The charioteering in the Bronze Age societies of the Southern Trans-Urals as a social phenomenon

Kupriyanova E.V.



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The sites of the Sintashta and Petrovka archaeological cultures of the Bronze Age of the Southern Trans-Urals (Russia) have been traditionally considered as part of the realm of chariot cultures of early Indo-European communities. The analysis of the finds demonstrates that the phenomenon of charioteering carried an important symbolic role in the paradigm of the steppe communities of the Bronze Age. Numerous finds of chariot fragments, elk antler cheekpieces, paired horse sacrifices, remote combat weapons in cemeteries of Stepnoye I, Stepnoye VII, and Krivoe Ozero have been repeatedly subjected to scientific investigation. Collective burials have been discovered, in which even women and young children are accompanied by weapons, cheekpieces, fragments of chariots and sacrificial horses. Based on this, we have concluded that the community of charioteers included members of a certain clan, possibly related to the production and use of chariots, horse training, etc. At the same time, however, individual burials of adult men with elements of a chariot complex have also been found, which occupied central positions in kurgans; those men could have been actual chariot warriors. Recent findings provide a vivid evidence for this. In the field season of 2021, the Sintashta burial complex (kurgan 33) was investigated in the Stepnoye I cemetery, the central burial of which contained a skeleton of a 3550 year old man who had a round healed hole in his skull. Theoretically, such an injury could have been caused by a battle axe, similar to ones found at the sites of the Sintashta and Petrovka Cultures. Furthermore, abnormal osteophytosis growths have been recorded on all areas of the man's spine, which could have resulted from both injury and high pressure on spine caused by driving a chariot. One elk antler cheekpiece (an element of horse bridle) was found in the burial, along with numerous bones of sacrificial animals. All details of the burial rite indicate that the buried man was a significant person for the community, probably a charioteer warrior. Previously obtained AMS dates attribute the Sintashta complexes of the Stepnoye I cemetery to the range of about 19501850 BC. Thus, the newly investigated kurgan 33 of the Stepnoye I cemetery respresents another piece of evidence indicating the existence of chariot culture among the steppe communities of the Bronze Age in the Southern Trans-Urals.

Keywords: Bronze Age, Southern Trans-Urals, Sintashta Culture, Petrovka Culture, charioteering, burial rite.


Acknowledgements. The author expresses gratitude to anthropologists A.A. Khokhlov (Samara), E.P. Kitov (Moscow), A.H. Chirkova (Moscow) for anthropological definitions of skeletal remains from the cemeteries near Stepnoye village.


Creative Commons License

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

Accepted: 05.12.2022

Article is published: 15.06.2023


Kupriyanova E.V., Chelyabinsk state university, Br. Kashyrinykh st., 129, Chelyabinsk, 454001, Russian Federation, E-mail:,