Monday, Nov 20 2017
All Cities
Choose Your City
'Lake Baikal, where the ice queen cast her spell'
Mike Carter, The Observer, 2009

Chic women's jewellery made of coal, encrusted with jade and coral from 2,200 years ago

By Sergey Zubchuk and Anna Liesowska
09 October 2017

Eyecatching belt buckles worn by Xiongnu female invaders is found buried on the banks of the Yenesei River in modern-day Tuva Republic.

'Another buckle was encrusted with carnelian, jade, coral and turquoise.' Picture here and below: Marina Kilunovskaya

Women buried in a unique ancient necropolis went to the afterlife wearing intriguingly decorated belt buckles made of coal, new archeological finds have shown.

They were also adorned with flame-shaped bronze decorations on their shoulders. 

In addition, they wore magnificent bronze buckles on their belts, while Xiongnu men wore buckles mainly of iron.

The buckles are artistically decorated depicting fantastical animals such as dragons as well as leopards, panthers, horses, yaks and snakes.

Coal buckle in situ


Coal buckle in situ

The women-only buckles made from coal are large - up to 20 cm in diameter. 

'The most interesting and richest finds are in the women's graves', said Dr Marina Kilunovskaya, who led the expedition to the Ala-Tei burial ground on the Yenisei River in the Republic of Tuva. 

The women-only buckles made from coal are large - up to 20 cm in diameter, decorated with carved animal images or beautifully encrusted with semiprecious coral, carnelian, turquoise, and jade.

'On one of the buckles you can see engravings,' said the scientist. 

Coal buckle with engravings


Coal buckle with engravings

On one of the coa buckles can be seen Scythian-style engravings. 

On one side are two goats and arrows that pierce them. On the other, a horse is depicted in Scythian style. 

'Another was encrusted with carnelian, jade, coral and turquoise.'

She said: 'Evidently, their owners were very rich people who came from Trans-Baikal region or Mongolia. They found this material, it was interesting for them, and they used it for their decorations.' 

Ala-Tei

Ala-Tei burial ground located on the Yenisei River in the Republic of Tuva. 

'Most of the remains here belong to women. 

'My colleagues often describe Xiongnu as big warriors, invaders.

'But these invaders, as you can see, are women in fact' - and they came northwards from the borders of modern-day China.

Bronze belt buckles


Bronze belt buckles


Bronze belt buckles

'First of all, in the central element of the belts are large bronze buckles with the image of animals - bulls, camels, horses, and snakes.'

The coal belt decorations worn by the women warriors 'were not for everyday use, of course, but for some special occasions, like weddings or funerals', she believes.

There are only ten such coal buckle decorations in the world 'and here we have four', with all being native to Siberia, said Dr Kilunovskaya, of the Institute for the History of Material Culture, Russian Academy of Sciences, in St. Petersburg.

Flame shaped decorations

They were also adorned with flame-shaped bronze decorations on their shoulders. 

'I started excavations in 2015, and there are 80 burials here with no mounds,'  she told The Siberian Times. 

'Most of the ancient people are buried in rectangular stone boxes, sometimes boat-shaped, or in wooden coffins or frames, with a stone covering.

'Some burials are without any construction inside. 

'Many include the heads of horses.

Bronze cowrie

Bronze imitations of cowrie shells.

'Obviously, there was horse skin, too, which has not preserved - so only the skull and hooves survive.'

'First of all, in the central element of the belts are large bronze buckles with the image of animals - bulls, camels, horses, and snakes.

'Other details of the female belt, in most cases, are also made of bronze - these are rectangular hexagonal plaques, bronze imitations of cowrie shells, simple and openwork rings, and Chinese Wu Shu coins.

Mirror

'Most of them are the early mirrors of the Western Han Dynasty (II-I centuries BC).'

'We found whole bronze mirrors or their fragments. 

'Most of them are the early mirrors of the Western Han Dynasty (II-I centuries BC), but there were  fragments of two earlier Chinese mirrors belonging to an earlier period.'

On male remains there were 'iron buckles on the belts'.

Finds included buckles for shoes, knives, iron rings and hooks.

Lantern


Lantern

'These were located right above the graves. I believe these were kind on lamps.'

'Another interesting find in the graves were strange small flat vessels separated in the middle by a septum with an opening in the centre,' she said.

'These were located right above the graves. I believe these were kind on lamps.'

Dr Kilunovskaya admitted: 'Actually... I'm afraid to give this interview, because when the general public learns about such an archaeological site... we may find 'black diggers' coming. 

'The only hope is that it is hard to reach this place.

Burials

Glacier bumblebee lived through the Ice Age on this barren Arctic island. Picture: Federal Center for Integrated Arctic Research

'There are quite a lot of burial grounds in this area - dated from Scythian times to the Middle Ages (2nd century BC to the 12-13th centuries) and they are being destroyed by water. 

'When we came here for the first time, we saw a lot of skulls under a steep river bank and green bones there.     

'Green because there was bronze items in burials. This looked terrible... So we try to save what we can.'

Due to climate conditions, work here can only go ahead during the summer months and more research will be undertaken next year.

Dr Marina Kilunovskaya

Glacier bumblebee lived through the Ice Age on this barren Arctic island. Picture: Federal Center for Integrated Arctic Research

She describes the finds as 'the richest belt decorations'.

'The belt is the main attribute of the nomads, so it was richly decorated with various plaques - mostly of bronze, but also coal.'

The Xiongnu were confederation of nomadic peoples who, say ancient Chinese sources, inhabited the eastern Asian Steppe from the 3rd century BC to the late 1st century AD.

The research was carried out with the help of Pavel Leus and the Society for the Exploration of EurAsia

Comments (10)

Her skull looks huge, not normal.
Cody , USA
21/10/2017 00:47
0
0
One of the strongest evidence of this Scythian-Hun relationship. Scythian >Xiongnu>Köktürks> other Turkic khanates
Shaban, Turkey
17/10/2017 04:55
0
0
I wonder a bout the hardness of this coal. Could it approche that of jet found in yorkshire england
bruce hocking, Laprade France
11/10/2017 14:30
0
0
What type of coal that these came from would be a great clue for looters!
Aaron, USA
11/10/2017 08:00
0
0
They are really wonderful objects! Could you please explain to me what kind of coal they where produced with? Thank you
Paolo, Italy
09/10/2017 19:34
0
0
Just beautiful! And very different from other Hsiung Niu ornaments that I have seen. I hope you can protect these graves and preserve the artifacts and remains.They add a lot to our understanding of a distant past.
Barbara, USA
14/10/2017 13:58
1
1
That seems to be like graphite and not coal. Could you specify?
Elena, Milan
13/10/2017 12:48
2
0
Being from coal country in the state of Virginia, Your article appears to show slate, This is not coal. Thank you Budd Hughes

code 6696
Bud Hughea, U.S.A.
13/10/2017 00:12
2
0
匈奴考古的重要发现!
liu shuang , China
09/10/2017 13:47
7
0
What an amazing story ! Thank you Siberian Times
Robert , Yerevan
09/10/2017 13:33
7
1
1

Add your comment

We welcome a healthy debate, but do not accept offensive or abusive comments. Please also read 'Siberian Times' Privacy Policy

Name

Town/Country

Add your comments

The views expressed in the comments above are those of our readers. 'Siberian Times' reserves the right to pre-moderate some comments.

Control code*

Type the code

* obligatory


News

Business

The Bank of Russia official exchange rates of foreign currencies
EUR69.67USD59.27GBP78.49Other...