Relic Hunting in Ukraine (Story 3), page 34

Ancient Burial-Mounds, Tumuli, Barrows & Cairns - What Happened There?

As soon as I reached the windbreaker and looked over onto the adjacent field, I saw a wide gully at the lower part of the field. The gully bent in a semicircle and thus formed an elevated "promontory" of the field, on top of which I noticed Dima and Sergei standing in one spot and examining something. Now this was getting interesting.

The Gully Opened Up Before Me

Treasure Hunting Location

The field behind the gully occupied the entire hill which gradually rolled down towards the old riverbed. But what I noticed on top of the hill got me even more excited - the kurgans or burial-mounds. More "pieces of a puzzle" were coming together. So now it was obvious that this site had seen a lot of people's activities that began a few thousands of years ago.

Ancient burial-mounds

Ancient Burial Mounds, Barrows, Kurgans, Cairns

Brief Historical Facts on burial-mounds:

A burial-mound or tumulus (plural tumuli, from the Latin word for mound or small hill, from the root "tum" - "to bulge, swell" also found in tumor and cognate with English thumb) is an artificial hill of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Tumuli are also known as barrows (in England), cairns - composed largely or entirely of stones (in Scotland), or kurgans (in Eastern Europe and Central Asia), and can be found throughout much of the world.

In western Europe and the British Isles, burial cairns and barrows date primarily from the Neolithic Period and Early Bronze Age (4000 BC–AD 600). Scandinavian burial practice became popular 500-600 AD. In North America, as evidenced by the burial-mound of a Maritime Archaic boy in L'anse Amour, Newfoundland, the burial-mounds date back at least 7,500 years.

The word kurgan is of Turkic origin borrowed from Russian language. In Ukraine and Russia, there are royal kurgans of Varangian chieftains, such as the Black Grave in Ukrainian Chernihiv (excavated in the 19th century), Oleg's Grave in Russian Staraya Ladoga, and vast, intricate Rurik's Hill near Russian Rurikovo gorodische. Other important kurgans are found in Ukraine and South Russia and are associated with much more ancient steppe peoples, notably the Scythians and Proto-Indo-Europeans. The steppe cultures found in Ukraine and South Russia naturally continue into Central Asia, in particular Kazakhstan.

Mounds were used for burial, to support residential and religious structures, to represent a shared cosmology, and to unite and demarcate community. Common forms include conical mounds, ridge-top mounds, platform mounds, and animal effigy mounds, but there are many variations. Round barrow - a generic term for any Bronze Age burial-mounds, more elaborate than a simple hemispherical shape, created also by the later Romans, Vikings and Saxons. Divided into sub classes such as Saucer and Bell barrow.

Mound building in the USA is believed to date back to at least 3400 BC in the Southeast. The Adena and Mississippian cultures are principally known for their mounds. The largest mound site north of Mexico is Cahokia, a vast World Heritage Site located just east of St. Louis, Missouri. The most visually impressive mound site (due to the area being free of trees) is in Moundville, Alabama. The largest conical burial-mound can be found in Moundsville, West Virginia.

Mound building was a central feature of the public architecture of many Native American cultures from Chile to Minnesota. Thousands of mounds in the USA have been destroyed as a result of farming, pot-hunting, amateur and professional archaeology, road-building and construction. Surviving mounds are still found in river valleys, especially along the Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio Rivers.

The kurgans were built on top of a hill, overlooking the area around, and filled with many precious objects that had to be the "grave goods" such as delicate golden and silver jewelry, pottery, bronze artifacts, glassware and iron-ware, weapons and beads. The method of inhumation may involve a mortuary enclosure, a mortuary house or a chamber tomb.

Some of the tumuli were family tombs that were used for many generation of the same noble family. The deceased were buried with many treasures or the furnishings for their "homes" in the Afterlife, which were placed around the dead bodies in the wooden burial chambers. Sometimes the archaeologists would discover two or more graves under the mound.

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