The discovery of 4,000-year-old Siberian knight armor made of bone
In September this year, archaeologists in Russia reported on the discovery of a suit of armor made entirely of bone, which belonged to an ancient Siberian knight who lived around four millennia ago. The Siberian Times reported that the stunning discovery was found in near-perfect condition and is the only example of bone armor found in the Siberian city of Omsk.
The armor consists of different plates made up of small fragments of bone that have been joined together. Testing is being conducted to determine the type or types of animals that the bone came from, but it is suspected to be from deer, elk, and/or horse. Analyses are yet to determine its exact age but Siberian archaeologists say it dates back up to 3,900 years.
Yury Gerasimov, a research fellow of the Omsk branch of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, said that the bone armor would have belonged to an elite warrior and would have given “good protection from weapons that were used at the time - bone and stone arrowheads, bronze knives, spears tipped with bronze, and bronze axes”.
A reconstruction of what the bone-plate armour would have looked like. Credit: Siberian Times
The armour was found buried at a depth of 1.5 metres at a site of sanatorium where there are now plans to build a five star hotel. It had been buried on its own rather than alongside a body, which poses a few mysteries. Armor had great material value during the Bronze Age and great care and maintenance was required to keep it in prime condition. Therefore, the fact that it was buried in the ground without being part of a burial, suggests that it may have been some kind of offering.
“While there is no indication that the place of discovery of the armor was a place of worship, it is very likely. Armor had great material value. There was no sense to dig it in the ground or hide it for a long time - because the fixings and the bones would be ruined,” said Gerasimov.
The Bronze Age bone armor is also inconsistent with the style and trends of the Krotov culture, which inhabited the forest steppe area of Western Siberia, and more closely resembles that of the Samus-Seyminskaya culture, which originated in the area of the Altai Mountains, approximately 1,000 km away, and later migrated to the Omsk region. This has led archaeologists to propose that the suit of armour may be a war trophy, or it could have been a gift or exchange between cultures.
The ancient inhabitants of the Altai mountains were not the only ones to use bone armor. The Tlingit, Eskimo and Aleuts are also known to have made weapons and armor out of bone from at least 1,000 years ago, although it likely stems from a tradition going back much further.
Bone armor from North Alaskan Eskimo at an exhibit in the Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Wikimedia Commons)
The researchers now have a big task ahead to clean and reconstruct the armor. Although it is in good condition, there are still some parts that have fragmented into tiny slivers of bone and all these will need to be reassembled. The hope is to reconstruct an exact replica of the suit of armor.
he archaeological site where the armour was found includes a complex of monuments belonging to different epochs, from the Early Neolithic period to the Middle Ages, including settlements, burial grounds, and manufacturing sites. The research team hopes to save the site for future study and preservation.
Featured image: The newly-discovered suit of armor made of bone found in Omsk, Siberia. Credit: The Siberian Times.