Stratified Burial-mounds from the Bronze Age in the lower reaches of the Don

xpeditions to investigate a lone burial-mound Yasinovskii III and the group of burial-mounds known as Talovyi I in the Rostov Region on the west bank of the Severskii Donets River — a tributary of the Don.
These sites closely resembled each other as regards the date of their appearance, the funerary rite used and the grave goods. The burial mounds had been created in the Bronze Age — gradually, over a period of several hundred years. After each burial, new stone structures would be erected and new material would be added to the mound. Burial complexes dating from different times could be discerned in the burial-mounds in their stratigraphic levels, reflecting the history of the site’s construction and how it had functioned. Stratified sites of this kind are very important for an elaboration of the chronology of the steppe cultures in the Bronze Age.
It would be no exaggeration to assert that the sites duly excavated were unique. It proved possible to identify eight stratigraphic levels in the lone Yasinovskii III Burial-mound and six in Burial-mound 1 in the Talovyi I Burial-ground. These dated to the end of the middle and late stages of the Bronze Age covering a period of 700–800 years. The study of these sites has made it possible to draw clear distinctions between materials from different periods within the Bronze Age to a degree unprecedented in that field of research.
The burial-mounds were the legacy of the Babinsky and Timber-Frame archaeological cultures. The building of the lone Yasinovskii III Burial-mound began with the construction by representatives of the Babinsky Culture of a genuine architectural monument over their deceased clansman: it was made entirely of stone and round it an enclosure was built consisting of large stones sunk into the ground and standing on their narrow edge. Later on tribes belonging to the Babinsky Culture let three more burials into this particular burial-mound. More material was laid out on the top of it and another monumental structure was erected — a ring of stones laid out round the perimeter of the mound.
Later the burial-mound was used by representatives of the Timber-Frame Culture, as can be seen from the changes in the funerary rite. The western orientation of the deceased gave way to a north-eastern or eastern orientation and cists began to be placed in pits made of large stone slabs. Later still, tombs appeared with walls made of stones laid out horizontally. During that period Burial-mound 1 in the Talovyi I Burial-ground was built as well. The construction of the Yasinovskii Burial-mound ended with the laying-out of a grandiose stone “shell” on its surface, which covered over all of the previous burials. In Burial-mound 1 in the Talovyi I Burial-ground the stone structures of the Timber-Frame Culture appear more modest: they consist of two half-ring enclosures associated with burials of different date.
In the course of the excavations of both sites an interesting range of finds was obtained: hand-moulded vessels, bronze temple pendants and an awl, a bone belt-buckle and a stone axe. They were discovered in assemblages of varying dates and these artefacts made it possible to trace changes in the material culture and in the religious ideas of the ancient peoples of the steppe.
Radio-carbon dates have been obtained for the first time for antiquities dating from the middle and late periods of the Bronze Age in the lower reaches of the Don, using faunal remains and wood from roofs. The Bronze-Age burials in the lone burial-mound Yasinovskii III date from the 22nd–13th centuries BC. Burial-mound 1 in the Talovyi I Burial-ground existed as a necropolis of the Timber-Frame Culture over a shorter period, from the 17th to the 14th century BC.

R.A. Mimokhod

Digital publication