

The last specimen—prior to this one—was discovered more than 30 years ago on Bering Island, in Russia.

What exactly happened to the head of the recently found Sea-Cow remains a mystery.

‘Sleeping Beauty’ Mummy Discovered 2,000 Years After Death Wearing Skirt And Clutching Make-Up Box

‘Sleeping Beauty’ Mummy Discovered 2,000 Years After Death Wearing Skirt And Clutching Make-Up Box

Archeologists hail the extraordinary find of a suspected ‘Hun woman’ with a jet gemstone buckle on her beaded belt.

After a fall in the water level, the well-preserved mummy was found this week on the shore of a giant reservoir on the Yenisei River upstream of the vast Sayano-Shushenskaya dam, which powers the largest power plant in Russia and the 9th biggest hydroelectric plant in the world.

The ancient woman was buried wearing a silk skirt with a funeral meal – and she took a pouch of pine nuts with her to the afterlife.

The ancient woman was buried wearing a silk skirt with a funeral meal

In her birch bark make-up box, she had a Chinese mirror. Near her remains – accidentally mummified – was a Hun-style vase.

A team of archeologists from St Petersburg’s Institute of History of Material Culture (Russian Academy of Sciences) working on the shoreline in the Tyva Republic spotted a rectangle-shaped stone construction that looked like a burial.

‘The mummy was in quite a good condition, with soft tissues, skin, clothing and belongings intact,’ said a scientist.

Natalya Solovieva, the institute’s deputy director, said: ‘On the mummy are what we believe to be silk clothes, a beaded belt with a jet buckle, apparently with a pattern.

Archeologist Dr. Marina Kilunovskaya said: ‘During excavations, the mummy of a young woman was found on the shore of the reservoir.

‘The lower part of the body was especially well preserved …

‘This is not a classic mummy – in this case, the burial was tightly closed with a stone lid, enabling a process of natural mummification.’

She was buried around 1,900 to 2,000 years ago, scientists believe ahead of exhaustive tests.

Astonishingly, the remains were preserved even though they have been underwater for periods since the dam became operational between 1978-85.

Dr. Solovieva said: ‘Near the head was found a round wooden box covered with birch-bark in which lay a Chinese mirror in a felt case.’

Near the young woman were two vessels, one a Hun-type vase.

‘There was a funeral meal in the vessels, and on her chest a pouch with pine nuts.’

Restoration experts have started working on the mummy. Analysis of the find is expected to yield a wealth of information on her life and times.

Scientists received a grant from the Russian Geographical society to rescue the unique archeological finds in flooded areas.

50,000-Year-Old Tiara Made from Woolly Mammoth Ivory Found in Denisova Cave

50,000-Year-Old Tiara Made from Woolly Mammoth Ivory Found in Denisova Cave

Archaeologists recently discovered the remains of an ancient tiara that was worn by a man. The question now is whether the head crown was meant to mark its wearer’s royalty — or simply hold back his hair.

The largest fragment of an ivory tiara that was found in the Denisova Cave this summer is depicted from three separate angles.

The ivory tiara turned up this summer in the Denisova Cave in the Altai mountains of Siberia. The artifact, made from the tusks of the now-extinct woolly mammoth, is between 35,000 and 50,000 years old — likely the oldest one found in the North Eurasia area to date. 

The findings, first reported by The Siberian Times, haven’t yet been published in a scientific journal, but the authors plan to submit their report for publication next year.

Tiaras or headbands “made from bone, antler or mammoth tusks are one of the rarest types of personal ornaments known in the Upper Paleolithic of Northern Eurasia,” said Alexander Fedorchenko, a junior researcher at the Department of Stone Age Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The ancient tiara turned up in the Denisova Cave in the Altai mountains of Siberia. The remains of an extinct human species, the Denisovans, were first discovered in this cave.

The Upper Paleolithic, or the end years of the Stone Age, began about 40,000 years ago. In addition to mammoth ivory, the items found in the cave from this time period were made up of a variety of raw materials, like soft stones, tubular bones of animals and birds, mammal teeth and shells from freshwater clams and ostrich eggs, Fedorchenko told Live Science.

“On the one hand, we were very surprised to find this unique diadem,” Fedorchenko said. “On the other hand — when you work at Denisova Cave, you need to be ready for any, even the loudest, scientific discoveries.”

The Denisova cave is famous for first revealing the remains of an extinct human lineage called the Denisovans. The tiara turned up in the same layer of the southern chamber of the cave where those first remains, such as a 40,000-year-old adult tooth was found.

Even though no other remains from other human lineages have been excavated in that layer of the Southern Chamber, Fedorchenko said they can only guess if the head piece belonged to a Denisovan. 

Making of a tiara

The Paleolithic dwellers of the cave would have needed to take several steps to craft this diadem, Fedorchenko said. After freeing the mammoth tusks, they likely cut them into thin pieces and soaked them in water so that they could be bent into shape. They then processed them by shaping, scraping, cutting, grinding, drilling and polishing the ivory, Fedorchenko said.

If it’s anything like other tiaras from this time period found in the East European Plain and Eastern Siberia, it most likely had drilled holes at the end to attach it to the head with some sort of cord or strap, he added. Indeed, the largest fragment they found — one of three that together made up a third of the full piece — had half a hole on one side.

Though not seen on this fragment, the outsides of such tiaras are also often decorated with engravings or “complex ornaments,” Fedorchenko said.

Typically, tiara remains come in several pieces, making it difficult for scientists to know for sure if they came from an actual tiara, Fedorchenko said. However, in this case, “we can judge relatively confidently” that the new find is a tiara.

First of all, the length of the biggest fragment — 5.9 inches (15 centimeters) — is too long to be a bracelet. Second, the tiara has a bend that’s shaped to fit the temple of an adult man.

“If we assume that the part of the tiara that was not found so far continued to bend at the same angle as the preserved one, the dimensions of this product would be very suitable for a man with a relatively large head,” Fedorchenko said.

Finally, when they observed the find under a microscope, they found “use-wear traces” such as scratches, microscopic traces of damage, abrasion marks and polishing that would have happened because of contact with organic material, like skin.

They don’t know if this diadem was a mark of something “special,” like royalty, or just an everyday headband to keep the hair back. But most diadems that are found at archaeological sites in Siberia and Europe are often marked with lines, dots and zigzags, which “indicate the special role of these objects in the culture of Upper Palaeolithic people,” Fedorchenko said.

Perhaps, it could have also been a mark of a family or tribe, Fedorchenko said.

This year, the team also found other interesting artifacts in the Denisova Cave, such as an ivory ring, a bone needle and beads. “Together with the diadem, these new artifacts will allow us to more completely reconstruct the peculiarities of the life of the Upper Paleolithic inhabitants of the Denisova Cave,” he said.