The second shift of the international Complex Archeological and Geographical Expedition of the Russian Geographical Society to Study the Tunnug Kurgan in the Republic of Tyva 2019 has completed. In June, the volunteers managed to find the Scythian stone altar, the burial of the “family” killed in the 1st – 2nd centuries AD, elements of weapons and horse harness of the Middle Ages.
The Tunnug Kurgan is located in the floodplain of the Tunnug and Uyuk rivers, near the Chkalovka settlement in the Piy-Khemsky district of the Republic of Tyva. It is part of the so-called Valley of the Kings, where are many "royal" kurgans of the Scythian time. According to preliminary data, the burial of the Tunnug Kurgan is the largest and the earliest Scythian monument - about the 9th century BC. Presumably, the kurgan stands on the permafrost, so there is a chance to find preserved organic matter under its stone embankment.
During the month, 68 volunteers, including volunteers from the Tyumen Higher Military Engineering Command School and the Siberian Fire and Rescue Academy of the State Fire Service of Russia, worked side by side with the archaeologists of the Institute of History of Material Culture of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Technical support for the project was provided by the Expeditionary Center of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.
Scientific adviser of the expedition, senior researcher of the State Hermitage Museum, head of the South-Siberian archaeological expedition Konstantin Chugunov considers a comma-shaped stone altar, previously identified as a sacrificial lamp, as an especially important find among the found artifacts:
"This vessel, along with a similar item from the previously studied funerary-commemorative complex of the Scythian time Arzhan-2, is the most eastern known analogue. Similar findings are characteristic of the monuments of the early Saka in the Aral Sea region, and their earliest dating is determined by the end of the 8th century BC. But the prototype of the stone altar is much more ancient. Similar units were found in the royal necropolis of Gonur of the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex, dating back to III - middle II millennium BC. The country was called Margush and was known from Middle Eastern chronicles. It can be considered the northernmost "splash" of Mesopotamian civilization. It is possible that the traditions of jewelry and some rituals were preserved for a long time and entered, as one from the components, to the culture of the first nomads. These units probably have this origin, they are difficult to manufacture, made with the use of fine soldering, granulation, previously found in the Arzhan-2 complex. Thus, the discovery made by the members of the expedition confirms to a certain extent the hypothesis that the masters, the heirs of the traditions of the Mesopotamian civilization, could take part in the creation of complex jewelry and some religious objects for the elite of the ancient nomads of Tuva. It is quite possible that the explorers of the Tunnug Kurgan will soon find their creations".
In addition to working at the excavation, the expedition members participated in cultural, sports and educational activities. On June 22, the Day of Remembrance and Grief, the volunteers had a minute of silence in memory of the war victims and held a rally. Later, they played with a local youth team from the village of Arzhaan on the football field and volleyball court. The project participants listened to a record number of lectures by specialists from IHMC RAS. The lecture was also read by the teacher of the Tuva State University, the associate professor of the department of general history, archeology and records management Elena Ayizhy. She told about the ethnography of Tuva: about beliefs - shamanism and Buddhism, about traditional etiquette, about the rites of the life cycle of the Tuvans of Russia, Mongolia and China. In turn, Konstantin Chugunov gave a series of lectures on the archeology of Tuva and the genesis of the Scythian-Siberian animal style.
Regular trips to the mountain ranges surrounding the Valley of Kings helped volunteers to stay in excellent physical shape throughout the month and prepare for the ascent to the Hanging Stone in the Ergaki Nature Park. This tour, along with a visit to the "golden room" in the National Museum of the Republic of Tyva, is in the ranking of the best tours in the opinion of volunteers of the Russian Geographical Society.
On their own, the Tunnug volunteers organized a final concert, where they presented several creative performances, received certificates of participants from the hands of the camp director, and finally, according to old tradition, were sitting with a guitar by the fire.
"Thanks to the support of our project by the Presidential Grants Fund, last year and this year we were able to renew the material and technical base of the volunteer camp, which made the coming of volunteers to the expedition even more comfortable and had a positive impact on both - their efficiency at the excavation site and on the results of daily educational, cultural and sports events", - noted the head of the expedition Igor Spiridenko.
The third shift of the expedition will take place from July 3 to July 31. Until the end of the season, the expedition’s scientific leader Timur Sadykov suggests digging out about one tenth of the main mound of the kurgan, which will finally determine its structure and state of preservation. In the same period, it is planned to achieve a layer corresponding to the permafrost level, which, as expected, can make the Tunnug Kurgan a unique object of archaeological research. There is the probability of finding the preserved organic matter under its stone embankment.
It should be noted, that the International Complex Archaeological and Geographical Expedition for the Study the Tunnug Kurgan in the Republic of Tyva has been held since 2018. Currently, applications for participation in the third and fourth shifts of the second field season of the project are being accepted. Shifts will be held from July 3 to July 31 and from August 3 to August 31, 2019. Young men and women aged 18-35 years (inclusive) can become a part of the expedition team.