Chronology of Eurasian Scythian Antiquities
Born by New Archaeological and
A Yu. Alekseev1 •
N A Bokovenko2 • Yu Boltrik3
KA Chugunov4 • G Cook5 • V A Dergachev6
• G Possnert8 • J van der Plicht9
E M Scott10
A Semeetsov2 • V Skripkin7
S Vasiliev6 • G.
(A.Yu.Alekseev et al.) © 2001 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona
Radiocarbon, Vol .43, No 2B, 2001, p 1085-1107
Proceedings of the 17th International 14C Conference, edited by I Carml and E Boaretto
The posted citation is much abbreviated, skipping most of the references and detail tables. The
missing details can be found in the original publication. This posting makes a few superficial
changes in the narrative, reducing a translation flavor left
over from the text in Russian, replacing the surrogate
term "barrow" with the term "kurgan" predominantly used in
Scythian science, replacing "zh" that supposedly indicates "j" like
in "jealousy" to a "j" like in "jealousy",
"Fore-" and "Cis-" to "N." and "S." to avoid
a confusion caused by a
view from a Moscow perch, and getting away from
agglutination of suffixes and endings accumulated in the
The last decade's progress in instrumented scientific
investigations, analyzed in the University of Arizona
report, gives a hope that other monuments in the steppe
belt are next in line, to fill in the missing data for
huge territories and a multitude of peoples. Scientific
instrumented measurements are a necessary step in putting
to rest an unending flow of frequently off-base expert
speculations and race-driven visions that create a permanent state of confusion
built on contradictory "main opinions" about every kurgan
and its creators. Considering that nearly every kurgan had
at least two opposing guesstimates, the authors' assertion that 14C tests
confirm date guesstimates is rather ironic or overly diplomatic, because the tests
show continuous development, while the guesstimates tended
to conform to a PC concoction of a changeover and disconnected mosaic.
Histogram - A bar chart representing a frequency distribution; heights
of the bars represent observed frequencies
The paper compares chronology of the Scythian Epoch monuments located in the east and west of the
Eurasian steppe zone comparing archaeological and radiocarbon data. The lists of 14C dates for the
monuments located in different parts of Eurasia are presented according to the periods of their
existence. Generally, 14C dates confirm archaeological dating,
and allowing to compare chronological position of the European and Asian Scythian monuments on a
unified 14C time scale.
The chronology of Scythian Cultures, which occupied steppe and forest-steppe zones of Eurasia from
Northern China to Danube river during the 1st millennium BC, is very important. For a long time,
chronology of the European Scythian Cultures was based on typological comparisons and historical
sources, while radiocarbon dating played an important role for the Asian Scythian
relatively recently the first 14
C dates were produced for European Scythian monuments. As a
result, it became possible to compare chronological position of these
Cultures in Europe and Asia
on a unified 14
C time scale.
This article summarizes and compares results of research based on
archaeological and 14C data with special attention paid to key monuments and definition of
Fig. 1 shows a spread of Cultures belonging to the
Scythian Epoch and the boundaries of
different landscape zones. Most sites are located between - 40°-55°N and 30°-110°E (Fig. 1
C dated sites).
Scythian history can be subdivided into three periods:
1st period - pre-Scythian and initial Scythian Epoch from the 9th to the middle of the 7th
2nd period - early Scythian Epoch from the 7th to the 6th centuries BC
3rd period - classical Scythian Epoch from the 5th to the 4th centuries BC.
Archaeological dating is based on:
a) Typology, based on the dating of artifacts (smart prestige objects, wares, harness elements,
objects of "animal style art" and so on).
b) Dating of imported Greek ceramic and amphorae based mainly on the amphorae's brands.
c) Historical-biographical methods (from written histories).
d) Space-stratigraphical methods.
For the most part, monuments of the Great Steppe belt, consisting of Kazakhstan, Southern
Ural, and Lower Itil River regions, until now have not been dated, as can be seen in Fig. 1. This
fact makes difficult a chronological comparison of the nomadic
Cultures in the Scythian Epoch over
the whole territory of Eurasia. Hopefully, these gaps will be filled in the future.
