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Summary. Scythian Cemetery of 3rd—2nd Centuries BC near Glinoe Village

Telnov N.P., Chetvericov I.A., Sinika V.S.

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Pages: 1085-1089

A Scythian cemetery, located near Glinoe village on the left bank of the Lower Dniester region, was studied by the Dniester archaeological expedition of T.G. Shevchenko Pridnestrovian (Transnistrian) State University (Tiraspol, Pridnestrovian (Transnistrian) Moldavian Republic) during 1995—2012.

This barrow cemetery was situated on a rather extensive area of land on the northern outskirt of the Glinoe village, Slobodzeja district, on the watershed of the Turunchuk (tributary of the river Dniester) and Krasnaja rivers. By the beginning of the studies, only northern part of the cemetery (approx. 1.06 km long in the meridional direction and approx. 0.43 km wide in latitudinal direction) had survived. The southern part of the cemetery currently lies under houses of the Glinoe village and in its most part is not available for the excavation.

Eighteen years of work on this cemetery brought the following results: 115 burial mounds have been studied, including 113 built in the Scythian time and only two in the Bronze Age. Those 113 Scythian barrows had 181 Scythian burials.

Funerary structures and the rite. All burials from Glinoe cemetery are barrow burials. The burial barrows rite is testified by mounds, ditches, as well as the typical filling of secondary entrance wells and entrance wells of secondary catacombs, which had preserved by the start of the excavation. The burials are dominated by the main ones in mounds (113); the rest (68) were secondary. The recurrence of inhumations in mounds of Glinoe cemetery is confirmed not only by the secondary burials and secondary entrance wells, but also by the practice of inhumation through the main and the single (for the main burials) or main (for the secondary burials) entrance well.

Catacomb is the only studied type of burial structure on the Glinoe cemetery. Catacombs are represented by five basic types (I, II, III, V, VI) according to V.S. Olkhovskiy’s classification, and by four types of combined catacombs (II+I, III+I, III+V, V+I). While catacombs of types III and V dominate, catacombs of type I are rare, and the other types are extremely rare or even unique.

There is only one exceptional case, when the type of burial structure was not identified.

Structural elements of the catacombs include: backed entrance well, whitewashed walls of the well, steps in the pits, niches in the walls of the pit, recesses near dromos mouth and benches along the walls of the entrance well, blockage of the entrance in dromos (in burial chamber), niches in the walls of the chambers, division of the chamber into two zones, a pit in the floor of the chamber.

Special place among the structural elements of the catacombs belongs to ornaments around the dromos’s mouth and above it, ornamentation of the dromoses and burial chambers. The special position of these elements is due to the fact that they were intended for additional emphasis of the structural element (ornaments around the dromos’s mouth and above it), or for imitation of a certain construction (ornamentation of the dromoses and burial chambers).

Decoration around the dromos’s mouth and above it is fixed in 33 catacombs on Glinoe cemetery. They are drawn lines, less frequently complete figures or their parts, as well as their various combinations, which were executed with a sharp tool on the wall of the entrance well, in which the entrance in dromos was made, directly around the mouth and above it. The question of semantics of these ornaments seems to be the most difficult, at the moment. They could perform at least two possible functions. One of them, the sacral, was the additional designation of the transition from the world of the living (entrance well) into the world of the dead (dromos and the burial chamber below). It is also possible that the additional elements of the ornament could be some magical symbols sealing the entrance to the kingdom of the dead. These figures/symbols/pictures could play the role of protective marks to ensure the quietude of the buried in the realm of the dead. The second, ornamental function, assumes that the lines simulated the decoration of the canopy covering the entrance to the dwelling. The individuality of the decoration is reflected in a variety of forms, the quantity and combination of different lines (semi-oval, triangular or circular arcs, semicircular, rectangular, and trapezoidal, or in the form of segments).

Ornamentation of the dromoses and burial chambers was found in 30 catacombs on the Glinoe cemetery. These ornaments were executed with a sharp tool and represent different combinations of horizontal and vertical lines on the arches and end walls of the structures to imitate the frame of the dwelling.

The elements of the funerary practice identified in the catacombs include inhumation of dependent persons, horses and dogs in the entrance wells, inhumation of cat in the chamber, greasing with green clay, greasing with silt, chalk bedding at the bottom of the dromoses and chambers, coals and fireplaces in the entrance wells, dromoses and burial chambers, grooves in the bottom of the burial chambers.

All burials from the Glinoe cemetery are inhumations. Burials on the Glinoe Cemetery are different in character. The only cenotaph in type III catacomb is known. More than half of all the other graves were individual; paired burials are rare, and collective burials are extremely rare. Asynchronous burials got significant widespread: they are about one-third of all funerary complexes.

