Archaeologists reconstruct 5000-year old tomb in Ukraine belonging to an ‘elite’ nomad

reconstruct-5000-year-tomb-nomad_ukraine_1Credit: Michał Podsiadło

During a series of excavations archaeologists have discovered a 5,000 year old tomb located near the village of Prydnistryanske, on what is now the border between present Ukraine and Moldova (near river Dniester). On further analysis the experts deduced that the burial, relatively ‘monumental’ in its scope, belonged to a man who was one of the elites of a nomadic shepherd community. And now the researchers have been able to successfully reconstruct the structural ambit of the tomb with all the authentic details.

As we mentioned before, the community in question here pertained to a group of nomadic shepherds; which meant that the (temporary) inhabitants of the area didn’t really construct permanent dwellings. However the archaeologists were able to find burial mounds dotted all over the proximate lands. On assessment of these cemeteries, the researchers concluded that this nomadic society was dominated (in status) by the adult males, for whom the monumental mounds were mainly constructed. As Danuta Żurkiewicz of the Institute of Prehistory, Adam Mickiewicz University (in Poznań) said –

They erected monumental burial mounds, which played an important role in the life of the community. They were clearly visible in the landscape – now they are destroyed and poorly outlined.


Credit: Michał Podsiadło

Coming back to the reconstructed tomb, the researchers were initially drawn to this particular burial because of the intricacy of the construction. For example, while most of the other burial chambers were composed of timber and battens, this rectangular tomb was specially covered with uniformly-shaped limestone slabs. The tomb was also protected at the top and bottom by woven mats, while its interior boasted yet another secondary roof made of ash wood. Additionally the structure housed a lump of ochre (red dye), with the stone slabs being partially covered in this natural earth pigment.

Interestingly enough, the archaeologists were also surprised by the sheer literal size of the tomb’s occupant. To that end, this burial chamber was the resting place to a 1.9-m (or 6.2-ft) tall man. Now given the standard heights of the time, this male must have stood out with his stature, thus possibly endowing him with an air of eminence. However on the health side of affairs, the elite member of the community suffered from rheumatic changes and degeneration of his spine. These factors allude to how the man, who met his demise at the age of 35 to 50, took part in rigorous physical activities during his lifetime, including extended horseback riding.

Credit: Michał Podsiadło

Credit: Michał Podsiadło

Credit: Michał Podsiadło

Credit: Michał Podsiadło


The tomb during excavation. Credit: D. Żurkiewicz


Original view of the mound before excavation. Credit: D. Żurkiewicz

The preliminary results of the study will be published in September, in the 20th volume of the yearbook Baltic Pontic Studies.

Source: PAP – Science and Scholarship in Poland

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