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Gold-plated akinak, Scythian dagger/short sword, with a leaf-ribbed grip, a cross-guard and a scabbard for the blade tip. Source: Mamai Gora / Facebook.

Golden Sword Found in Young Scythian Warrior’s Grave

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An impressive burial of an ancient nomad and warrior has been unearthed in Ukraine. The find was made at an archaeological site which has yielded many treasures in the past. Among the items that have been recovered is a remarkable gilded short sword . The find is expected to open a window into the civilization and history of the Scythians.

The find was made by archaeologists working at Mount Mamai (Mamai Hora in Ukrainian). The site is located on the “left bank of the Khakhovka Reservoir near the village of Velyka Znamianka in Kamianets-Dniprovsky Raion, Zaporizhzhia Oblast” according to Euromaidanpress.com. Initially, the location and the find were kept a secret, in order to protect it from looters. The dig was led by the archaeologists Hennadiy Toshchev and Svitlana Andrukh, of Zaporizhzhia National University.

Scythian Ancient Burial Ground

Mamai Hora is an extensive burial site with many kurgans ( burial mounds ). The site, which is to the north of the Black Sea , is one of the largest ancient burial sites in all of Europe. It was in use for several millennia, from the Stone Age to the Classical era. “More than 700 burial sites have been found during excavations at Mamai Hora. 400 are Scythian” reports Archaeology newsnetwork.com .

Archaeologists were working at the Mount Mamai site, for the 32nd season in the summer of 2019, when they unearthed the find. Euromaidanpress.com, reports that they came “across a trench with remains of animal bones and small fragments of amphorae”.

Ornaments and amphora found at the site where the sword was found. (Mamai Gora / Facebook)

Ornaments and amphora found at the site where the sword was found. (Mamai Gora / Facebook)

This they believed was evidence of some sort of bereavement ceremony . These ceremonies typically celebrated the life of the dead person and such celebrations were common in Scythian culture, according to ancient sources.

Sword Discovered in Scythian Warrior Grave

The team dug further and they came across two graves, one large and one small. They decided to check the smaller one first. While excavating the pit they came across a large amphora which is of rare design. Then they came across a “skeleton, which was later revealed by anthropologists to belong to a young man aged 18-20 years” reports Archaeologynewsnetwork.

Excavation of the warrior's grave where the sword was found. (Mamai Gora / Facebook)

Excavation of the warrior's grave where the sword was found. (Mamai Gora / Facebook)

A number of objects were uncovered, these included an ax, arrows, and bridle buckles for a horse. Also found was an “akinak (Scythian short sword)” reports Istpravada.com. The weapon, which is somewhat corroded, is a remarkable piece. It has a ribbed grip and a cross-guard, which are in good condition and which still have some of their original gilt.

The leaf-ribbed grip, cross-guard of the Scythian short sword. (Mamai Gora / Facebook)

The leaf-ribbed grip, cross-guard of the Scythian short sword. (Mamai Gora / Facebook)

The weapon also has its original scabbard, which protected the sword tip. This magnificent blade strongly indicates that the young man was a Scythian warrior.

The Scythians: Lords of the Steppe

The Scythians were fierce nomadic people who shared a common culture and spoke an Indo-European language. They dominated the Pontic Steppe and ranged as far as Central Asia.

These nomads were feared by both the Romans and the Greeks. However, they also developed a sophisticated culture and they are renowned for their metalworking skills.

Further excavations revealed that the warrior had also been buried with “beads made of glass paste, a red deer tooth necklace, a gold earring, and a gold pendant with chalk inlay” reports the Archaeologynewsnetwork. The tomb of the young man was adjacent to a larger one.

It is believed an older man was buried there and he may have been a Scythian leader or noble. It appears that it was looted in ancient times and “only one arrowhead and bone fragments” were found in the larger burial pit according to Mamai Gora Facebook page .

Scythian Sword Brings New Insights

Archaeologynewsnetwork quotes the archaeologists who made the discovery as stating that “It’s quite possible that this 18-20-year-old warrior could have been escorting a prominent leader” into the afterlife. The discovery of the young warrior is adding significantly to our knowledge of the burial site.

This grave was dated to the 6th century BC and it is about two centuries older than the other Scythian graves found at Mount Mamai, which mainly date to the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. The discovery of the warrior’s grave could provide new information on the development of Scythian society and culture.

Experts hope to gain insights from further study of the site, sword, and artifacts recovered. (Mamai Gora / Facebook)

Experts hope to gain insights from further study of the site, sword, and artifacts recovered. (Mamai Gora / Facebook)

The artifacts have been removed for further analysis and conservation. All of them, including the gilded short sword, will eventually be put on display at the Museum of Local History in Kamianets-Dniprovsky. There are further digs planned at the vast burial site and more graves and treasures could be unearthed.

Top image: Gold-plated akinak, Scythian dagger/short sword, with a leaf-ribbed grip, a cross-guard and a scabbard for the blade tip. Source: Mamai Gora / Facebook.

By Ed Whelan

Comments

The sword is a stunning find.  It’s amazing that so much detail has survived the centuries.  The Scythians were indeed excellent metal workers.  Even in this condition, it’s a gorgeous sword.

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