Secrets of the Valley of the Kings: Excavations of Kurgan Tunnug Continue in Tuva

Вид на курган Туннуг. Фото предоставлено участниками экспедиции

Ceramics, buckles, arrowheads, various parts of the horse bridle are traditional elements of the burial rituals of the Scythian culture of the 9th century BC found in Tuvan kurgans. However, sometimes objects unexpected for this area are found there – rich decorations with a complex structure and ornaments.

The kurgan Tunnug is a cult monument of the Early Scythian period, part of the Tuvan Valley of the Kings. This necropolis, found in 2008 by the RGS experts, is the largest on the territory of Eastern Siberia. Since 2018, the RGS, together with the Institute of History of Material Culture of the Russian Academy of Sciences, has been excavating the kurgan. It is quite difficult to get to it – the area there is very swampy and impassable, which allowed many historical objects to be well preserved.


Витая гривна, найденная во время раскопок. Фото предоставлено участниками экспедиции

For many centuries, Tunnug continued to be an important place in the surrounding area. Ceremonial rituals were held there both in the times of the Scythian Kingdom and in later epochs. The objects that were put in the grave with the deceased, as a rule, were quite simple: weapons, elements of horse harness, ceramics. But sometimes very unexpected finds for this area get discovered.

Among the latest valuable artifacts  discovered by archaeologists are a composite twisted torc and a bronze ornamented mirror. Similar items have not been found in this region previously. A torc is a neck ornament in the form of a hoop, which for many peoples had a sacred meaning associated with protecting the owner from evil spirits. In the Scythian era, such jewelry was worn by both women and men, but these finds presumably date back to a later period – the first half of the 1st millennium AD.

In total, at the moment, archaeologists have managed to excavate seven sectors out of 16, into which the kurgan Tunnug is divided. The field season continues; this year four more burials will be explored. The most interesting thing, according to scientists, is waiting in the central part of the kurgan – this sector will be the last to be studied.

Since 2018, the Russian Geographical Society and the Institute of History of Material Culture of the Russian Academy of Sciences have been studying the kurgan Tunnug, located in Tuva. It is part of the Valley of the Kings, where there are many kurgans belonging to the nobility of the Scythian time. The first season showed that the burial ground is the oldest of all discovered, dating back to the 9th century BC. This is one of the most promising expeditions of the Russian Geographical Society. Due to the fact that the kurgan Tunnug is located in permafrost, there is a high probability of finding preserved organic matter and various artifacts under the stone tumulus of the object.

Julia Gopius