Ural and West Siberian hoards (Bronze Age Early Iron Age): composition, context and interpretation

Korochkova O.N. (Yekaterinburg, Russian Federation), Fedorova N.V. (Salekhard, Russian Federation)



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The present article analyses the hoards of the Bronze Age Early Iron Age discovered in the forest-steppe and mountain-forest of the Trans-Urals, as well as the Middle and Lower Ob areas. Only three hoards dating back to the Bronze Age have been discovered: Andreevo, Prygovsky and Gladunino. By the Ural-Siberian standards, these are considerable collections consisting of metal-intensive symbolic objects (celts, knives, sickles). The hoards are grouped in the forest-steppe area, where the population of the Petrovo and Alakul cultures of the Andronovo community lived at that time (first half of the 2nd millennium BC). Conversely, hoards dating back to the Early Iron Age are localised in the taiga zone. Being characterised by a distinctive composition and definite chronological contexts, these hoards reflect profound changes in the lifestyle of Siberian aborigines caused by the widespread introduction of metal, the development of reindeer herding, new communication corridors and fur trade. The first group is represented by hoards that comprise symbolic metal items dating back to the second half of the 1st millennium BC (Azov Mountain, Karaulnaya Mountain, Lozvinsky, etc.). Sometimes they are accompanied by arms (arrowheads and chopping weapons). This group of hoards is unanimously considered to be votive in character. The hoards of the second group (from the 1st century BC to the 2nd3rd centuries AD) are confined to the lower reaches of the Ob and Irtysh, as well as the Surgut Ob area (Istyatsk, Kazym and Gornoknyazevsk). They are characterised by the presence of bronze cauldrons or other packaging, items of long-distance import (Parthian or Bactrian silver medallions; helmets made in Central Asia; a large number of Sarmatian and even Chinese bronze mirrors, often with engraved local images). Hoards of that period, aimed at hiding presti-gious and valuable things, are seen as retrievable. Hoards belonging to the third group (3rd8th centuries AD) can be referred to as weapon hoards (Parabel, Kholmogory, Ishim, etc.). They are localised mainly in the lower tributaries of the Ob in its middle course. They predominantly consisted of various weapons: arrowheads, spears, axes, sabres, broadswords, combat knives. In addition, bronze mirrors and plates having concentric ornaments, zoomorphic and anthropomorphic images were found in all complexes. Weapon hoards, interpreted as sacred arsenals, reflect the dominant priorities of that time (formation of the military elite; a special status of military practices) and growing military tensions caused by the struggle for control over the foraging territories and trade routes.

Key words: Ural, Western Siberia, Bronze Age, Early Iron Age, votive hoards, armory hoards, trade hoards.


DOI: 10.20874/2071-0437-2019-46-3-017-028


Funding. This work was supported by a grant from the Russian Foundation for Basic Research No. 18-09-40011.


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Submitted: 15.04.2019

Accepted: 10.06.2019

Article is published: 26.09.2019


Korochkova O.N.

Ural Federal University, Mira st., 19, Yekaterinburg, 620002, Russian Federation



Fedorova N.V.

Arctic Research Center, Republic st., 20, Salekhard, 629008, Russian Federation