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The Odinov culture shamans graves that have been found in Western Russia. Source: Image: Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, The Siberian Times

Bronze Age Bird Beak Burials Found In Russia

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By The Siberian Times Reporter

The bizarre find of a skeleton with what seems to have been a collar or armor constructed from birds beaks has Russian archaeologists scratching their heads as to the function and meaning of the attire. The beaks found inside a 5,000 year old burial seem to resemble those of a monster in the 2004 psychological thriller movie The Village directed by filmmaker M Night Shyamalan.

The find was part of two unique burials of the Odinov culture (early Bronze Age ) that were unearthed last year at the Ust-Tartas site in Novosibirsk region. Inside one of them researchers found several dozen long beaks and skulls of large birds assembled into something looking like a collar, a headdress, or armor. 

30 – 40 bird beaks and heads were found with one of the skeletons. Image: Novosibirsk Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, The Siberian Times

30 – 40 bird beaks and heads were found with one of the skeletons. Image: Novosibirsk Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, The Siberian Times

‘Nothing of this kind was ever found as part of Odinov culture in all of Western Siberia ,’ said researcher Lilia Kobeleva from Novosibirsk Institute of Archeology and Ethnography. 

‘Why do we think this was a part of clothing? The beaks were assembled at the back of the skull, along the neck, as if it was a collar that protected the owner when he lived here.’

Another version is that the beaks, numbered between at least 30 and 50, were a part of a ritual costume.

5,000 years old graves reveal shamans in bird beak ‘collar’ and bronze ‘spectacles’. Pictures: Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, The Siberian Times

5,000 years old graves reveal shamans in bird beak ‘collar’ and bronze ‘spectacles’. Pictures: Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, The Siberian Times

The type of birds will be determined later by ornithologists, but it is thought likely that they were cranes or herons. 

It is not clear how the beaks were attached to each other, or to fabric, as the scientists haven’t found mounting holes. 

Months will be spent to separate and study the beaks. Like jewelers, Novosibirsk institute’s restorers will have to use the finest instruments and the smallest brushes in order to reveal the full wonder of this ancient creation.

Who was this person that 5,000 years ago wore clothing, or armor, made of bird beaks?  

Close to the ‘Bird Man’ burial the team of archeologists found a double-layered grave with two children aged approximately 5 and 10 buried on top. 

Underneath them, separated with a wooden overlay, lay a skeleton of a grown man - and a treasure trove of artifacts. 

The most exciting item looked like a pair of spectacles, consisting of two bronze hemispheres and a bronze bridge. It lay right next to the man's skull. 

Traces of organic matter were found inside the hemispheres of the ‘spectacles’. Experts believe the item could have been part of either a burial mask, or a head gear.

Bronze 'spectacles' found inside the 5,000 year old burial, and pictures from the Ust-Tartas archeological site in Western Siberia. Image: Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, The Siberian Times

Bronze 'spectacles' found inside the 5,000 year old burial, and pictures from the Ust-Tartas archeological site in Western Siberia. Image: Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, The Siberian Times

Next to the man's left arm and around the waist lay five polished crescent-shaped stone pendants, used for rituals. 

‘These are unique items, we are very excited indeed to have found them,’ said Lidia Kobeleva. 

‘Both men must have carried special roles in the society. I say so because we have been working on this site for a while and unearthed more than 30 burials. They all had interesting finds, but nothing we found earlier was as impressive as discoveries in these two graves. We suppose both men were some kind of priests.’

Skeleton of a man was found with 5 crescent-shaped stone pendants. Image: Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, The Siberian Times

Skeleton of a man was found with 5 crescent-shaped stone pendants. Image: Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, The Siberian Times

The Odinov culture is the beginning of the Bronze Age archaeological culture of hunters named after the settlement Odino in the basin of lower Ishim river in Western Siberia.

The culture is dated to the 18th to 16th centuries BC, but may be older. The Odinov culture seems to have been an isolated community surrounded by forest-steppe terrain. Its settlements are situated along the terraces of the rivers and creeks. Scare evidence of their dwellings indicate they built dug-outs. 

It is thought that Odinov culture rose from Eneolithic forest- steppe cultures in the Ishim area.

Top image: The Odinov culture shamans graves that have been found in Western Russia. Source: Image: Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, The Siberian Times

The article ‘ The Birdman of Siberia: sensational finds in the heart of Russia puzzle scientists ,originally appeared on The Siberian Times and has been republished with permission.

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