Woodworking in the Bronze Age Southern Trans-Urals (the case study of the fortified settlement of Kamenny Ambar)  

Koryakova L.N., Molchanov I.V. (Yekaterinburg, Russian Federation)


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The paper presents the description and analysis of the collection of wood (formwork elements and objects) from wells of the Bronze Age fortified settlement of Kamenny Ambar (Chelyabinsk Oblast). Within the settlement, presented are the layers of the Sintashta, Petrovka and Srubnaya-Alakul traditions, covering the period of the 21st17th c. BC. We give a short description of the forest resources of the study area. In Southern Urals, wood can be found in the form of charred remains, sometimes in post holes, in burial structures of various state of preservation, as well as in the Bronze Age wells. The latter has been the source of fragments of formwork and some household items for this study. According to palaeobotanical data, the local landscape represented forests mixed with steppe and forb meadows. The total area of forestlands around the settlement in the Bronze Age was roughly similar to the modern one. The analysis of charcoal and wood from wells indicates that pine (51 %) and birch (47 %) were the most common, and to a lesser extent willow and alder (2 %). Prevailing were the pine trunks with 5 to 30, less often 50, rings. The types of formwork and tools used in their construction have been determined. The importance of woodworking among the household industries of the settlement has been assessed. Remains of wooden structures have been found on the bottom of 16 examined wells, although there may have been more, judging by discrete fragments of wood decay. The wood is represented by stakes, half-logs, chopping blocks, planks, branches, charcoal and fragments of bark. Restored specimens have been examined visually and using a microscope in order to determine the wood species and process tools, and the results have been put down into the database. In the process of excavation, two types of formwork were identified: 1) a wattle cylinder made of twigs intertwined through vertical stakes, and 2) sheeting of the shaft with vertically placed and tightly fitted boards and/or half-logs of small diameter. In a number of wells, the type of construction could not be accurately determined. In addition to wooden structures, wooden objects were also found at the bottom of several wells. It is possible to state that the inhabitants of the Kamenny Ambar settlement were skilled in wood processing. Available data indicate that carpentry craft was highly developed throughout the entire Bronze Age period. Admittedly, people knew how to joint wooden parts of structures. Since there are no finds of metal nails, we are confident that they used alternative means, such as ropes and other carpentry techniques, in particular, groove joining. An object with a precise rectangular groove was found in one of the wells. These materials demonstrate the presence of good engineering knowledge, manifested not only in the search for new technologies for the well construction, but also in the overall architecture of the settlement.

Key words: Southern Trans-Urals, Kamenny Ambar settlement, Bronze Age, wells, wooden objects, woodworking.


Acknowledgments. The authors are grateful to the excavators of wells, including A. Rassadnikov, A. Seno-kosov, M. Silukov, A. Yakovlev, D. Chabanov. In addition, we are infinitely thankful to our German partners who provided wood conservation and restoration.

Funging. This work was carried out with the financial support of the Russian Science Foundation under the grant No. 16-18-10332-P The lifestyle of the population of the Southern Trans-Urals in the diachronic perspective: from sedentary forms to mobility (based on the materials of the Karagaily-Ayat river basin) (Koryakova L.N., problem statement, text of the article). I.V. Molchanov performed the compilation and analysis of a database on wood, preparation of illustrations, text of the article within the framework
of the topic No.
-16-116040110036-1 Ancient and medieval cultures of the Urals: regional features in the context of global processes.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Accepted: 07.09.2020

Article is published: 27.11.2020


Koryakova L.N.

Institute of History and Archeology of Ural Branch RAS, S. Kovalevskaya st., 16, Yekaterinburg, 620990, Russian Federation




Molchanov I.V.

Institute of History and Archeology of Ural Branch RAS, S. Kovalevskaya st., 16, Yekaterinburg, 620990, Russian Federation

E-mail: (Molchanov I.V.)