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23 August 2016
4,500 years old grave discovered in Siberia

The intriguing find of the remains of a 'noblewoman' from the ancient Okunev Culture was made at the Itkol II burial site, in the Shira district of the Republic of Khakassia (Eastern Siberia).
     The Okunev is a Bronze Age culture dated to the first half of the 2nd millennium BCE in Minusinsk Hollow of southern Siberia. Okunev people are considered as the Siberian ethnic grouping most closely related to Native Americans.
     Undisturbed by pillaging grave robbers, the burial site of the woman, also containing the remains of a child, offers 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 BCE. "For such an ancient epoch, this woman has a lot of items in her grave," he said. "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," Polyakov added.
     Archeologists 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 an incense burner found in the grave 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," Polyakov said. "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."
     Excavations at the as the Itkol II burial site began in 2008 - with some 560 finds in total so far - but there is a sense that the best is yet to come. 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. Archeologists see this as an indication that Okunev people may have migrated to Khakassia from the south. Does this mean modern-day Native Americans originated from Kazakhstan and not southern Siberia, as previously thought? More scientific evidence is needed.

Edited from Siberian Times (19 August 2016)

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