The archaeological and geographical expedition "Salvation of archaeological monuments on the bottom of the Sayan Sea" organized by the Institute of the History of Material Culture of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Russian Geographical Society completed. The expedition was held in the Republic of Tuva on the shores of the the Sayano-Shushenskoye reservoir.
The Sayano-Shushenskoye reservoir was created together with the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric plant. Being more than 250 kilometers in length, it is located in the Krasnoyarsk Territory and the Republic of Tyva. Constant changes in water level are destructive to the coastline where there are numerous monuments of ancient history, of which many are of great interest and value for historians and archaeologists, in particular, the burial mounds of Hunnu Terezin and Ala-Tey (II century BC - I century AD).
During the month and a half, from May 20 to July 10, the expedition members were engaged in archaeological exploration of the banks of the Upper Yenisey using modern fixing methods, as well as in using rock modeling and petroglyphs and monitoring and excavating in the flood zone of the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric plant in Chaa- Kholsky and Ulug-Khem areas of the Republic of Tuva.
They studied the burial grounds of Chirik-Dash (late Scythian time, IV-III centuries BC), Ala-Tey 1 and Terezin (the Hunnu era, II-I centuries BC), Haya-Uzhu (Hunno-Sianbian time, III-V centuries AD), Ala-Tey 2 (XI-XII centuries AD), the early medieval fortress Bazhyn-Alaak was also inspected. Some of these archaeological sites are in the flood zone for most of the year, so their research is possible only for a short time: from the end of May till the first half of June.
During the expedition volunteers from Tuva and other regions of Russia, along with experts, representatives of IHMC RAS and RGS, took an active part in all types of archaeological work: excavation of burial grounds, identification and cleaning of funeral structures, and burials themselves. The participants were involved in the cameral processing of the received materials, their preliminary conservation and restoration.
Thus, volunteers managed to unearth three objects of late Scythian time at the ground of Chirik-Dash on the high steep bank of the reservoir. One of them contained a collective ground of eight people. Scythian time artifacts were also found here - bronze weapons, objects of everyday life and art.
At the grounds of Ala-Tey 1 and Terezin, archaeologists discovered more than 30 burials, which helped to obtain new important information on the hunnu period, which was poorly studied for Tuva. Experts have identified new elements of the funeral rite and found a large number of unique items of ancient material culture: decorations, weapons, ceramic vessels of various shapes, belt sets, among which are bronze plaques with zoomorphic and geometric ornaments, buggy buckles encrusted with cornelian, turquoise and mother of pearl, as well as Chinese mirrors of the Western Han Dynasty (II-I centuries BC).
Another important finding was partially mummified burial of a woman on Terezin's burial ground. The burial will provide a valuable layer of information, thanks to materials contained in it, such as leather, textiles, silk, felt and fur. This will make it possible to reliably connect the territory of Tuva with other regions of the steppe empire Hunnu and China of the Han period.
Volunteers conducted rescue excavations at the Haya-Uzhu burial ground, where they examined three burials partially destroyed by a scree of sandy shore. There was the burial of a young warrior in one of them. On both sides of the wooden coffin there were the skulls of two horses and 12 sheep.
The excavations continued as well at the Ala-Tey 2 burial ground of medieval burials dating back to the Chinese coins at the end of the 11th - early 12th centuries BC - here were found iron tips of arrows, a bit and stirrups. Residential and economic buildings, perhaps streets, walls, watchtowers and gates were clearly visible in the territory of the early medieval fortress Bazhyn-Alaak, which appears from under the water for only four or five weeks a year. Excavations of Bazhin-Alaak using modern research methods could provide new and unique materials on the study of this complex historical epoch in the history of Central Asia.
During the expedition, the volunteers gained a unique experience of archaeological excavations in difficult weather and natural conditions of the Sayano-Shushenskoye reservoir, got acquainted with the nature and ethnography of Tuva, touched the ancient history of Central Asia and Southern Siberia.
In addition, well-known scientists regularly gave lectures on history and archeology of the region, conducted excursions to the National Museum of the Republic of Tuva and monuments of ancient history and art.