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Unique 5,000-Year-Old Tomb from Ukraine Brought to Light with Digital Reconstruction

Unique 5,000-Year-Old Tomb from Ukraine Brought to Light with Digital Reconstruction

Researchers have digitally reconstructed a monumental 5000 year old tomb which was discovered in a cemetery on the border between Ukraine and Moldova. They believe that the cemetery was created by nomadic shepherds who once lived in the Vinnytsia region. The tomb is the most complex they have found at the site since 2010.

PAP says that the community living in the area 5000 years ago were mobile shepherds who moved over longer distances with carts. Although archaeologists have not found evidence of permanent residences from this period, they have discovered cemeteries created by these individuals.

Unfortunately, the ancient graves are not so easily detected today, as Dr. Danuta Żurkiewicz of the Institute of Prehistory, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, told PAP "They erected monumental burial mounds, which played an important role in the life of the community. They were clearly visible in the landscape - now they are destroyed and poorly outlined".

View of the mound before the start of the study.

View of the mound before the start of the study. ( D. Żurkiewicz )

In one of the cemeteries, the research team found evidence of an elite burial in a mound tomb. The tomb consists of a rectangular pit enclosed by four well-matched limestone slabs partly covered in red ochre and an ash wood roof. It was protected on the top and bottom with a woven mat, of which residues still remain.

The man buried in the tomb died when he was 35-50 years old. Analysis of his remains suggest that he suffered from “rheumatic changes in the upper extremities and degeneration of the spine.” The researchers believe his ailments were associated with physical labor and possibly horse-riding. One other notable feature about the man is his height – 1.9 meters (6.2ft.), making him a tall individual compared to most others in the community.

The study of the burial chamber.

The study of the burial chamber. ( D. Żurkiewicz )

Along with the human remains found within the tomb, the researchers discovered a piece of red ochre. Red ochre is a natural earth pigment that appears in many Neolithic burial sites. Pigments Through the Ages explains some of the significance behind the abundant use. They write: “Neolithic hunter peoples considered red to be the most important color endowed with life-giving powers and thus placed red ochre into graves of their deceased.” Some of the famous instances where this pigment has been found in association with death rites are located in India, Israel, and Wales.

The multidisciplinary team that is working in Ukraine includes archaeologists, biologists, geneticists, and physical anthropologists. Although it is special, the reconstructed tomb is not the only mound tomb they have discovered in the region. Nonetheless, PAP explains that this particular burial drew their attention as it “was made with great care.” The reconstruction was made by archaeologist Michał Podsiadło.

Reconstruction of the interior of the tomb.

Reconstruction of the interior of the tomb. ( Michał Podsiadło )

In comparison to this tomb, other burial chambers that were found were partially rebuilt with wood and had roofing made of battens. Based on the evidence thus far, it seems that the mound burials were created for adult males – which the researchers believe indicates a male-dominated society. The results of the excavations can be found in the 20th volume of the yearbook "Baltic Pontic Studies."

Top Image: Reconstruction of the interior of the tomb. Source: Michał Podsiadło/PAP

By Alicia McDermott

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