Fig. 1 Locations of 14C dated
Scythian Epoch monuments in Eurasia
Pre-Scythian and Initial Scythian
(9th to 7th centuries BC)
The most famous Scythian monument in Central Asia (Tuva) is
discovered by M P Gryaznov in the 1970s (Tuva was occupied by Stalinist
Russia in 1944, and held since, hence, the "discoveries"
and the "republic")
. It is a key monument of the early
Scythian Epoch for all Eurasia.
There are two main opinions on its
chronology. According to the first, this monument dates to
the 9th century BC or to the 8th century BC. According to
the second view, this monument dates to the 7th century BC. Undisputed, however, is that the
Arjan kurgan is the earliest monument of the Scythian type
in Central Asia. The specific details of its tomb construction, complicated burial tradition,
refinement of the weapons, horse equipment, and artifacts would suggest
an existence of an earlier stage in the
formation of the Scythian-type Cultures in this region in
the 10th-9th centuries BC.
View of Arjan-2 kurgan and
adjacent sacrificial sanctuaries seen as stone circles
|Industrial destruction of Arjan-2
Organized vandalism of leveling off football-field-size
7th c. BC Scythian kurgan in Tuva:
barbaric objectives, barbaric methods, and barbaric
The monuments of early
of Southern Siberia are closely connected to the Central
Asian antiquities and include among them the Khystaglar,
Large Erba, Kazanov-3 and Shaman Mountain kurgans. For a long time these monuments
were traditionally (i.e.
speculatively and completely wrongly)
dated by the 7th century BC. After discovery of the
Arjan kurgan, some archaeologists
suggested dating the initial period of the Tagar Culture
to the 8th century BC. Dating the earliest stage of the Tagar
is predicated by the dates of the last stage of the
belongs to the final stage of the Bronze Age. On the archaeological evidence,
final stage of the Karasuk Culture existed at about 10th
In the European part of the steppe,
pre-Scythian period is represented by
(Black Mountain/Kara Tag)
Culture (steppe zone of the Northern Black Sea region) and the antiquities of the Novocherkassk
treasure discovered in 1939 (steppe zone of the Northern Black Sea region and Northern
For chronology and partial synchronization of these
and Murzin suggested the following chronological periods:
the 10th to the beginning
of the 7th century BC for the Novocherkassk Culture and the 9th to the middle of the 8th century BC
for the Chernogor Culture. There are other opinions on the chronology of these
According to one opinion, the period can be subdivided into three periods: 1) pre-Scythian period I, from the
9th to the first half of the 8th century BC (the Chernogor type monuments), 2) pre-Scythian
period II, from the middle to the end of the 8th century BC (period of co-existence of Chernogor and Novocherkassk monuments), and 3) pre-Scythian period III, from the end of the
8th to the first half of the 7th century BC (classical Novocherkassk
Alternatively, Kossack restricted existence of the Novocherkassk-type
monuments to the end of the 8th century BC, In all cases, the Chernogor type
monuments are interpreted as being pre-Scythian, linked to
a wave of nomads from the Eastern-Eurasia steppe zone who
appeared in the Northern Black Sea region in about the 9th
One of key monuments of pre-Scythian period in the
European part of Eurasia is Uash-khitu kurgan in the Northern Caucasus, related to the Novocherkassk
Culture and dated by archaeological evidence to the first
half of the 7th century BC.
The most ancient Scythian monument in Europe is considered to be kurgan
No 15 of the Steblev group
of kurgans located on the right bank of Dnieper river in a forest-steppe zone.
Artifacts from this kurgan are similar to those in the
Kazakhstan region and can be dated by the 8th century BC.
C chronology for this period has been developed for
the monuments of Southern Siberia and the Central Asian
regions. A number of 14
C dates were produced for the
Arjan kurgan whose dating began with its discovery and
continues until the present day. They are widely reported
in the literature. Currently, there are about 30 14
C dates for
this monument, confirming its existence at about the
9th—8th century BC. Comparison of the 14
C dates for the
monuments of all Eurasia belonging to the 1st period is
difficult because there was a disconnect in dating
between European and Asian monuments, The monuments from
the Asian territory contain more wooden remains suitable
C dating. The dating of these monuments began in the
1960s and continues to the present day. Now there are
about 40 14
C dates, which are presented in
dates confirm the age of the beginning of the Tagar
Culture (to the 7th century BC). For the European
monuments are presented only the most recent 14
The histogram of the distribution of the 14C dates for the
monuments investigated is presented in
Fig. 2. 14C dates for the Arjan kurgan were published
histogram shows co-existence of the Arjan kurgan and
the pre-Scythian and Scythian monuments in Southern
Siberia (Tagar Culture). In the Arjan kurgan were
found Tagar artifacts.
