Ukrainian Burial Mound Dig Reveals 5,500-Year-Old Stonehenge-like Structure
Scythians and other warring cultures and the archaeological remnants of their history are under attack by developers in Ukraine looking to construct new luxury country homes. There are two roadblocks in their quest for unrestricted profiteering. The first comes in the form of 4,000-5,500-year-old burial mounds, almost 100,000 in number and scattered across the countryside, which are only protected by a very thin topsoil.
“It has a very thin topsoil, literally 10 cm. This is very little and it is causing it to swell, deteriorate, etc. This is why it was decided to investigate it", says Dmitry Teslenko, head of the Dnieper archaeological expedition of the Ukrainian Archaeological Guard Service.
A unique Ukrainian burial mound found during roadwork in the village of Novooleksandrivka. ( Informator)
The second roadblock to the construction project is the nongovernmental preservation group Guardians of the Mounds , founded in 2019 under the aegis of Oleksandr Klykavka, which has become a national movement over the last 20 months. In the village of Novooleksandrivka, 10 kilometers (6.21 miles) south of the town of Dnipro in east-central Ukraine, “excavations of a unique kurgan or burial mound have been underway for more than 1.5 months” reports Archaeology News Network .
- Cossack-Sorcerers: The Secretive and Magical Warrior Society of Ukraine
- Mauritius Square, Ukraine: What is this Giant Crab-like Earthworks?
The Burial Mounds and their Rationale
These are burial mounds that have attracted grave robbers and archaeologists in equal measure, with a variety of artifacts - which includes combs and dishes, but also heaps of golden jewelry, according to NY Times . The dimensions of the unique kurgan are astounding, 120 x 80 m (393.70 x 262.47 ft.) and 7 m (22.97 ft.) in height! Proper road clearance and construction equipment had to be employed to conduct a field survey of this unimaginable scale, including bulldozers. The excavations have revealed 24 burials from the Bronze Age, Scythians (Iron age), and the Middle Ages.
"Because of their nomadic nature, the people carried only the bare necessities. However, sometimes interesting finds are found: pots, necklaces made of wolf or dog canines. For example, a burial has now been discovered where dog toe bones were lying next to human remains. A triple grave has also been found where the skeleton of a man lay in the middle and the skeletons of a woman and child were pressed against him on each side.", says Teslenko.
Graves found in a Ukrainian burial mound. ( Archdnipro)
"The central part is being explored now. There is a lot of manual work. We also use machinery. But I would like to point out that all the machinery works solely under the supervision of archaeologists. The bulldozer removes several centimetres of the soil layer and if we see that something is wrong, the work stops," says field archaeologist Yaroslav Yaroshenko.
Several historians postulate that the mounds served a purpose that exceeded simple religious rites. Noblemen were sent into the after-life with the luxuries and status they enjoyed when alive, along with “ sacrificed wives, servants and horses ”.
There are other interpretations of the mounds too, keeping in mind the topography of the Ukrainian countryside and land, and the ever-looming threat of Russian invasion. The mounds were perhaps erected as a show of strength and defiance against the enemy , most definitely the Russians, to deter their advance into land that was not theirs.
The Cromlech – A Ukrainian Stonehenge?
The mound was dated to 5,500 years ago, coinciding with the Eneolithic period (the transitional period between the Neolithic and Bronze Age, 2500-2000 BC). In the middle of the mound, the “Dnipro Stonehenge” was found – a series of stone blocks (like megaliths) forming an 18 m (59.06 ft.) diameter circle, called a “cromlech”. According to the archaeologist :
"As for the stone circle, it is worth noting that it had a purely structural function above all. The cromlech is an integral part of a massive complex structure. The structure consisted of a stone circle set vertically. There was a truncated cone on top of the circle. This allowed the ground to be supported and prevented the mound from sprawling outwards. The mounds could then be given other symbolic meanings. For example, one of the most famous cromlechs in the world, Stonehenge, has at various times been interpreted as a druid sanctuary or an astronomical observatory. It is also worth noting that the oldest burials on the Novoalexandrovsky burial mound date to about 3,500 BC. This potentially suggests that the cromlech near the Dnieper is older than Stonehenge."
The stone circle discovered within the Ukrainian burial mound. ( Archdnipro)
The Challenge of Ukrainian Burial Mounds and Accurate Historical Reconstruction
Ukraine is coming to terms with its illustrated past, even while the Russian threat is constantly on the horizon. In this midst, a development of fascinating scientific techniques is turning up a lot of answers about ancient Ukrainian history, including DNA taken from the people within the mounds. It is imperative to preserve this history by studying it first, instead of destroying it for housing.
- Grave of Female Scythian Warrior Found in Ukraine
- The Ancient Earthworks of Ukraine May Be the Biggest Solar Observatory in the World
As it is, these mounds have been repeatedly robbed and stripped bare of their valuables, making the reconstruction of the past even more difficult. These mounds have also been reused, with new bodies being dumped in older structures to cut labor costs and effort, whilst enjoying the splendor of royal burials.
For example, one of the Dnipro mounds “dates to a pre-historic Indo-Iranian culture ”, but contains a coffin from around the 4th century BC. Another addition to this mound is a coffin emblazoned with a red star, probably a local Communist Party leader. A Scythian mound also witnessed a mass burial of deceased World War II soldiers, with the Soviet government building a monument on top.
"The mound's exploration has not yet been completed. The best is yet to come", says Teslenko. "In about a week, we will completely clear the cromlech and the space inside it, allowing the ancient structure to be seen in virtually pristine condition. It's estimated that in just ten days we will reach the most ancient burials inside the stone ring, if the weather permits", Teslenko adds. "Certainly it is a foregone conclusion that the individual buried and protected by the cromlech was highly respected by this society. This is the only way to explain the monumental character of the construction."
Top Image: Excavations of a unique Ukrainian burial mound found during roadwork in the village of Novooleksandrivka. Source: Archdnipro
By Rudra Bhushan
ANN. 2021. 5,500 year-old burial mound with Stone Circle unearthed in Ukraine. Available at: https://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2021/05/5500-year-old-burial-mound-with-stone.html.
Varenikova, M., Kramer, A. 2021. Ukraine’s burial mounds offer meaning in a heap of history. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/09/world/europe/ukraine-burial-mounds.html.