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A Sarmatian Royal Burial at Novocherkassk

  • S. I. Kaposhina

There is a large cemetery of barrows near the town of Novocherkassk, and one of the barrows, locally known as Khokhlach, was partly excavated about a hundred years ago. The finds from this Khokhlach excavation are generally known as ‘the Novocherkassk hoard’. In the autumn of 1962 a systematic study was made of the whole cemetery, and in August-September of that year two barrows standing close to each other (to the west of and 2.2 km. from the Khokhlach barrow) were excavated. One of them contained burials of Bronze Age date; the other turned out to be Sarmatian. The Sarmatian barrow is of the most exceptional interest as the finds from it are closely paralleled by the finds of ‘the Novocherkassk hoard’ from the Khokhlach barrow.

This Sarmatian barrow, known locally as the Sadovy Kurgan, was a low mound 2.20 m. in height. The top of the mound had been removed in recent times, and part of the remaining barrow had been ploughed away: the original dimensions of the barrow are therefore unknown. Excavation revealed one burial in a rectangular pit dug into the natural soil, covered with wooden planks which were in turn covered with reeds. This burial had already been robbed in ancient times, but during the original burial ceremony a ritual feast had taken place, and objects from this feast were preserved under the barrow on the original ground level. These included a large cast-bronze cauldron such as are commonly found in Sarmatian barrows, and a wrought-bronze cauldron decorated with an iron rim and ringshaped iron handles stood by the burial. Both cauldrons were covered in soot and clearly the food for the funeral feast had been cooked in them. Also placed around the burial pit were an ornamental bronze vase and a terra-cotta amphora which had once held the wine drunk at the feast. In the heaped-up soil of the barrow was a grey pottery hydria and also some other interesting objects. During the burial rites the barrow had been gradually heaped up, at first as a ring round the tomb, and then over the burial as well. During ail this the fire continued to bum, but when the feast was finished, several golden phalerae and eight silver bowls were placed in the mound. The silver bowls lay bottom upwards one on top of the other, and alongside were piled up the phalerae of gold (decorations for horses’ bridles). All this was covered by a silver louterion set upside down.

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  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
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