The new archaeological exposition “The Prehistory of the Voronezh Territory: the Beginning of the Era of Metals” opened in the Voronezh Museum of Local Lore (29 Plekhanovskaya Street) on Friday, December 14. The exhibition is dedicated to the 100th anniversary of academic archeology, which will be celebrated in 2019.

The exhibition covers more than 4 thousand years and is devoted to three major epochs in the history of mankind: the new-stone, copper-stone and bronze centuries. More than 250 items from fifty settlements, kurgan and ground burial grounds are presented. This is the material of 28 expeditions in 105 years: from the excavations of the Voronezh Scientific Archival Commission at the beginning of the twentieth century to the exhibits received by the museum’s modern expedition during the field works in 2018.

The curator of the exhibition, senior researcher at the Voronezh Museum of Local Lore, Ph.D. Roman Berestnev told the reporters of RIA “Voronezh” about the main exhibits of each era presented in the exposition.

A rod with a bear head

The attribute of power – a stone scepter with a turned head of a bear – dates back to the era of the Don Neolithic (V-III millennium BC). This item was discovered not during the excavation, but by accident. And the exposition includes about 50 such unplanned finds.

– The epochs of the Paleolithic and Mesolithic ended with matriarchy. With the onset of the Neolithic, there was a transition to a patriarchal society. The rod, symbolizing power, belongs to a man. The woman becomes the keeper of the hearth, and pottery begins to flourish, Roman Berestnev explained.

Women made dishes of clay ribbons, layering on each other. Then the surface of the vessels was smoothed and decorated with patterns – each group of the population had its own. This allows scientists to identify three types of archaeological culture in the era of the Don Neolithic on the territory of the Voronezh Region.

The Middle Don culture is distinguished by the dotted pottery. A number of deepening dots on the surface of clay vessels was applied with special items – ornamentirs. The pots of the representatives of Ryazansko-Dolgovskaya culture resemble spiky helmets. The patterns on them are Pit-Combed, carved not only with a sharp ornamentir, but also with a comb. And the third type is stamped ceramics of Rybnoozerskaya culture.

The Neolithic people learned how to make tools not only of cracking silicon and quartz, but also of a softer stone – slate or sandstone. They even created a special mechanism made of wood for drilling holes in stone axes. Stone harpoons, spears, fishing hooks for giant fish became more and more perfect.

In the IV-III millenium BC. in addition to gathering, hunting, and fishing, the inhabitants of the Don Region (Podonye) began to engage in farming and animal husbandry. The era of the Don Eneolithic began.

A dog in burial

There are no written sources by which one can judge the ancient tribes. Therefore, archaeological cultures are often distinguished by the type of burials that are well preserved.
Nomadic tribes that came to the Don Region (Podonye) in the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. brought the custom of burying the dead in deep pits and pouring semicircular mounds over them.

Representatives of the pit culture believed that the deceased, placed in the womb of mother earth, could be born again. Therefore, things that he or she needed in the afterlife were left in the grave. In one of the graves of Pavlovsky burial a girl was buried, and there are carpentry tools beside her: adze, ax, chisel. Apparently, the inventory was “handed over” to one of her previously deceased relative.

In the summer of 2018, Roman Berestnev discovered a burial of the ancient pit culture in “Yolka-10” burial ground in Novokhopyorsky District. When the archaeologists manually removed the earthen mound, they saw that the burial was surrounded by a stone fence of boulders 1 meter x 1 meter in size. In the center, in the deepening, there was a skeleton lying on its back.

– The knees at the burial were bent and raised up, then they, apparently, slipped to one side. This posture is characteristic of the pit culture. Unusually, the skeleton of a dog laid next to the human remains. It means that at that time, the dog was not just domesticated, but also became a true friend accompanying the dead to the afterlife, Roman Berestnev told.

A bone tube for milking mares is also found in the burial. This was the beginning of the Bronze Age, the most ancient herders were wrangling.

Anthropologists will have to investigate the remains, determine the gender and age of this person.

Judging by the burials, even elderly people in ancient times had good teeth: they did not know sugar. Their teeth did not fall out, but wore away due to solid food, and therefore they looked like sawn, remaining white and strong.

Catacomb Incense Burner

Representatives of the catacomb culture arranged their burial differently. The deceased was laid on his or her side in the embryo position in the catacomb, consisting of the entrance shaft and an underside. The body was covered with ocher, symbolizing blood. In 2014, in the catacomb burial, in Novokhopyorsky District, Professor Alexander Medvedev found the mother and seven children. Apparently, there was a tragedy, due to which they died. But it could be a sacrifice.

– Some of the ancient texts allow a hypothetical correlation of the burials of the catacomb culture with the most ancient Aryans: representatives of higher castes among Indian people paint legs with ocher until now, that is, it may be ancient Indo-Aryans, Berestnev suggests.

