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The skull of the  ‘golden man’ found in the Saka burial mound.

Archaeologists Unearth the ‘Golden Man’ of the Saka Burial Mound in Kazakhstan

Last week, Ancient Origins reported on the fascinating discovery of a golden treasure left by the ancient Saka people in a burial mound in Kazakhstan. It was called one of the most significant finds in helping archaeologists unravel the history of the ancient Scythian sub-group. Now, archaeologists have found the missing element of the Saka burial mound – a ‘golden man’.

According to Archaeology News Network , the mummy of a Saka man who died in the 8th-7th centuries BC was found in the Yeleke Sazy burial mound in the remote Tarbagatai Mountains of eastern Kazakhstan. He died when he was just 17 or 18 years old and it is estimated he was 165-170 centimeters (5.4-5.6 ft.) tall.

The ‘golden man’ found in the Saka burial mound. (akimat of the East Kazakhstan region)

The ‘golden man’ found in the Saka burial mound. ( akimat of the East Kazakhstan region )

There are plans underway to find out more about the man, as lead archaeologist Zeinolla Samashev, stated, “We will do facial reconstruction from the skull of this young man, extract DNA from the bones to find out the environment people lived in back then, to learn about their everyday life and habits”.

Kazakhstan’s ministry of information and communications explained why the human remains received its shining nickname, “When buried, the young man was dressed in gold, with all of his clothes being embroidered with gold beads. The man was buried with a massive gold torc around his neck (suggesting his noble origin) and a dagger in a golden quiver beside him.”

The man’s remains were removed from the site for analysis. (ZNAJ.ua)

The man’s remains were removed from the site for analysis. ( ZNAJ.ua)

That fits in well with the previous discovery of 3000 golden artifacts in the kurgan (burial mound). Archaeologists have unearthed plates, necklaces with precious stones, earrings, beautifully crafted figurines of animals, and golden beads which may have been used to embellish Saka clothing.

The find also corresponds with the belief that elite members of the culture were laid to rest in the Saka burial mound. As Yegor Kitov, an anthropologist at Moscow’s Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, said, “The finds and the size of the mound suggest that the young man buried inside had a high social status.” Kitov also suggests “The body was mummified to allow time for those coming from far away to say farewell to the man,” further exemplifying the man’s social status in his time.

These gold beads would have been used to decorate his clothing. (ALTAYNews)

These gold beads would have been used to decorate his clothing. ( ALTAYNews)

The burial mound which held the man’s remains was created by members of the Saka culture. This was a Scythian nomadic group who spoke an Iranian language and lived on the Eurasian Steppe. The Saka are best remembered as skilled horsemen and metalworkers. Danial Akhmentov, head of the East Kazakhstan regional administration, notes the craftsmanship of the Saka in the recently revealed treasures from the burial mound, “The finds indicate the high level of technological development in gold jewelry production in the 8th century B.C., which, in turn, suggests the high level of civilization at that time,” he said .

One of the gold figurines found in the treasure. (akimat of the East Kazakhstan region)

One of the gold figurines found in the treasure. ( akimat of the East Kazakhstan region )

The Saka are known to have buried members of the elite in their kurgans, usually in pairs or as a family unit. That means that there may still be other skeletons inside the Yeleke Sazy burial mound. There are still more plans to excavate in the area because estimates suggest that there may be 200 burial sites in varying states of conservation nearby. Unfortunately, it is believed that looting has been an issue in at least some of the kurgans.

Akhmetov said that the discovery of the burial mound “shows that the people of Kazakhstan are descended from a great culture” and “gives us a completely different view of the history of our people.”

Top Image: The skull of the  ‘golden man’ found in the Saka burial mound. Source: akimat of the East Kazakhstan region

By Alicia McDermott

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