Employees of the Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences during excavations in the Ostrogozhsky district of the Voronezh region discovered a unique artifact - a silver plate depicting figures of the Scythian pantheon.
As noted in the press release, such items have not previously been found in the Middle Don.
The find was made in the Devitsa V burial mound, discovered in 2000 by the Don archaeological expedition.
The burial consists of 19 mounds, some of which were under agricultural plowing for a long time and were practically leveled to the ground.
Archaeological excavations have been carried out here since 2010.
Goddess and griffins
The silver plate was in the mound 7, located in the central part of the necropolis.
The artifact lay at some distance from the rest of the items also found in the tomb.
The wooden base, to which the onlay was once nailed with silver studs, is almost completely decayed.
The length of the cover itself is 34.7 cm, the width in the middle part is 7.5 cm.
Scientists believe that the central area of the plate is probably decorated with the image of the winged figure of the mistress of animals and the patroness of human and animal fertility - the Scythian goddess Argimpasa.
It corresponds to the Phrygian goddess Cybele, whose cult began to penetrate the Scythian culture back in the 7th century.
during the Scythian campaigns in Western Asia.
“Her upper body is naked.
On the head there is a headdress of the type of a crown with horns.
It is surrounded on both sides by the figures of winged eagle-headed griffins, ”the Institute of Archeology notes.
Previously, similar images, combining the Asia Minor and Hellenic traditions, were found more than once in the Scythian burial mounds of the Northern Black Sea region, the Dnieper forest-steppe and the North Caucasus, the researchers note.
The left side of the overlay is formed by two square plates, which depict syncretic creatures in the so-called heraldic pose (opposite each other, touching their paws).
On the right side, the item is complemented by two round plaques, each of which features an anthropomorphic character surrounded by two griffins.
As noted at the Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which characters in this case are in question, scientists still do not know, as well as the purpose of the silver plate.
© Don Archaeological Expedition of the Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (DAE)
According to the head of the Don Expedition, Doctor of Historical Sciences Valery Gulyaev, the researchers have a long work ahead of them to study and interpret unusual divine figures.
“The find makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the religious beliefs of the Scythians: firstly, several deities are depicted on one object at once, and, secondly, this is the first time that an object depicting deities has been discovered so far northeast of the main centers Scythia ", - he stressed.
The silver plate depicting deities is not the only find in mound 7.
Last summer, archaeologists also discovered the remains of a wooden tomb in its center.
In ancient times, it was covered with oak blocks, which rested on seventeen pillars located at the edges of the grave - the largest found in the Maid V.
Even in ancient times, the mound was plundered: the intruders entered the burial through a wide pit and ravaged the central part of the tomb.
But due to the fact that at the time of the robbery the oak roof of the crypt had already collapsed, some artifacts survived.
The grave contains the skeleton of a man who died at the age of 40-49, although he was disturbed by the robbers.
At the head of the deceased were small hemispherical plaques, with which the edge of the burial canopy was once embroidered.
Nearby lay an iron knife, a spearhead, three dart tips, and a horse's rib — presumably part of a parting meal.
Scientists were able to establish the length of the weapon due to the fact that the metal weighting agents of its lower part - the grommets - were preserved in the grave.
The length of the spear was 3.2 m, and the length of the darts was about 2.2 m.
In addition, elements of horse headdress were found in the grave, including six bronze cheek plaques in the form of wolves with bared jaws. Next to the harness was also a severed bear's jaw - according to researchers, this proves the existence of a predator cult among the Scythians of the Middle Don.
Recall that earlier in the Devitsa V burial ground, scientists managed to find the burial of Scythian Amazons - female warriors who existed in the Scythian era among the nomadic and semi-nomadic peoples of Eastern Europe.
The burial discovered in 2019 dates from the second half of the 4th century BC.
The remains of four women of different ages were found in the mound, the oldest of them was wearing a ceremonial headdress - kalaf.
The surviving elements were made of an alloy that consisted of 65-70% gold.
The metal plates were decorated with floral ornaments; rims with pendants in the form of amphorae also survived.
Left: graphic reconstruction of a kalaf from a mound.
Right: Calaf details
© Institute of Archeology RAS