Body positions were established for more than 80 % of the buried. Other cases present complete or partial destruction of the skeletons at the time of secondary internment or, less frequently, due to robbery. Stretched position on the back dominates. Crouched position was registered only in four cases of inhumation, and just one case of prone posture. In all complexes with such positions, these were caused by certain circumstances — disproportionate size of the burial chamber compared to the body length, etc.

The orientation of body was established for all inhumations. The northern semi-circle absolutely dominates (79.06 %); the southern is much more rare (11.55 %), due to the orientation of the long axis of the burial chambers of the catacombs of types III, V, and derivatives of these types. The latitudinal orientation occurs much less frequently, and includes western (8.29 %) and eastern (1.1 %) directions, corresponding to the orientation of the long axis of the burial chambers of the catacombs of types I and II.

Bodies typically rest on a mat (about 92 %) made of grass or animal skin and, exceptionally, of reeds. Occasionally, they used flooring made of wooden scaffolds and bark. There are two cases of wooden coffins (boxes) installed in burial chambers of the catacombs. There is also one «bed». It is a rectangular elevation, left in the primary clay in the centre of the chamber. This «bed» was divided into two parts: the smaller part had a flat surface and intended to place vessels on, and the bigger had a trough-shaped form and was arranged for the body of the individual. There are two cases of bedding made of natural clay on the bottom of chamber, probably to imitate «bed».

A “pillow” under head of the buried is often found in the burials (23 cases). Usually it was made of grass, but also felt, friable bedrock clay and even stone tiles.

Grave goods on the Glinoe cemetery are represented by all categories — weapons, horse harness, tools, household items, wares, decorations, details and accessories of costume, fancies and cult items. Only seven of all the funerary complexes contained no goods.

Weapons were found in more than 65 % of the cemetery’s burials. The most common type of weapons are arrows, and iron arrowheads absolutely dominate. Remains of leather and birch-bark quivers were registered 27 times. Quiver hooks were used to attach the quiver and were found in 40 graves. Archer’s equipment includes iron quiver awls, tetrahedral and round in the section. Iron buckles with rounded frames and movable tongue were found twice. They served as clasps for the sword belt. Battle axes and spears are second in prevalence among the weapons, but are quite rare. Javelins were registered only in four graves. Protective arms are represented by three wooden shields only.

Horse harness is a rather widespread category of grave goods in the burials of the Glinoe cemetery. It is found in 22.61 % of funerary complexes and is represented by all main types: bits, cheek-pieces, snaffle rings, bridle buckles and holders, saddles and saddle buckles as also frontlets, ring-shaped and round buckles, and individual beads.

Working tools are most numerous and are represented by iron knives, a single encasement for knife, spindle whorls, spindles, awls, needles, abrasive tools, «kneader» and «zappers». The latter occupy a special place among the tools; these are different tools of bone and stone used for ornamentation of burial chambers.

Household items are represented by a large number of lamps (bronze, wheel- and handmade), by the single iron candelabrum and fire flints.

Wares were found in 72.92 % of burials. Container vessels are represented exclusively by amphorae, kitchen vessels are very rare (handmade pots and a bronze cauldron). The most common tableware (more than 70 % of all burials): wheel- and handmade, wooden bowls; wheel- and handmade cups; wheel- and handmade jugs; handmade mugs; handmade cups (with round bottom); wheel-made kantharos and a handmade feeding cup.

Adornments were found in 82.32 % of burials: necklaces, bracelets, «elbow bracelets», beads from «forehead bandages», beads from «laces», concentration of beads, plaques, earrings, temporal rings, finger rings and rings.

Fragments of costume, namely, headdresses (bandages and hats) and fragments of shoes were found in some graves from the Glinoe cemetery.

Costume accessories in funerary complexes of the Glinoe cemetery are represented by a belt, fibulae, finials and clasps. Fibulae of early- and middle La-Tène design are known in 36.46 % of burials. Finials are much rarer. A pair of silver clasps of unique design comes from a child’s burial, where they were probably used to fix the funerary veil.

Fancies are quite rare on this cemetery. These are bronze mirrors and toilet vessels — unguentarium and amforiskos.

Cult objects and traces of cult actions were fixed in 59.66 % of burials on the Glinoe cemetery. They are represented by incense cups and pebbles, stone slabs, stones and fragments of vessels, amulets and shells, a coin, antler, tortoise-shells, as well as ochre, realgar and sulphur.

Sacrificial food is an integral feature of the funerary practice on the cemetery. It is fixed in 70.16 % burials and was usually placed in a bowl with an iron knife.