The earliest Scythian monuments in Europe appeared some
hundred years later.
Unfortunately, the Chemogor and Novocherkassk monuments have not been dated yet.
Fig. 2 14C date distribution histogram for kurgans of the 1st period Scythian Epoch
||Southern Siberia kurgans:
Large Erba, Kazanov-3 and Shaman Mountain kurgans
Steblev group of kurgans and Uash-khitu
Early Scythian Epoch (7th to 6th Centuries BC)
This epoch in Central (i.e.
Middle) Asia is represented by the monuments
of the so-called Aldy-bel Culture. Aldy-bel is dated by
the 8th-6th centuries BC by its burial tradition and typology of
artifacts (mirrors and horse bridles). The oldest age (8th century BC) can only be linked
to the Ust-Khadynnyg kurgan-1. The main period of the Aldy-bel
Culture monuments is suggested to be the 7th—6th century
The key monuments of this period in Asia are famous Bashadar and Tuekta kurgans in the Sayan-Altai.
There are two archaeological views on their chronology.
According to the first, these kurgans are (i.e.
speculatively and incorrectly) dated by the 6th
century BC. The second view is based on the chronology of the Pazyryk group kurgans (discussed in the next section of
this paper). In this case, the chronology of these kurgans
can be shifted to the 8th century BC if the interval
between the construction of the Tuekta and the Pazyryk-2
kurgans, determined as 128 years, is correct. The monuments of Eastern Kazakhstan, the Maiemir
kurgans, were (i.e.
speculatively and incorrectly) dated by the 7th
century BC. These kurgans were included by some archaeologists
in the so-called "Maiemir-Kelermess" phase of the
development of Scythia-Siberian Cultures.
The chronology of European Scythia is
the dates of the individual royal kurgans, which are the
milestones for all European Scythian chronology. The most
important for Ancient European Scythia is the royal Kelermess monument located in the Northwestern Caucasus (Krasnodar
province) and Novozaved (New
Shop) kurgans in the Stavropol province in the
N.Caucasus region. Earlier, the age of
these kurgans was determined to lie on the boundary of the
7th-6th century BC. According to finds of near-eastern
origin and analysis of the military-political
situation in Asia Minor, some researchers extended the
time interval to the middle of the 7th century BC. Thus, there are two
chronological systems for these kurgans: a "long" and
"short" one. Based on the long chronology, the Kelermess
kurgans were (i.e.
speculatively and incorrectly) dated by 660-620 BC, based on the short one,
they were (i.e.
speculatively and incorrectly) dated by the end of the 7th—the beginning of the
6th century BC. The Novozaved kurgans were (i.e.
speculatively and incorrectly) dated by
650-590 BC, which is similar to the Kelermess results.
For the monuments related to this period, 14C dates were
first produced for the Sayan-Altai kurgans of Southern
Siberia, the most recent of which were previously
unpublished. The first 14C dates were obtained in 1999 for
the different kurgans and dated by the 2nd period in the
Central Asia (Tuva "Republic") monuments. The 14C dates
produced are presented in
Table 2. 14C dates for the Tuekta
kurgan are not shown in
Table 2, but are included in the graphical
presentations. In spite of the large number of dates, position of the Tuekta kurgan on the calendar time scale
was inconclusively determined due to a complicated
character of the calibration curve. The 14C dates for the Tuekta monument
corresponded to two positions on the calibration curve: 6th and 5th century
BC. In the future, the position of the Tuekta kurgan will
be determined more precisely using "wiggle matching"
together with dendro validation.
