Cultural attribution vs radiocarbon chronology (on the example of materials from the Bronze Age burial ground of Shatmantamak I)

Epimakhov A.V. (Ekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, Russian Federation), Tairov A.D., Epimakhova M.G. (Chelyabinsk, Russian Federation)


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The article presents the results of excavations at the Shatmantamak I burial ground located in steppe zone of the Southern Urals (south-west of the Republic of Bashkortostan, Russia). The materials of the site combine the features of the Late Bronze Age Srubnaya and Alakul archaeological cultures dated to the first half of the
2nd mil. cal BC. With this work, we aimed to test the interpretation possibilities for the obtained materials, proceeding from their chronological sequence, rather than cultural attribution. Three mounds comprising seven burial structures of the Bronze Age (three above ground and four burial pits) have been excavated. The main procedure of treating the dead was inhumation on the left side (with the single exception on the right side) with their heads orientated towards the northern sector with deviations to the east. All graves contained single adult individuals, except one with the skeletons of two children. One of the burials is clearly distinctive, with the deceased set in sitting position. The grave goods included ceramic vessels and a single bone pommel. A series of radiocarbon dates (n = 4), stable nitrogen and carbon isotope analysis, along with the analysis of the context, allowed us to propose the scenario of utilisation of the site in the Bronze Age. The sequence of building of kurgans and individual burials has been determined. For a long period (20th17th c. cal BC), they combined features of the Alakul and Srubnaya cultural traditions within the same cemetery, or even mound. Syncretic sites represent a typical phenomenon for the Late Bronze Age of the Southern Urals and adjacent territories. Despite the differences in the chronology and cultural features (pottery and funeral rite) of the Shatmantamak I burial ground, a high stability of the nutrition system has been revealed, which was based on the products of complex husbandry. This brings us to the assumption that the identified cultural mosaicism was determined not by the mobility and interaction of groups with different traditions, but by their joint or parallel habitation in a specific area.

Key words: Late Bronze Age, Srubnaya ulture, Alakul ulture, radiocarbon dating, stable isotopes.

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

Accepted: 07.09.2020

Article is published: 27.11.2020


Epimakhov A.V.

Institute of History and Archaeology of Ural Branch RAS, S. Kovalevskaya st., 16, Ekaterinburg, 620108, Russian Federation

South Ural State University, prosp. Lenina, 76, Chelyabinsk, 454080, Russian Federation



Tairov A.D.

South Ural State University, prosp. Lenina, 76, Chelyabinsk, 454080, Russian Federation



Epimakhova M.G.

South Ural State University, prosp. Lenina, 76, Chelyabinsk, 454080, Russian Federation