М.А. Итина, Л.Т. Яблонский
Саки Нижней Сырдарьи
(по материалам могильника Южный Тагискен).
// М.: Российская политическая энциклопедия (РОССПЭН). 1997. 187 с.
Авторы посвящают эту книгу 60-летию
Хорезмской археолого-этнографической экспедиции.
Introduction. — 5
Глава 1. Общие сведения о курганах.
Chapter 1. General information about the kurgans. — 10
Глава 2. Конструктивные особенности погребальных сооружений.
Chapter 2. Peculiarityes of the constructions of the graves. — 28
Глава 3. Материальная культура.
Chapter 3. The material culture. — 38
Глава 4. Вопросы хронологии.
Chapter 4. The problems of the chronology. — 67
Глава 5. Палеоантропологические материалы из могильника Южный Тагискен.
Chapter 5. Paleoanthropological data from the Southern Tagisken cemetery. — 73
К этногенезу саков Нижней Сырдарьи (вместо заключения).
То the problem of the ethnogenesis of the Saka of the Low Syrdarya (instead of conclusions). — 79
Таблицы [1-7] и рисунки [1-79].
Tables and illustrations. — 87
Литература и список сокращений.
Bibliography and list of abbreviations. — 176
The magnificent finds from the Scythian barrows on the territories of the northern Black sea and Caucasus area have been long since and firmly included into the fund of world culture. Up to comparatively recent times, much less has been known about the achievements of the eastern neighbors of the Scithians, whom ancient Persian written sources called the «Saka».
The geographical position of the South-Aral steppes between European and Asian steppes gave it a key role in the processes of genetical and cultural development of the earliest nomads of the Eurasia.
The alluvial plain of the eastern shore of the Aral sea is a product of channels cut by to Syrdarya — which were one of the largest rivers of the Central Asia. For many years the territory of the ancient Syrdarya delta has been the scene of complex research work conducted by Institute of Ethnography of the USSR Academy of Sciences (now — Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences). This work has brought to light numerous monuments on the banks of old river beds dating from Neolithic (3rd millennium BC) to the late Middle Ages (16 century AD) and including the Early Saka ones of the 7th-5th centuries BC. In 1960-1963 tow burial grounds known as northern Tagisken (10th-8th centuries BC) and Southern Tagisken of the Early Saka period (7th-5th centuries BC) were excavated on the Tagisken Plateau, 200 km west of Kzil-Orda Town (Kazakhstan). Another Early Saka burial ground was discovered and excavated in 1961-1963 and 1965 on the Uigarak Plateau 30 km east of the Tagisken (fig 1). From the very beginning the excavations undertaken in the Syrdarya delta area have placed the Aral Sea Saka’s culture within the range of the «Scythian world», and the burial grounds of the Late Bronze and the Saka, which lie very close to each other and follow each other chronologically, have offered an opportunity for considering the problem of the origins of the culture. This is the first full edition of the both archaeological and physical anthropological data from the cemetery of the Southern Tagisken.
In the cemetery the dead were buried either on the earth’s surface or in pit-graves, and very invariably covered with a mound.
The surface burials provide evidence of the rituals of inhumation and cremation. The dead were laid stretched on their backs, on reed bedding inside light wooden structures of twisted rods and reed, with their heads pointing to the west or southwest. The other surface was matted with brushwood and reed. Such burial structures have been revealed to us as burnt remains or as surviving systems of post holes. Judging from the later, the structure were circular or, more rarely, rectangular in shape. In most cases the post holes ran in a single circle within which was enclosed a kind of chamber formed by four poles set at the corners of a rectangle or a square. In some instances the post holes ran in a double circles.
