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3 October 2016
Scientists reconstruct 5,000 year old tomb in Ukraine

Scientists have reconstructed the monumental 5,000 year old tomb of an elite member of a community of nomadic shepherds, discovered in a barrow cemetery on the border between Ukraine and Moldova - "the most complex tomb that we have discovered during the excavations carried out since 2010", according to Doctor Danuta Zurkiewicz of the Institute of Prehistory at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan.
     Members of the community living in this area 5,000 years ago moved over long distances with carts, and built no permanent settlements. But there are cemeteries.
     "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," says Doctor Zurkiewicz.
     Archaeologists have excavated several mounds, finding burials of high status adult males.
     Particular attention was drawn to one burial, which was made with great care. The rectangular pit had been covered top and bottom with a woven mat, roofed with ash wood, and covered with four well-matched limestone slabs. Inside rested a nearly 1.9 metre tall man.
     Doctor Zurkiewicz notes that: "This is not a typical height for the contemporary community. The man had to stand out with his stature."
     The analysis of the skeleton showed that the man suffered from rheumatic changes in the upper extremities and degeneration of the spine - pathologies indicating substantial physical activity and associated mechanical stresses, perhaps from frequent horse riding. He is estimated to have been between 35 and 50 years of age.
     In the tomb, archaeologists found a lump of ochre. Stone slabs covering the burial chamber were also partly covered with ochre.
     The excavations are part of a wider research project to study the area of Podole as a zone of cultural contacts from the end of the fourth to the second millennium BCE.

Edited from Science & Scholarship in Poland (14 September 2016)

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