by Alexandra GOLYEVA, Cand. Sc. (Biol.), Geography Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Phytolites (or silicon casts of cells) of an unclassified shape have been found in some ancient burials. What plant species were they part of? Biologists and archeologists try to find out,
Articles in this rubric reflect the opinion of the author.-Ed.
Kalmykia is a land of boundless teppes. Its dry, wormwoodrenched air and sprawling flatlands give the impression of time frozen in its tracks. It takes much imagination to fancy life throbbing here a few thousand years ago, with large-scale construction work going on. We can guess so from the numerous local mounds, some of them large and others small, sitting lonely or in groups. They were much more than burial sites to the ancients but also served as milestones on tribal paths and as benchmarks on migration routes.
The tribes that built them had faded into the haze of history, leaving behind a memory in the shape of earthwork pyramids which researchers put to the Bronze Age, some 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. Remember, that was the heyday of the Egyptian pyramids which have been explored in much detail to date. Yet too little is known about the builders of the mounds in Kalmykia. These mounds have not even been properly classified, being cataloged but recently according to the type of burial practice. Where the dead were buried in hollowed pits, the mounds are simple graveyards, or else catacombs, comprising closed tombs that could be reached by passages from a hole dug in the ground. Centuries later these places were overrun by the Sarmatians, followed by the Scythians. But the mounds remained as an ever-present memory of the extinct tribes who had piled them up. What kind of civilization was it that built them? How and whence those people came to Kalmykia? Where and why were they gone? And what lives did they live?
In an attempt to answer these questions, archeologists of Kalmykia's Institute for Socioeconomic ... Read more