The most common type of the grave-pits was what of interment in deep (1.0-2.0 m) rectangular pits of latitudinal orientation, covered from above with wooden planks parallel to the short sides of the graves. From above, the planks as well as outer surface were coated with a layer of reed or brushwood. Sometimes the graves were surrounded by small ditches that were also covered with a layer of reed. One variant of this type of burial is represented by pit-graves surrounded by low embankments formed by the earth from the graves. On the outer perimeter of the latter ran a shallow ditch filled with brushwood. Along the walls inside the pit-graves shallow ditches were dug out so that the dead lay as if on raised earthen platforms. At the four corners of most of pit-graves were found hollows of the post hole type but none of them has yielded any remains of posts. Some of the hollows also contained burial inventory items and were covered with the matting on which the dead lay. They appear to have had no functional significance, however, being simply a tribute to some tradition.
In according with a ritual the wooden floor of the pit-graves were often set in fire which was invariably extinguished immediately so that the fire hardly ever touched the buried. Sometimes traces of fire have been observed to have spread out around the pit-graves under the mounds. In a few of the burial mounds with embankments and surrounding ditches fire had consumed the pit and reed matting; the brushwood in the surrounding ditches formed a fire circle around the burial as whole. The so-called «slag» mound, another variation of the Saka burial mounds is probably related to the fire ritual. In the case the dead were placed on an embankment of earth above the outer surface with a surrounding ditch filled with slabs of ceramic slag.
Most burial mounds excavated in Southern Tagisken date back to the 7th (may be end of 8th-1st
half of the 6th centuries BC. Those from the 2nd half of the 6th to the beginning of the 5th centuries BC marked in that area with barrows and deep (2.0-2.5 m) rectangular pit-graves. The latter had their four corners pointing in the direction of the four cardinal points, and also had a long dromos (5.0-12.0 m) attached from the south-eastern side. The pit and part of the dromos next to it were covered with blocks of wood. Each pit-grave was encircled with a ditch with post-type holes at the corners. As usual the wooden floor was set on fire and the earth was thrown onto it immediately afterwards. Some traces of fire around the pit-graves have been also discovered. One of the barrows contained a surface burial with the corpse interned in rectangular structure with dromos. The structure was razed by fire and its plan has survived only as distinct system of post-holes.
The grave goods from the burial mounds of the Southern Tagisken contain all the elements of the so-called Scithian triad (bows and arrows, horse harness, the animal stile in arts). Depictions of a bird of prey and horse, as associated with the Sun cult, have been found. More significantly, some pieces of harness also carry a solar symbol in the shape of a square with an inscribed circle.
From physical anthropological point of view, the population which leave the Southern Tagisken’s burials was heterogeneous. Craniologicaly it presents different types of europeoids, but at the same time individuals, who had wide and high, flat faces were buried there. The fact suggests the possibility of gene flow from the East.
Some of the skulls have a traits of the artificial deformation (more ancient cases in the Central Asia). A few time on the skulls was mentioned the traits of the fighting damages.
The design of burial structures and some elements of burial ritual found in the mounds of Southern Tagisken have their parallels in the Late Bronze mausoleums of the Northern Tagisken although the latter were built of adobe brick. From this point of view especially might be mentioned the surface burials of the Saka.
The structural similarity of burial structures, the rite of cremation, the western orientation of the buried people, the unique layout of the mausoleums of the Northern Tagisken (a circle inscribed in a square with its comes pointing towards the four cardinal points or simply a circle and its probable connection with solar symbolism) — all of this factors go to show that those who were buried in both Northern and Southern Tagisken entertained Indo-Iranian religious beliefs.
On the other hand, the surface and pit-grave burials of the Early Saka, the design of their burial structures and some details in their funeral rite, have much in common with those of the early Scithians and Sauromatians (especially in the South Urals), although, of course, each of the areas mentioned has some specific cultural features of its own.
The data from the mounds of Southern Tagisken do not only confirm the validity of the inclusion of the Aral Sea area into the concept of the «Scithian world», but also provide ample material for identifying the directions of the Early Saka population’s cultural ties with the eastern and western provinces of that world.