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

Ust-Voikar fortress: first results of interdisciplinary studies (based on 2012-2016 materials).

A.V. Novikov, Yu.N. Garkusha

Institute of Archaeology and Etnography of the Siberian Branch of the RAS, Novosibirsk



The study was financed by the Russian  Research Foundation grant (project No 14-50-00036)


The site is located in the Shuryshkary district of the YaNAO, in the  Gornaya Ob river floodland, 2.2 km north-north-east of Ust-Voikary village. First reference to Ust-Voikar hillfort (Voikar hillfort)  as the archaeological site was made in the works of K.D. Nosilov and I.Ya. Slovtsov in the end of the 19th century. First archaeological study of the site was performed in 2003–2008 under the supervision of A.G. Brusnitsyna and N.V. Fedorova. The authors identified the hillfort as the known from the written and folklore sources of the 16th-17th centuries Ostyak (Khanty) Voikar fortress.  Timber samples taken from the foothill structures were dated by M.A. Gurskaya as the 14th and the 15th centuries, and the ones taken from the structures on top of the hill - as the 17th - end of the 19th century.

Beginning from 2012 the site's excavations have been supervised by A.V. Novikov. Over 5 years of excavations an area of 302 sq. km. was studied at various depths. The remains of 12 wooden structures of various types were documented or completely studied, successive stages in their construction and rebuilding, their architectural characteristics, specific features of construction technologies, other details as well as the general principles of the settlement planigraphy were documented.

Scientific studies were performed with the involvement of specialists from relevant disciplines. The geophysical studies including ground penetrating radar method, magnetometer survey and electro-tomography (continuous electrical sounding) have been performed by A.N. Shein (IOGG SB RAS).   Total area covered by geo-physical survey was 4,590  sq. km. As a result a universal permafrost presence was registered, and the promising areas with the remains of structures, as well as empty areas were identified.

Yu.N. Senyurina, a researcher of the SyrSPU Historical Studies Laboratory  performed a technological examination of over 200 textile sherds (visual inspection, materials and structural tests of the samples, search for the technologically similar materials, reconstruction of the fabric manufacturing methods). Three different textile traditions have been identified.

A.V. Zubova and D. V. Pozdnyakov (IAEt, SB RAS) established the gender and the age of persons buried in the hearth of structure 11 - they were males aged 35-40 and 40-45 respectively. By the skulls morphology and the odontological characteristics both individuals were identified as the representatives of the Caucasian race. Paleontological studies performed by A.S. Pilipenko (inter-institutional molecular paleogenetics sector ICG SB RAS) confirmed the buried individuals identity as the Caucasian race representatives. 

The researchers of the SUC "The Сenozoic Geochronology" S.N. Zhilich and N.A. Rudaya performed palynological analysis of 15 samples taken both from the houses and the area between the houses. In all pollen spectra grass was dominating, the proportion of arborescent pollen in the majority of samples was only about 20%. By the cluster analysis results the samples from the area between the houses were set aside as a separate cluster. In these samples which characterized the types of vegetation in the territory of the settlement the pollen of sage (40%), pigweeds (18%), and gramen (up to 15%) were the dominant species. The portion of birch, pine and spruce pollen was very small (less than 20% in total). Sage and pigweeds  belong to the group of ruderal (weedy) vegetation and could be considered indicators of the anthropogenic load. The pollen spectra of samples from inside the houses demonstrated stronger presence of gramen pollen compared to the samples from the area between the houses.

Currently O.N. Bachura (Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology, UB RAS), is studying the paleo-zoological assemblages, the carpological study will also be performed. In the nearest future we expect to obtain dendro-dates  from over 300 prepared samples obtained during the 2012-2016 seasons, it is also planned to perform their palynological analysis. Further study of the Voikar hillfort with the use of various methodologies and analytical procedures has the potential of providing new data on the yet insufficiently studied period in the history of the Northern Khanty of the Polar Ob region.

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