The myth of the journey of the soul and Bronze Age funerary sites of the Sintashta and Petrovka type in the Southern Trans-Urals   

Vinogradov N.B. (Chelyabinsk, Russian Federation)


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The article presents an attempt to interpret the semantics of one of the brightest examples of the burial rite among the pastoral population with high level of metal production, which left the sites of the Sintashta and Petrovka type, localized in the Southern Trans-Urals (Trans-Ural peneplain). They are presently dated to the period between the 21st and 18th c. BC (transitional time from the Middle to Late Bronze Age). Materials from the burial sites (cemeteries of Sintashta and Krivoye Ozero) have been analysed, with direct involvement of the author. The problem appears as follows. The vast majority of researchers believe that within the burial chamber of some Sinthashta and later Petrovka socially significant persons, the chariots were placed, in an assembled or disassembled form, yet chariots. The main purpose of the chariots, in their opinion, was participation in military activities, with a caveat about the possibility of their use in rituals, and that the buried themselves should be recognised as chariot drivers-warriors who ruled the life of communities (clans). The article substantiates the hypothesis of the apparent existence of a tradition in the Sintashta, Petrovka and other synchronous Eastern European steppe cultural formations, of placing in the burial chamber the very parts of a chariot, especially the wheels, and not the whole chariots. The author suggests considering the funeral rite of the chosen members of the Bronze Age Sintashta and Petrovka communities (clans) of the Southern Trans-Urals, which involved the use of chariot parts (wheels), as a kind of symbolic text, as a modelled realization of the funeral myth, which tells the story of the journey of the soul to the afterlife on the burial chariot of the Vedic twin gods Ashwins. The detailed parameters of such models should not be literally correlated with the real transportation means. According to the author, the individuals buried in such tombs were not necessarily chariot drivers-warriors. The paper discusses another important aspect the localization of the other world for the Bronze Age Sintashta and Petrovka population of the Southern Trans-Urals. According to our observations, the ideas about the localization of the world of the dead were not permanent and could change over several centuries, from the Sintashta period to the time of the classical stage of the history of the Alakul Culture (pottery with a ledge shoulder, with ornamentation spread across two or three zones). The majority of adults in the Sintashta burials with wheel hollows, were orientated with their heads to the northwest sector. Similar was the orientation of symbolic wagons and equally symbolic horses. For alike Petrovka burial sites, the latitudinal orientation already prevailed. These changes, as it appears to the author, reflect modifications of the funeral myth.

Key words: Bronze Age, Southern Trans-Urals, chariot, Sintashta and Petrovka burials, journey of the soul, Ashwins.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License

Accepted: 02.03.2020

Article is published: 05.06.2020


Vinogradov N.B.

South Ural State Humanitarian and Pedagogical University, prosp. Lenina, 69, Chelyabinsk, 454080, Russian Federation