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Skull of 1,000 year old Arctic chieftain's infant heir found encased in Persian bronze bowl

By The Siberian Times reporter
27 July 2017

Medieval child's remains buried with a knife and fur clothes for protection in the afterlife by mystery polar civilisation.

This unique discovery in the extreme north of Russia was part of an elaborate burial of a child from an elite family, aged no older than three when he or she died. Picture: Vesti Yamal

The skull pieces were discovered by archeologists above the Arctic Circle on the remote permafrost Gydan peninsula close to the Kara Sea in Yamalo-Nenets autonomous region.

Scientists last year announced the find of the turquoise-coloured bronze bowl fragment - originally from Persia, some 6,000 kilometres to the south -  but now say that this unique discovery in the extreme north of Russia was part of an elaborate burial of a child from an elite family, aged no older than three when he or she died. Earlier the bowl was identified as a cup.

Archeologist Andrey Gusev, researcher at the Arctic Research Centre, Salekhard, suggested the child was born to a medieval polar potentate. 

Cup in situ


Knife in situ


Knife in situ

'There were no signs of a burial on the surface. Of course, on one hand, it is a pity that the burial was partly destroyed by wind erosion. But it helped us to find it. We just saw the bowl on the surface.' Pictures: Press-service YANAO, Andrey Gusev

'We can definitely say that this child was not ordinary,' he said. 'He or she was from some wealthy family, judging by the things laid in the grave. The parents could afford quite expensive things, especially the bowl - it was imported.'

Fragments of fur clothes or animal skins along with a ceramic vessel were also preserved in the grave which was not found in a burial ground. The blade of a knife in the tundra grave does not survive, but its handle and sheath are elaborately decorated in a zoomorphic pattern. 

A small temple ring was also found. 

Bowl


Cup


Drawing

'The parents could afford quite expensive things, especially the bowl - it was imported.' Pictures: Vesti Yamal, Andrey Gusev, Veronika Mogritskaya

Medical expert Evgenia Syatova, from Yekaterinburg, said: 'When archaeologists suspected it could be a burial, they just cut also the soil beneath the bowl and sent it to me. 

'I cleaned it and found fragments of a baby's skull, so it confirms 100% that it was a burial.' The baby was aged between six months and three years old when it died, she said. 

'Sadly we cannot be more precise,' said Gusev.

'The burial itself dates to the 10th to 12th centuries, so it is about 1,000 year old. We date the burial by the (Persian) bowl and also by the bronze decoration of the sheath and bronze handle of the knife. 

Close up


Knife


Persian bronze cup

'We date the burial by the (Persian) bowl and also by the bronze decoration of the sheath and bronze handle of the knife.' Pictures: Vesti Yamal, Press-service YANAO

'The knife itself was made of iron and it actually did not preserve - we could see only there traces of it.'

The bowl originates from modern day Iran. 

Gusev said: 'The bowl, or more correctly, a large fragment was laid in the ground upside down. It is not clear yet if initially the bowl was intact or a fragment was placed to cover part of the head.' 

He said experts are seeking to explain where the child's clan originated from to settle in the inhospitable Gydan peninsula in the middle ages. It is likely ancient traders seeking walrus tusks, hunting birds and fur brought the bowl to the north.

Dish from Synya river


Nildin dish

Silver Sassanian dish found on river Synya, dated back 4 - 5 centuries AD (top). Nildin dish, made in Middle Asia in 8 - early 9 centuries AD (bottom). Pictures: Arkady Baulo

Scientist Dr Arkady Baulo, from Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Novosibirsk, said: 'From the 6th and 7th centuries AD Central Asian merchants began to appear in the Upper Kama region. They exported walrus tusks, hunting birds and fur from the north. 

The grave was exposed by wind erosion. 

'We were extremely lucky to find it,' said Gusev. 'There were no signs of a burial on the surface. Of course, on one hand, it is a pity that the burial was partly destroyed by wind erosion. 

'But it helped us to find it. We just saw the bowl on the surface.' 

The skull pieces were discovered by archeologists above the Arctic Circle on the remote permafrost Gydan peninsula close to the Kara Sea in Yamalo-Nenets autonomous region.

Map

Comments (10)

The plate with the bull rider almost looks like a combination between Mithraic and Minoan cultures/religion perhaps with some Zoroasrianism thrown in. The sacrificial bull, the tree of life, the god or demi-god slaying the bull and what almost looks like grain or some other harvest being poured out by the angel. People that far from civilization would be influenced by many sources of information. They probably had quite an interesting religion.
Erik Bosma, Mission, BC, Canada
03/09/2017 03:50
0
0
Fascinating! These finds demonstrate the extensive trading networks between different cultures at the time and their sophistication. Burial with grave goods demonstrates that the practice was universal and not unique to specific cultures. The fact that the bowl originated in Persia is proof of the cultural sophistication of the inhabitants of these remote regions. At a time when Europe was tearing itself apart after the fall of the Roman empire, these remote tribes were trading with civilizations over 6,000 miles away. This is fascinating in and of itself and proves that western culture was not as superior as it is made out to be.
Allan, Florida, USA
01/08/2017 18:28
1
1
Doesn't the imagination run wild with who these people were, how they lived, what relationships they had and how they lived their everyday lives? Science has come so far and it's absolutely fascinating to be able to step back in time like this. Thank you for a detailed and well written report with plenty of photos.
Stacey, Australia
01/08/2017 14:02
2
0
The leather chaps with the fringe of the bull rider reminds me of those used by US and Mexican cowboys. The saddle doesn't have stirrups.I'm guessing that even though the plate dates form 4 - 5 AD, the artistic theme may be much older. I would enjoy having one of your scientists interpret the scene. It's amazing how far the artifact traveled. Best Wishes, Thank you for the photos and the article.
Robert , Lancaster, California, USA
30/07/2017 11:54
2
0
its a burial site. they are meant to Rest in Peace for ever , not for someone to dig them up in few years in the name of science
reader, irkutsk
29/07/2017 18:03
4
10
北极圈内中世纪幼儿墓葬。头覆之铜碗源于6000公里以外的波斯。
ls, China
28/07/2017 10:06
1
0
What a great story.
LS, China
28/07/2017 10:05
7
0
It's sometimes amazing how we by accident discover these burial sites and artifacts from many years ago.Thank you for the excellent photos.
Aarky, Ft Smith
28/07/2017 03:26
10
1
One of the things I really like about the Siberian Times is that it publishes articles about history which, apart from being interesting in themselves, are easy to read and have lots of photographs and maps to help tell each story. Thank you!!
Rob, Stevenage
28/07/2017 02:24
18
0
What a great story.
Todd, Austrailia
27/07/2017 23:20
9
1
1

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