The exposition has a incense burner in which incense was lit during rites. This item is rarely found in burials on the territory of the Voronezh Region. Most often, representatives of the catacomb culture used an old pot for these purposes, and archaeologists call such a device fireplaces. But the incense burner, which can be seen at the exhibition, was clearly created specifically for performing ceremonies and still keeps traces of soot.

The Abashevo ziggurats

The Abashevo culture was developing simultaneously with the Catacomb culture. Its most significant representatives are the ancient chariot warriors.

– A chariot had appeared on out territory a whole half a millennium earlier than in such ancient civilizations as Egypt and Babylon. Intact chariots are found at burial grounds in Siberia, but wood doesn’t survive the climate the Voronezh Region, so only the tack elements have remained, – Roman Berestnev reported.

Members of the Abashevo culture buried their commoners on the side, and only the elite were buried in tumuli. The higher the tumulus, the richer were the buried. The tumuli weren’t round as of members of the Yamna culture, but in the form of ziggurats – terraced pyramids. However, the bricks used for them were cut out of turf instead of stone. With time, earth pyramids sagged and lost their shapes, though the Vysokaya Mogila tumulus in Novokhopyorsky District still vaguely resembles a square ziggurat.

The pots from burial grounds

The Srubnaya culture is a classic Bronze Age culture with the emersion of entire settlements of ancient metallurgists – for example, the Mosolovka settlement in the Anninsky District. At the same time, agriculture was developing: the stones found in Mosolovka which were first considered ore graters turned out to be grain bruisers used for making flour after the conducted analysis.

This population group buried their dead in wooden frames - log-houses; interestingly, all – common and noble folk, adults and children – were buried upon the same ceremony. The deceased lies in fetal position on his left side accompanied by two pots: one with porridge, another one with broth or fermented milk products. In 2014, a tumulus was found in Novokhopyorsky District with around 80 graves of the Srubnaya culture members an entire cemetery.

It is such burial grounds that become the source of greatly preserved pots ending up in museums, while only ceramic fragments are found in settlements.

The round razor

The highlights of the exposition were two troves – from Tereshkovo and Podgornoe. By treasures archeologists don’t mean treasures hidden by bandits, but the remains of burial grounds destroyed in ancient times. They have another name – “strange complexes”. The remains of people buried in places like this have not remained, unlike the things that surrounded them.

The trove near Tereshkovo village of Bogucharsky District was found in 1975. It consists of six items. Three short bronze sickles used to reap rye, wheat, barley, and pea. Two thin socketed Celtic axes with sockets that were used to additionally tie them to the shaft. A round-shaped bronze razor – one of the most ancient ones found in Russia.

– This was the first trove of such level found in the Voronezh Region territory. All the items are related to metalwork center of the northern Black Sea region. We can safely assume that the local population had connections with the northern Black Sea region: they either originated from it or obtained these items in the trade process, - Roman Berestnev noted.

This trove was possibly left by representatives of the Bondarikha culture – a transition period from the late Bronze Age to the early Iron Age.

The chariot warrior trove

The second trove, a Cimmerian one and the most valuable one, was an accidental finding. In 2016, Roman Berestnev was visited by a resident of Podgorensky District who told that he was gathering mushrooms and saw some iron hardware under the roots of a fallen tree.

– When I saw them, I gasped: I’ve never held anything like that in my arms! That burial ground alone contained more Cimmerian culture items that the museum had at the time. Not only was the trove related to the ancient Cimmerian nomads, but, according to all indications, it was a part of a burial of a chariot warrior. It means that our territory was definitely a part of the habitat area of nomads including Cimmerian tribes.

Under the roots of the fallen tree were four bronze plates of a horse tack – solar-shaped, in the form of the sun; psaliums – vertical rods, a part of a tack set; bracelet-like rings. These rings were long considered just bracelets, but then it turned out that they were used to bind together several horses in a harness of a chariot. Among the findings were also a spearhead, an earring and a socketed Celtic axe.

– This axe could have been used as a combat weapon, or related to some sort of power authorization. It’s not a common item, it is rare and elite, – Roman Berestnev explained.

The boat

The front part of an ancient boat is the largest exhibit of the exhibition. The dugout boat was 10 meters long, but only a part of is has remained. This is the third finding if its kind on the territory of the Voronezh Region. All the boats were found near Shchuchye village.

The first ancient boat was found by local peasants in 1911. They dried it up and adapted for use in their household as a cattle feeder. The oak boat served them right until the very Great Patriotic Was and was destroyed in warfare.

The second boat was found in the 1950s by the expedition of Maria Foss and has been stored at the State Historical Museum. The third was found in 1956 by an expedition of the Voronezh Museum of Local history under the supervision of Victor Afonyushkin. But the boat was in a poor state, so the museum only got its front art. The analysis conducted in the 1980s indicated that the boat was made 2240 years ago and is dated back to the Scythian times. But some of the scientists don’t believe the analysis results and thinks that the boat is actually much older, so the issue of its age remains open.