Siberian Peoples. The Pazyryk Nomads

Siberian peoples – who inhabited Siberia 2,000 and 3,000 years ago?

Siberia has been inhabited since ancient times, namely the Lower Paleolithic. First human beings settled down in this region about 1 million years ago. Since then severe weather conditions had been pushing many inhabitants from the area. Other human species brought some Siberian peoples to extinction, including the Denisova hominin. One legend says that Sasquatch is in fact the Denisova hominin who became extinct merely few thousands of years ago.

This article tells about unique findings that were discovered by Mikhail Gryaznov and Sergei Rudenko’s archaeological team in the Pazyryk burials (the Ulagan river basin in the Eastern Altai Mountains and Siberia). This burial site is rich in artifacts that give a good idea about the life of ancient Siberian peoples.

However, the first Pazyryk artifacts were discovered back in 1929, there is still not enough information about Siberian peoples who lived in Siberia in 1,000 B.C.

Most findings are in perfect condition due to permafrost that is so typical of Siberia.

In fact, these findings are just the tip of the iceberg. There could have been much more artifacts if ancient burials had not been ransacked of their valuables.

Horse as the life center for Siberian peoples 

The horse for Siberian nomads and cattle breeders was of great importance.

It was a means of transport, combat strength, the source of milk and fermented drinks, crude materials for clothes and shoes.

Siberian peoples of that time regarded the horse as we do a smartphone today. They could not imagine their life without horses.

Initially, horsemen did not have stirrups, they were created later. That is why ancient horsemen needed special skills to keep the saddle.

Saddles were made of soft felt to suit horse riding manner.

Of course, chanfron masks (some of them were covered with gold) and other elegant horse gear were not used on a daily basis. They were kept for ritual and festive events, as well as battles.

5 Horse chanfron mask

Horse chanfron mask. A tribe chief and his supporters were buried with their horses which wore elaborate and highly decorated gear

8 Exquisite cap statue

Exquisite cap statue 

9 Exquisite cap statue pazyryk

Exquisite cap statue

Tattoos of Siberian peoples

As it turned out all ancient Siberian peoples had tattoos that fulfilled the same functions as they do nowadays. They should protect their bearers, give them valuable skills and serve as a sign of membership.

Tattoos were done in a rather simple way. Carvers incandesced a sharp tool and used soot as dark paint.

3 Tattoos on the chief’s bod pazyryk

Tattoos on the chief’s body. The world biggest tattoo is a stylized image of a tiger or leopard

Afterlife beliefs of Siberian peoples 

Nowadays it is hard to say for sure how people lived in the remote past.

In all likelihood, they believed they would be reborn after death. That is why a dead chief was mummified. In the process internal organs and a brain were removed from his body

6 Mummified chief’s head pazyryk

Mummified chief’s head (500-400 B.C.)

A tribal chief started a ‘new’ life accompanied by his wife and mistresses holding musical instruments. A chief and his main wife were buried in a 5 meter-long wooden coffin. There was a separate coffin for mistresses.

Perhaps it was not wives’ direct responsibility to accompany their husband in the afterlife. Finding a chief’s wife in the coffin is more like an exception.

If a chief was married to a foreigner, people often saw her as a reason of misfortunes. Fellow tribesmen buried this woman with her husband to get rid of the so-called witch. The coffin was also sealed with beams from two sides (according to Gavrilova).

In fact, a burial chamber is a log construction symbolizing a house. Many horses in the exquisite Skythian gear (up to 22) were buried around this construction to follow after the owner after his death.

7 Women’s shoes pazyryk

Women’s shoes

1 Felt rug pazyryk

Felt rug (400-300 B.C.). The surface of this felt carpet is about 30 (!) square meters. The horseman is approaching the god sitting on the throne. This scene is repeated through the rug composition

2 Cart pazyryk

Cart (400-300 B.C.). The height is 3 m, the length is 6 m, the diameter of its wheel is 1.5 m. The cart was drawn by four horses

4 Swan’s statue made of thick felt pazyryk

Swan’s statue made of thick felt

This article is based on the scattered data provided by the Ministry of Culture. 

Check out: The world-oldest rug was found in the Pazyryk burial

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