A Scythian Burial-Mound with a Sarcophagus Bearing Painted Decoration

In: Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia
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In 1976 an expedition of the Archaeology Institute of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic investigated Scythian Burial-mound No. 9 in a group of burial-mounds near the village of Mar’evka in the Zaporozhie District of the Zaporozhie Region. The mound had been erected from blocks of turf in the manner traditional for the Scythians. Later on a Polovtsian shrine was evidently erected on top of the mound but in the post-Medieval period this would appear to have been destroyed (the base and the lower part of a statue have survived intact). The mound was erected over a grave in the form of a catacomb with two entrances and a burial of a bridled horse in a separate pit. The grave was looted in antiquity. Among the remains of grave goods typical for Scythian burials of various levels rare items were also discovered, including fragments of a sword with one cutting edge, a gold ring with a coin used for its bezel (a Pantikapaion stater). The most remarkable find of all was a board from the lid of a sarcophagus bearing painted decoration. The decoration, applied in three tiers, consisted of battle scenes depicting three pairs of fighting warriors. The attire, weaponry and poses of the warriors make it possible to assume that the decoration illustrates one of the motifs from the mythology of Ancient Greece – Amazonomachy.

The dimensions and arrangement of the burial-chamber and the diverse grave goods indicate that a number of individuals had been buried in it – an individual of high rank accompanied by his servants. Details of the funerary rite (the overall lay-out of the grave and its details, features of the horse burial) and also the range of artefacts enable us to date the burial-mound to the very end of the 4th or beginning of the 3rd century BC.

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