Scientists reconstruct 5,000-year-old elite tomb discovered in Ukraine

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Scientists reconstructed the monumental 5,000 years old tomb discovered on the border between Ukraine and Moldova. It belonged to a representative of the elite of the community of nomadic shepherds.

Scientists reconstruct 5,000-year-old elite tomb discovered in Ukraine
Excavation of the burial chamber [Credit: D. ┼╗urkiewicz]

“This is the most complex tomb that we have discovered during the excavations carried out since 2010”, said Danuta ┼╗urkiewicz of the Institute of Prehistory, Adam Mickiewicz University in Pozna┼ä.

The burial is located within the barrow cemetery near the village of Prydnistryanske (Vinnytsia region) on the border of the Ukraine and Moldova near the Dniester.

Members of the community living in this area 5,000 years ago were nomadic shepherds. This means that no permanent settlements were built, which is reflected in the lack of discoveries of houses from this period by archaeologists. But there are cemeteries.

Scientists reconstruct 5,000-year-old elite tomb discovered in Ukraine
Scientists reconstruct 5,000-year-old elite tomb discovered in Ukraine
Reconstruction of the interior of the tomb [Credit: Michał Podsiadło]

“They erected monumental burial mounds, which played an important role in the life of the community. They were clearly visible in the landscape – now they are destroyed and poorly outlined”, Dr. ┼╗urkiewicz explains.

Archaeologists have investigated several mounds. The findings indicate that adult males played a dominant role in the community, for whom monumental mounds were erected after death.

Archaeologists were particularly drawn to the burial of a man who stood nearly 1.9 metres tall. “This is not a typical height for the contemporary community. The man had to stand out with his stature”, said Dr. ┼╗urkiewicz.

Scientists reconstruct 5,000-year-old elite tomb discovered in Ukraine
Scientists reconstruct 5,000-year-old elite tomb discovered in Ukraine
Reconstruction of the interior of the tomb [Credit: Michał Podsiadło]

While most of the mounds were mainly built of wood, with roofing made of battens, the grave of this individual was different in that the rectangular pit was covered with four well-matched limestone slabs. In addition, the body of the man had been placed in a woven mat inside the tomb and the interior of the tomb had an additional roof made of ash wood.

The analysis of the skeletal remains showed that the man died at the age of 35-50 years and that he suffered from spinal degeneration, possibly due to frequent horse riding.

In the tomb, archaeologists found a lump of red ochre. Stone slabs covering the burial chamber were also partly covered with ochre.

Scientists reconstruct 5,000-year-old elite tomb discovered in Ukraine
View of the mound before excavation [Credit: D. ┼╗urkiewicz]

The excavations, during which the discovery was made, are part of a wider research project co-funded by the National Programme for the Development of Humanities and conducted by researchers from the Institute of Prehistory, Adam Mickiewicz University, the Institute of Archaeology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology PAS in Krak├│w. The project objective is to study the area of Podole as a zone of cultural contacts from the end of the fourth to the second millennium BC.

Source: PAP – Science and Scholarship in Poland [September 16, 2016]

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