Supra-burial, under- and extra-barrow structures and traces of ritual actions. The only supra-burial structure on the Glinoe cemetery is mound. Only ten barrows had still visible mounds, while the vast majority of mounds (93) by the time of the excavations had disappeared from the landscape. In all cases, when the mounds could not be traced, barrows were identified by the gray or yellowish-gray spot on the tillage, when ejecta from the main and secondary funerary constructions were ploughed.

Under-barrow structures on the Glinoe cemetery are ejectae from funerary structures and ritual pits. Ejectae are excesses of natural clay due to incomplete filling of funerary chamber even if the entrance in dromos was not closed by blockage on purpose. The ejectae on the Glinoe cemetery are always connected with main burials in mounds and mark the level of the ancient horizon.

The only extra-barrow structure studied on the Glinoe cemetery is ditch. It was registered in 16 barrows. All ditches are round; two ditches are of particular interest, because they have eight breaks.

Traces of ritual actions are funerary feasts in the mounds, feasts at the level of the ancient horizon and feasts in ditches. The former are connected with supra-burial structures, the second ones with under-barrow constructions, and the latter ones with extra-barrow structures. Due to poor preservation of mounds on the Glinoe cemetery it is not possible to establish whether funerary feasts were held at the ancient horizon or later — during the construction of the mound. Feast in ditches, of course, relates to the extra-barrow constructions, but in this case, it has never been established when exactly it was held (at the time of burial, or some time later).

Chronology. The number of reliable, i. e. sufficiently precise chronological indicators, allowing to obtain absolute dating of the burials on the Glinoe cemetery is extremely small. These include, first and foremost, amphorae, including with stamps, second — wheel-made cups and lamps, as well as sporadic finds of kantharos and amforiskos. These chronological indicators enable us to use the direct dating of the burials from the Glinoe cemetery. The correlation method of dating is used for the majority of the burials with objects found together with ceramic chronological indicators, so they are a kind of secondary chronological markers — fibulae and, extremely rare, earrings. Some types of fibulae are dated quite surely on the basis of various ceramic vessels; others — on the basis of other identical items found in burials with amphorae material and with a certain type of fibulae. When it is impossible to apply direct or correlation method, dating of certain types of fibulae is based upon typological method, involving the scheme of development of different types from simple to more complex ones. In some cases, similar decorative elements found on various items are used as the basis for the dating of the complexes, for example, «8s» on fibulae and earrings.

Analysis of chronological indicators from burials of the Glinoe cemetery allow not only to set its lower (turn of 4th — 3rd centuries BC) and upper (last quarter of the 2nd century BC) dates, but also three stages in the cemetery’s function, on the basis of narrowly dated funerary complexes: the early stage — the first half of the 3rd century BC (at least 21 burials); the middle stage — the second half of 3rd century — first half of the 2nd century BC (at least 105 burials); the last stage — the second half of the 2nd century BC (at least 7 burials).

Impact of other cultures on the funerary practice and material culture. Materials from the Glinoe cemetery allow us to fix, quite surely, the Greek, Thracian and La-Tène elements, expressed in the funerary practice and material culture of the Lower Dniester Scythians.

The Greek influence on the funerary practice is most clearly evident in design of blockages of the dromoses and in placement of lamps imitating Greek models in chambers (in special niches, as a rule). Other ritual elements and categories of material culture, the origin of which is reasonably connected with the Greek impulses, are seldom registered on the Glinoe cemetery, sometimes in just one case/artefact.

Vicinity with Thracian tribes was reflected on the Glinoe cemetery in a single object of armament, a few adornments, but is better demonstrated in the ceramic complex.

Elements of the material culture of the Central and Eastern European tribes are also registered on the Glinoe cemetery. They are rarely found in adornments, costume accessories, horse harness and weapons. The emergence of the majority of hooks-clasps and all of the fibulae found on the cemetery however, should not be attributed only to the influence of the East European La- Tène cultures on the steppe Scythians of the North-West Black Sea littoral, but also to the penetration of their carriers directly into the Lower Dniester region.
Despite these influences of other cultures, traced more or less clearly, the Scythian background of the funerary practice and material culture of the Glinoe cemetery is evident and indisputable.

The significance of the Glinoe cemetery for studying the history of the Northern Black Sea littoral. The most significant result of the excavation on the Glinoe cemetery is the exceptional volume of archaeological information. The striking state of preservation of the catacombs and integrity of most of them enabled us to build representative collections of weaponry, horse harness, working tools and household items, ware, adornments, costume accessories and details, fancies and cult objects. These materials make it possible to obtain a reliable picture of the material culture, way of life and economy, warfare and ideological representations of Scythians of 3rd — 2nd centuries BC in the Dniester region.

Furthermore, analysis of grave goods from the Glinoe cemetery and finds from the «strange complexes» from Northern Black Sea littoral demonstrates that the latter (hoards) belong to the Scythians, and most of them were deposited in the 3rd — 2nd centuries BC. Currently, any other solution to this problem seems improbable.

