The winter complex archaeological and geographical expedition in the reservoir zone of the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric power station in Tyva, consisting of two stages, has come to an end. The complex of tasks included testing the Chasing M2 underwater drone, as well as examining the bottom of the coastal zone of water bodies in the area of the Kuyluk-Khem burial ground using special equipment in order to conduct further archaeological research.
During the first stage of the expedition, the base camp was set up on the southern coast of the Sayano-Shushensky reservoir, near the village of Eilig-Khem in the town of Karabey. In this place, the members of the Russian Geographical Society and specialists of the Institute of History of Material Culture of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IHMC RAS) under the leadership of a researcher of the Department of Archeological Conservation of the IIMK RAS, Candidate of Historical Sciences, Sergei Solovyov, in cooperation with the Ministry of Emergency Situations, Civil Defense and Emergencies and the staff of the “Ubsunurskaya Kotlovina” Reserve, carried out the main work of testing the equipment in the northern part of the reservoir.
Extreme conditions somewhat complicated the process: severe cold weather, a strong current in the channel of the Yenisei. Moreover, such studies were carried out for the first time in winter conditions.
The first stage of the expedition was mainly devoted to testing the new generation Chasing M2 underwater drone with a digital camera – the equipment that is planned to be used in further studies of ancient burials. The functionality of such device makes it possible to obtain a clear picture of the bottom and objects lying on its surface. According to the technical characteristics, such equipment can dive to a depth of 100 meters, but so far the drone has not reached great depths due to the fact that the lake is only 5 meters deep at the coastline, and the first tests at such low temperatures may have turned out to be a risk. The water temperature is only 1 degree.
Watching the drone, the military archaeologists simultaneously examined the bottom in search of artifacts and remains of cultural heritage belonging to the Xiongnu civilization – an ancient nomadic people who inhabited the steppes north of China from the 3rd century B.C. to the 2nd century A.D. But during the shooting, apart from the objects of modern life, nothing was found at the bottom.
"The test area in the Republic of Tyva is characterized by a large number of monuments of ancient history of different eras, which, of course, is an important component of the anticipated scientific research. But in this expedition, our primary task was to test the equipment in the Sayano-Shushensky reservoir in the vicinity of the village of Eilig-Khem, where several ancient burial grounds are known. At the moment, we are not planning any archaeological work, but only assess the possibility of using special equipment in extreme conditions during underwater research. This is an underwater drone, a robotic arm, a quadcopter, cameras for underwater photography and much more," explained the head of the underwater archeology team of the IHMC RAS, Sergei Solovyov.
At the same time, the specialists of the Ministry of Defense developed new winter routes, and also tested the vehicle’s capabilities of overcoming difficult terrain and its main characteristics using promising prototypes of high-mobility military equipment – a two-axle, all-wheel drive, multipurpose all-terrain vehicle of the "Krechet" type.
At the second stage, the work was carried out on the Choigan-Khol lake in the north-east of the Republic of Tyva. Lake Choigan-Khol (Green Lake) got its name due to green mud deposits and an abundance of mineral springs that come to the surface here, which are considered medicinal. But such delights are available only in summer, in winter the lake is completely covered with a thick snow cover, and it is quite difficult to move without special equipment there.
But such obstacles did not prevent from achieving their goals the researchers of the Laboratory of Geography and Hydrology of the Institute of Limnology, consisting of Doctor of Geographical Sciences, Professor, Head of the Laboratory of Geography and Hydrology of the Institute of Limnology, Chairman of the Geographical Commission of the St. Petersburg Branch of the Russian Geographical Society Mikhail Naumenko, Candidate of Geographical Sciences, Senior Researcher of the Laboratory of Geography and Hydrology of the Institute of Limnology Vadim Guzevat, and junior researcher of the Laboratory Artyom Lapenko.
At this stage, the task was to measure the depths of the reservoir at 16 points and to compile a detailed depth map to assess the need for further archaeological research. During the measurements, two types of echo sounders were used, depending on the air temperature. At the same time, the temperature and electrical conductivity of water were measured at each station, every 10 cm, in order to identify the features of the thermal regime of the lake in winter. Measurements of ice thickness and related meteorological parameters (air temperature and humidity, pressure, wind speed and direction) were carried out.
Limnological lake studies include bathymetric survey of depths, taking samples of water and snow for further laboratory studies to identify the degree of technogenic pollution and parameters of air transport, sampling of bottom lake sediments, measuring the vertical profile of water temperature, measuring standard meteorological parameters. At the end of the expedition, the results of the research were sent to the laboratory of the IHMC RAS, where the limnological and physical features of the reservoir and its nature will be studied. In the future, such studies will significantly expand the area of archaeological research in the region.