International Scientific Conference "Archeology of the Arctic"
November 19-23, 2017

Zeleny Yar necropolises (the 9th – 10th ; the 13th centuries AD)

Al. V. Gusev

SPI YNAO Arctic Research Center, Salekhard




The paper discusses some outcomes of the comprehensive studies of the archaeological site near Zeleny Yar. The 1999-2002 of  and 2013-2016 excavations produced ample material for the anthropological and genetic analysis of the mummified remains from the burials, study of the clothes and funeral rites of the Middle Age population of the Northern Ob region. 

The studies of the complex performed in 1999-2002 and 2013-2016 demonstrated that it consisted of at least three sites: the remains of the 6th-7th century AD  foundry and the 8th-9th, and the 13th century AD burial sites . All burials were made according to the deposition of the body into earth pits ritual without any traces of surface grave structures. The bodies were placed on their back with arms extended along the sides. In many burials the remains of fur clothes were found and described. In most of the graves there were remains of wooden grave structures, in the later interments - often in the form of boats or birch bark blankets. Almost in all adults' burials of the later site there were signs of illicit excavations, we did not find any traces of robbery in the children's graves.  In the territory of the later burial site there were numerous so-called memorial complexes which consisted of bronze and silver artifacts, mostly of imported origin.

In 1999-2002 we studied 35 interments [Zeleny Yar.., 2005. P. 7]. The early burial site included the remains of 14 earth interments, 5 of which were the adults graves,  8 - the children's, and one - unidentified, since there were no skeletal remains in the grave, however, judging by its size and grave goods it might be an adult interment, moreover - an adult man, since it contained a fragment of an anthropomorphic figure. Male gender was confirmed with certainty for 4 adult bodies, we did not find any women's interments. The children's sex could not be established since all of them were not older than 9 years of age [Zeleny Yar.., 2005. P. 69]. There were no interments with mummified human remains.

Other interments belonged to the period of the later, 13th century AD burial site functioning.  They were the graves of adults (male) and children.  There were very few children's graves - only 4.  One of them belonged to a teenager (?).  In all other interments there were adult men, moreover, with traces of battle wounds [Zeleny Yar, 2005..., P. 143]. In one grave there were remains of two bodies, and in another one - of three.   In the later Zeleny Yar burial site the mummies of an adult man and four children were discovered for the first time in the territory of the north of Western Siberia.

In 2013-2016 we studied 37 more interments of the period of the later burial site functioning - the 13th century AD.  One of them was a burial complex with a paired burial made at the same time.  The remains were in various degrees of preservation:  from the dental enamel fragments to the anatomically complete skeleton and even the mummified human remains. A vast majority of the graves contained the remains of men and children.  Only in 2013 and 2015-2016 we discovered the hypothetically female skeleton remains, something that never happened in the previous years of excavations.

In the 13th century group of interments from the excavations of 2013-2016 we succeeded in establishing the gender and/or age of 28 individuals. Among them there were 11 children who died in the age from infancy to 11 years; and 7 adult men who died in the age from 19 to 55 years.  The remains of the people from 15 interments were diagnosed as the adult graves, but because of the natural decay of the soft and bone tissues, as well as a result of destruction of the remains by the illegal excavations, it was not possible to establish their gender or age. According to the anthropologists' data there were 4 hypothetically female interments. 

We performed paleo-parasitological studies for the presence of helminth eggs, which is seldom done today. As a result of  laboratory tests we managed to discover in two children's interments the opisthorchid flukes eggs, which indicated the practice of eating raw or insufficiently cooked fish in the Middle Ages already from the early childhood [Slepchenko at all…, 2015].

The anthropological characteristic of the people buried in Zeleny Yar complex unambiguously placed them as belonging to the population of the north of Western Siberia, the representatives of which live in that territory even today and form a part of the Ugrian and the Samody groups of population [Zeleny Yar…, 2005. P. 180].

The deposition in an interment of mostly men and a small number of children pointed, apparently, to the military status of this burial site.

Conclusions. 1). The burial ritual of both the early and the late burial sites in general matched the burial practices of the north of Western Siberia, including of the ethnographic time.  2). The early burial site occupied a limited area, as in the excavations of 2001, 2013-2016 there were no graves of that period. 3). Memorial complexes were characteristic for the late burial site, we have discovered only one such complex in the earlier site.


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Slepchenko S.M,  Ivanov S.N., Gusev A.V. ,Svyatova E.O. Opisthorchiasis in infant remains from the medieval Zeleniy Yar burial ground of XII-XIII centuries AD // Memorias do instituto Oswaldo Cruz. 2015. – № 8. – PP. 974-980.

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