A massive complex with stone structures has been discovered near the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, in Kazakhstan. Analysed to be around 1,500-years old, thus corresponding to the period when the Huns were moving across Asia and Eurasia, the Mangÿshlak complex was most probably constructed by the nomadic tribes of the region. As for the sheer scale of the find, the disparately spread stone structures cover an area of over 300 acres (120 hectares) of land, thus being equivalent of around 200 American football fields.
Now from the archaeological perspective, most of the stone structures are not uniform in their size or shape. According to Andrey Astafiev (of the Mangistaus State Historical and Cultural Reserve) and Evgeniï Bogdanov (of the Russian Academy of Sciences Siberian Department’s Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography), the smallest of the structures are only around 13 ft x 13 ft (4 x 4 m), while the bigger ones account for dimensions of about 112 ft x 79 ft (34 x 24 m). Interestingly enough, some of the stones are arranged in a manner similar to the renowned Stonehenge of Britain, with their vertical alignments rising sharply from the ground.
And as with many of the recent archaeological discoveries, the initial finds were made by a metal detecting enthusiast, whose name is attributed as F. Akhmadulin in the published article concerning the site. Back in 2010, Akhmadulin was successful in identifying parts of an opulently crafted silver-made saddle, along with other artifacts, in Altÿnkazgan, near the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea. And fortunately for the researchers, many of the salvaged historical objects were directly brought to Astafiev, who is based in Aktau.
On further theoretical analysis, the archaeologists confirmed the precise location, which lies amid a sagebrush desert. But the socioeconomic situation back then didn’t allow for logistical support for an actual on-field excavation. However by 2014, the archaeologists were able to assemble a team for the field work, and the consequent excavation project yielded an assortment of artifacts, including additional segments of the ostentatious (partially) silver saddle and whip fragments made of bronze. The saddle in question, beyond its preciousness, also showcases the impressive craftsmanship of the ancient folks dwelling in the region, with detailed images of deer, boars and possibly lions.
This brings us to the question – who exactly were the builders and craftsmen of this massive complex situated within a desert? The researchers wrote –
Certain features of the construction and formal details of the [stone] enclosures at Altÿnkazgan allow us to assume that they had been left there by nomad tribes.
Now it should be noted that during the same time period, the Huns were expanding across Asia and Eurasia, and their advancing momentum in turn fueled a bevy of mini-migrations across the Eurasian steppes. Furthermore, from the historical perspective, the Huns in themselves were not of singular ethnicity, but rather pertained to a ‘super-tribe’ of sorts, composed of various sub-tribes from the steppes (and later even continental Europe).
In any case, on a more micro-level, the archaeologists assessed the saddle to be the property of a wealthy elite. To that end, other than just its silver bearing, the opulent object depicts symbols called ‘tamgas‘, which were historically associated with people of privileged status. As for the actual purpose of this saddle being housed within the complex (placed on a stone structure), the researchers have hypothesized that it might have been associated with a ritual or was just a burial item. Pertaining to the latter, a skeleton has actually been found beneath the structure. However due to lack of detailed radiocarbon analysis on this front, the archaeologists are not sure if the human remains are from the same time period.
Suffice it to say, there is more to discover, salvage and learn from the massive Mangÿshlak site of Kazakhstan. In that regard, complemented by ongoing researching, the archaeologists are even looking forth to publish their second paper on the silver saddle in 2017.
The study was originally published in the online journal Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia.
Source: LiveScience / All Images Courtesy Of Evgeniï Bogdanov And Andrey Astafiev