The Oldest Tomb Of A Scythian Prince Has Just Been Discovered By An Archaeologist In Siberia

The burial site has been dated to the 9th century BC and may hold surprising treasures inside.

The oldest known tomb of a Scythian prince has been discovered in Siberia.
Franka Bruns / AP Images

The burial site has been dated to the 9th century BC and may hold surprising treasures inside.

In the south of Siberia, in the Russian republic of Tuva, an archaeologist has discovered the oldest known tomb belonging to an ancient Scythian prince, and this tomb is also reported to be the largest of its kind to be found anywhere.

Even more amazing, this find did not first come about using traditional archaeological methods, such as digging, and is all down to the initial use of a computer that helped to analyze satellite images of an interesting looking structural formation in the shape of a circle beside the Uyuk River.

Once the satellite images were scrutinized by archaeologist Gino Caspari, a dig was conducted last summer in which the Hermitage Museum and the Russian Academy of Sciences worked alongside Caspari to get to the bottom of this mysterious structure in Siberia. The structure turned out to be a Scythian burial mound, or kurgan, in a region that is referred to as the “Siberian Valley of Kings,” according to Heritage Daily.

Beams constructed of wood at the Tunnug 1 site were found to date to around the 9th century BCE, and even archaeologists were astonished at having located what is, to date, the oldest tomb of a Scythian prince ever discovered. While there is another Scythian tomb nearby that was investigated during the 1970s, it is clear that this latest find is much older.

A Scythian burial mound is reconstructed at the Martin Gropius Bau Museum in Berlin for the 'Royal Tombs of the Scythes' exhibition in 2007.
A Scythian burial mound is reconstructed at the Martin Gropius Bau Museum in Berlin for the ‘Royal Tombs of the Scythes’ exhibition in 2007. Franka Bruns / AP Images

Gino Caspari spoke of the remarkable discovery of the Scythian prince tomb and explained that archaeology today is a very different science than it was in the past, especially with the increasing use of technology not previously available to help guide archaeologists to finds such as this one.

“We have a great opportunity here. Archaeological methods have become considerably more sophisticated since the 1970s. Today we have completely different ways of examining material to find out more about the transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Iron Age.”

The Scythian prince would have been laid to rest during a time of huge social changes taking place during the later era of the Bronze Age and leading up to the Iron Age. Not much information is available about this stretch of time in this region, owing mainly to the fact that very little artifacts from this period have been discovered. Because of this, Caspari believes that there is a “huge chance” to learn more about the lives of Eurasian people, such as this Scythian prince, as Newsweek report.

It is believed that the pristine condition of this tomb is largely down to the fact that it was found in a swamp. Those throughout history intent on stealing from graves would have had to walk for days to reach this site, as it currently takes five hours by car to reach. Also, the underground area along the Uyuk River is covered by thick amounts of permafrost, perfectly preserving anything below the ground, including this tomb.

As for what could be found inside of the tomb, Gino Caspari is hopeful that the permafrost will allow archaeologists to discover perfectly preserved items inside of it.

“If it really turns out to be a permafrost tomb, we can hope for an exceptional preservation of objects that are usually not part of the archaeological record. Anything organic like wood carvings, felt items, clothing just to name a few. This would result in a much more vibrant look into the past than is usually possible.”

Scythian gold in Berlin.
Scythian gold in Berlin. Franka Bruns / AP Images

For those interested in finding out just what may lie in wait inside of this Scythian prince tomb, archaeologists plan to begin the painstaking work of fully excavating the site once the snow has completely melted in the spring.