No less important is presence of chronological indicators in burials of the Glinoe cemetery, indicating the continuation of the existence of the Scythian steppe culture in the Dniester littoral in 3rd — 2nd centuries BC. These chronological indicators allow making a significant contribution to the development of chronology of, first, different Greek ceramic imports, and second, the early and middle La- Tène imports into the Northern Black Sea littoral. At the same time, we underline that we do not pretend to any definitive conclusions concerning the dates of the various chronological indicators and the time of their existence in the Scythian medium.

Materials from the Glinoe cemetery allow revising some of the views on the chronology of the burial complexes in the Lower Dniester littoral, known as the «Scythian barrows of Tiraspol region» as well as a number of similar burials in other regions of the Northern Black Sea littoral.

Currently, there is no doubt that the Scythian steppe culture in the Lower Dniester littoral, not only does not extinguish at the end of the first quarter or third of the third century BC, but also continues to develop until the end of the second century BC, at least. We emphasize that in the 3rd — 2nd centuries BC in the Lower Dniester littoral are actively functioning monuments of the settled population, the largest of which are Chobruchi and Krasnoe settlements. In our opinion, their layers of 3rd — 2nd centuries BC were deposited in the process of activity of the Scythian population. With high probability, Krasnoe was inhabited by the same Scythians who left the Glinoe cemetery in its proximity. The transition of the Scythian population of the left bank of the Lower Dniester littoral from nomadic to a predominantly sedentary lifestyle is testified by the analysis of Greek and Thracian influences on funerary practice and material culture, the tradition of shaping burial chambers in the catacombs as ground houses, weaponry complex, bowls as the most common type of tableware, as well as distribution of lamps in the funerary complexes and on the settlements. Scythians’ immediate neighbours were the Getian tribes, who were their trading and cultural partners in the Moldavian steppe in 3rd — 2nd centuries BC, and the inhabitants of the Greek colony of Tyras and different villages located on the banks of the Dniester estuary on the Black Sea coast.

In this regard, we are quite sure that there were no chronological «gaps», «lacunae» and «hiatuses» in the historical picture of the steppe Dniester littoral in 3rd — 2nd centuries BC.

Also, currently, we must recognize the climatic reasons behind the «crisis of the third century BC» as invalid. It seems unlikely that the Northern Black Sea steppe areas were suddenly desolated as a result of drought, except the basin of the Dniester River. It is well known that the basins of the Danube, the Southern Bug, Dnieper and Don regions are much more affluent and have much richer natural resources, both in their steppe and in the forest-steppe parts, and therefore they could not be less appealing to the Scythians in the 3rd — 2nd centuries BC than the basin of the Dniester river.

While not denying that at the end of the first quarter or third of the third century BC there were some military-political events that influenced the whole further course of the history of the Northern Black Sea littoral (cessation of construction of «royal» barrows, economic recession or cessation of the Greek and barbarian settlements, etc.), we believe that the historical development of the Black Sea steppes in the 3rd — 2nd centuries BC continued under the absolute domination of the Scythian culture from the Danube in the west to the Don in the east. At the same time, few Sarmatian burial complexes of 2nd — 1st centuries BC to the west of the Don did not undermine the Scythian domination, but simply mark a gradual penetration of the Sarmatians into these territories. Further studies of the Scythian burial sites and a correct approach to the dating of many hundreds, if not thousands, investigated graves, without any doubt, will allow building a more detailed picture of the Scythian presence in different regions of the Northern Black Sea steppe over time.

In this regard, it is difficult to overestimate the importance of the materials obtained on the Glinoe cemetery on the left bank of the Lower Dniester littoral. Their publication, at least, allows drawing attention of the researchers to the analogical Scythian complexes and findings traditionally dated widely within 4th — 3rd centuries BC, or attributed to Sarmatian culture without good reasons.

In conclusion, it is necessary to emphasize the problem that emerges but cannot be solved on the basis of the data obtained from the Glinoe cemetery. As we have shown, chronological indicators limit the upper date of the site’s function by the end of the 2nd century BC. Thus, we currently do not know any archaeological sites left by the Scythians and functioning on the steppe Dniester region, and broader, in the North-West Black Sea region in the first century BC, while it is known that the first Sarmatian burials appear on the North-West Black Sea littoral in the second half — the end of the first century BC. Apparently, the issue of the final date of the late Scythian culture or of its co-existence at some stage with the Sarmatian culture in the region can be solved only with identification of later than Glinoe sites. We do not exclude such development of the situation, since there is evidence of the late Scythian culture existing in Dobrogea, the Lower Dnieper region and the Crimea in the first century BC.

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