Russian archaeologists have discovered the oldest artifacts of meteorite iron in Eurasia

Russian archaeologists have discovered the oldest artifacts of meteorite iron in Eurasia
Russian archaeologists have discovered the oldest artifacts of meteorite iron in Eurasia

Russian archaeologists used modern chemical methods to investigate finds from the Boldyrevsky burial mound of the Yamnaya culture. Three metal artifacts from the grave goods were cold forged from meteoric iron around 2873–2471 BC, making them the oldest in Eurasia. According to scientists, the grave belonged to the leader of a large tribal association. The research is published in Briefs of the Institute of Archeology.

The onset of the Early Bronze Age at the turn of the 4th and 3rd millennia BC led to significant cultural changes in Eurasia, which are often associated with the first powerful migration of the most ancient Indo-European tribes. During this period, on the territory from the Southern Urals to Moldova and the Northern Balkans, an ancient pit cultural and historical community of pastoral tribes was formed, which existed around 3600-2300 BC. This community is known for its numerous burial mounds, which are complex architectural structures.

Most of the burials of this culture do not contain inventory, only in rare cases were there ceramic vessels, flint arrows, scrapers, knives, awls. A magnificent funeral rite and a wealth of artifacts are characteristic of the burials of people of high social status. One such example is known from the Boldyrevsky I burial ground located in the Orenburg region. Among the bronze artifacts, archaeologists discovered there a number of objects, presumably made of meteorite iron. You can read more about how ancient people used this type of metal in the blog "Iron from Heaven".

Nina Morgunova from the Orenburg State Pedagogical University, together with Russian archaeologists, investigated metal objects made of iron that were found in mound 1 of the Boldyrevo I burial ground. In addition, scientists analyzed the stable isotopes of the buried person's tooth, and also obtained new radiocarbon dating.

Location of the mound and photograph of the burial

The mound had a diameter on the modern surface of 64 meters, reaching a height of 6 meters. Along the entire perimeter, it was surrounded by a ring ditch up to 16 meters wide and 2.5 meters deep. The original height of the embankment, according to scientists, could reach 8-10 meters. In the center of the kurgan area there was a single burial, measuring 3 × 3, 2 meters, in which there was a well-preserved adult skeleton. The grave is decorated with a mat, and the deceased had "wings" made of white bark, a "crown" on the skull and appliqués in the form of wings. The skeleton of a 35–40 year old man was on his right side and may have been mummified before burial.

Isotope analysis showed that this man's diet was based on high-protein foods - meat and fatty fish. The upper surface of the enamel of the teeth is severely worn out, which indicates a diet of coarse food. Scientists point to the usefulness of his diet, which indicates a fairly high social status of the individual.

The grave goods were diverse and unique. Behind the back of the skeleton were copper and iron objects that made up the composition, in the center of which was a disk 10–11 centimeters in diameter. Around the disc lay two copper awls, a copper spear, as well as a blacksmith's hammer and three iron objects - one of which was a double-edged knife with a straight handle, about 14 centimeters long. A copper knife-dagger was located a little to the side.Near the abdomen of the deceased were an iron chisel 12.5 centimeters long and a composite instrument of the tesla-plane type.

Burial plan and section, reconstruction of the appearance from the skull and artifacts

All finds, except for a copper knife and awls, have no analogues not only in the sites of the Yamnaya community, but also in other cultures of the Early Bronze Age. The funeral ritual is also original. Calibrated radiocarbon dating showed that the burial was made around 2873-2471 BC, making iron products the oldest finds from the Early Bronze Age of the Eurasian steppes.

The results of the study showed that all three items were made of meteorite iron. Scientists did not find slag inclusions in the samples of metal powder, which are formed during the smelting of iron ores using the raw-blown method. They believe that the items were cold forged. Chemical analysis showed that the raw material used was a metal obtained from two different meteorites.

Researchers suggest that the leader of a large tribal association, who performed administrative and military functions, was buried in the Boldyrevsky Kurgan. The funeral rite testifies to the desire to deify this individual.

Previously, N + 1 reported other studies on the Bronze Age in Eurasia. Thus, archaeologists have proved that the first domesticated herds of animals brought representatives of the Afanasyev culture to the territory of Mongolia from the Altai Mountains. In another study, scientists discovered the widely used practice of collective burials at the Doglauri burial ground during the Early Bronze Age.

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