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

Kyshtov culture – southern enclave of the Middle age Ugrians (the Irtysh right bank area).

V. I. Molodin

Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, SB RAS, Novosibirsk




*The study was performed with the financial support of the Russian  Research Foundation

(project No 14-50-00036)


The Kyshtov archaeological culture was first described by the author in 1987 [Molodin, 1987], in later years it was complemented with new sources, predominantly the burial and ritual complexes. The Kyshtov culture sites were located in the sub-taiga and the forest-steppe zones of the Irtysh right bank area in the middle reaches of the Tara and the Tartas rivers. Initially the culture was identified on the basis of the materials of the late Middle Ages burial sites Kyshtovka-2 and 1 [Molodin, 1979; Molodin, Mylnikova, 1980]. Further research in the region demonstrated that the culture went through four different development stages from the 11th to the 18th centuries [Molodin, Solovjev, 2007; 2012].

The retrospective method used for ethno-genetic reconstructions [Molodin, 1983; Molodin, Sobolev, Solovjev, 1990] was instrumental in identification of the culture bearers as the representatives of the Ugric (southern Khanty) population groups which alternatively occupied the territory of the northern forest-steppe and the south of the taiga zones in the right-bank Irtysh region which they shared for a long time first with the Turkic ethnic groups, and later, during the late Middle Ages period, with the representatives of the Siberian Tatars - first of all the Barabino, the Tara, and the  Kurdak-Sargat  groups [Molodin, Sobolev, Solovjev, 1990; Molodin et al, 2012; Tomilov, 1981]. The distinctness of the Kyshtov culture over almost eight hundred years of its existence was associated with a relatively stable funeral practices (bodies deposition in earth interments in a stretched on the back position with western orientation of the bodies). At certain periods during the culture's existence a wooden lining inside the graves, birch-bark, as well as accompanying horse burials could be present, or, alternatively, open-air horse burials (probably hides). Surface structures varied from small barrows to the oval knolls. The grave goods consisted of arms items, horse harness, decorations, and metal ware changing with time. A diagnostic criterion of the culture was its earthenware [ Molodin, 2015] maintaining stable tradition in shape and ornaments over the whole life period of the culture. It was represented with the round- and sharp-bottomed vessels, often with a clearly manifested  crown in the form of a collar. The upper third part of the vessels was ornamented with a horizontal 'herringbones' pattern. A distinctive feature of the pottery were two parallel rows of pit strokes along the upper part of the body.

The ritual complexes represented a specific attribute of the culture. Several typological versions of the complexes were identified [Molodin, Solovjev, 2007] the most interesting of which were probably the log-work sub-quadrangular structures filled with overturned vessels, arms items, and decorations, as well as, most importantly, wooden small and large idols with pointed heads and occasionally phallic symbolism [Molodin, 1990; 1992]. Semantic parallels to these structures could be found in the northern Ugric ritual complexes [Baulo, 2002].

It is interesting to note that the culture's origin was associated with the taiga part of the middle Ob region, where we observed similar, and sometimes even identical, ceramic complexes in the early Iron Age Beloyarskaya culture sites [Chemyakin, 2008]. The fact that this ornamental tradition seemed to have disappeared in the Surgut region, but at the same time was definitely strongly present in the lower southern latitudes of the Irtysh area could be an evidence of the fact that groups of the Ugrians for some unknown reason migrated south to the taiga - forest-steppe border, which could be consistently registered over most of the second millennium AD up to the occupation of the territory by the Russian colonizers and their gradual adaptation, and in this way formed a southern enclave of the Ugric population in the West Siberian plain.



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