Ancient Pazyryk kurgans of Altai
The Pazyryk kurgans are located in Ulagansky district inside the World Heritage Property «Golden Mountains of Altai». They are on the altitude of 1,600 meters above the sea level, where the comparatively limited area of the valley includes about 40 different archaeological structures: large and small stone mounds, oval and round flat stone platforms and fences, stone circles, rows of stones set vertically.
Archaeological mounds are considered to be the most important Scythian burial sites in the Altai Mountains, because they laid the foundation for studying the frozen tombs.
One of the richest is the fifth kurgan which is located in the centre of the complex. Its mound presented piled stones, not very high, with gentle slopes, its diameter was 47 meters, a height of 2,2 meters. About 1,800 cubic meters of stone was used to construct it. Here archaeologists have found the oldest preserved Persian carpet and another carpet, presumably of local production, depicting a man on horseback. Among the remains of four purebred horses, which, apparently were brought to Altai from the south, they found well preserved wooden jewelry of harness, felt saddles blankets, and other trappings braided in the tail of horses.
In this mound they also found a collapsible tent, fragments of wagons, the famous wooden chariot, and richly decorated saddles. Therefore, we should note that in this period of time the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks and other nations with developed culture did not use saddles. As for the Altai Mountains, it was the region of the Central Asia, where the first felt yurt was invented and a horse was domesticated earlier than anywhere.
According to epic studies, it was horse domestication that served as the basis for the emergence of a new hero image in folk literature- an athlete in the heroic legends.
In Pazyryk kurgans some samples of ancient musical instruments such as harp, horn drum were found. A small drum made of two halves of bull horn has an average height of 18 cm. Researchers suppose that the discovered drum was likely of sacral and ritual use.
The more complicated four-stringed musical instrument – a small harp (its Altaian name is «diadagan») has a length of 83 cm. It was hollowed out from a single piece of wood coloured in red outside and its open parts were covered by membranes from a skillfully made leather.
According to the Altaian mythological legends a hero Shunu liberated his people which were captured by enemy for a long time in a dark cave. Shunu managed to withdraw his people from the cave due to playing diadagan and throat singing.
Found in the Pazyryk burials vivid examples of Scythian –Siberian animal style mainly portray excruciation of peaceful cloven-hoofed animals by predators which are mostly winged.
An important discovery was finding the mummified bodies of the leader and his wife (or concubine) in the Pazyryk mounds. Outside the grave chamber in the northern half of the burial pit there was a horse entombment with a full set of horse harness in accordance with the number of sacrificed horses. And the number of horses in the mounds varied from 7 to 14.