The histogram of the distribution of the 14C dates for the
monuments belonging to the 2nd period for
both the Asian and European parts of Eurasian territories
is shown in Fig. 3. Monuments of the 2nd period of the Scythian-type
cultures for the Southern Siberia and Central Asia regions have their oldest dates
overlapping with those of the Sayan-Altai and European
regions. According to the 14C dates, the early Scythian
monuments in Europe (the Kelermess and Novozaved
kurgans) existed roughly (a little earlier) at the same
time as the Tuekta and Bashadar kurgans in the Sayan-Altai.
Fig. 3 14C date distribution histogram for
Eurasian kurgans of the Scythian Epoch 2nd period
||Central (i.e. Middle) Asia
Southern Siberia kurgans:
Bashadar and Tuekta kurgans in Sayan-Altai, Maiemir
kurgans in Eastern Kazakhstan
Kelermess and Novozaved kurgans
Classical Scythian Epoch (5th to 4th Centuries BC)
Key monuments of the classical Scythian period for the
Asian territory are famous Pazyryk group of kurgans.
Marasdolov, using a tree-ring chronology,
suggested the following chronological succession for the Pazyryk kurgans
construction: Pazyryk -2, -1, -4, -3, -5.
Per archaeological, tree-ring, and 14C data,
he related Pazyryk-2 and 1 kurgans to the middle of
the 5th century BC: 455 BC and 454 BC, respectively. The
youngest kurgan in this group is Pazyryk-5 kurgan,
which was dated by the end of the 5th century BC. There
are some analogies in the artifacts and in the kurgan
construction between the Pazyryk kurgans and Seven Brothers
kurgans in Europe (Kuban
region), which are dated by Greek imported objects to the
5th century BC. Another point of view, based on the
analyses of the imported objects, date Pazyryk kurgans
to the 4th - the beginning of the 3rd century BC.
Such dates were accepted by some Russian archaeologists. Further
research on the chronology of the Pazyryk kurgans is
presented in this issue . Most of over 30 14C
dating for these kurgans were published previously.
Dogee-Baary-2 kurgans in the Central Asian Tuva "Republic"
belongs to the middle stage of the Scythian Epoch. These
monuments were investigated for more than 10 years, and
the found materials relating to the burial tradition and
the culture of the early nomads in this region were dated
from the 6th to the 4th century BC. The majority of 14C
dates produced for this monument have been published, we
here present the 14C dates produced in 1998-1999.
In the chronology of Classical Scythia in the
forest-steppe zone of the Black Sea region, Steblev
monuments play an important role, some kurgans are dated
by the 5th - 4th century BC. The most interesting among
them is kurgan No 3, which contained Greek amphora dated
by 440 BC.
The key monuments of Classical Scythia in the European
part of Eurasia are Seven Brothers, Solokha, Chertomlyk,
Oguz, and Aleksandropol royal kurgans in the Pontic
region. According to typological analyses, the oldest
among them are Seven Brothers and Solokha kurgans, and the
youngest is the Aleksandropol kurgan. The chronological
position of the Chertomlyk and Oguz kurgans lies inbetween
The Seven Brothers kurgans are located in the Taman
Peninsula on the left bank of the Kuban River in the
Krasnodar province. This monument consists of a group of
kurgans belonging to different chronological periods.
Thus, kurgan No 4 belongs to the so-called "older group"
(460-425 BC), compared with kurgans No 6 (400-380 BC) and
No 7 ("younger group")
(we know the ethnic name of the Scythian tribe, Onogurs,
or "Union of Ten" in Türkic, from whom the Greeks took a
name for their antique city Phanagoria/Onoguria).
Four famous Scythian royal kurgans are located along a
single line 126 km from the Oguz kurgan in the south to
the Alexandropol kurgan in the north. From available
evidence, the royal tombs were placed along a main
transport route, in the center of which is Solokha kurgan,
the oldest of them (Yu V Boltrik, personal communication
According to archaeological evidence, Solokha kurgan is
dated by 420/410-375 BC. The chronological interval (based
on silver ware, smart objects, harness) for the Chertomlyk
kurgan is from the 5th to the second half of the 4th
century BC. The amphorae's types also give a wide age
range. A better date are 350-325 BC. There is some
controversy concerning the date of the construction of
this kurgan, connected to its use as either:
1. The burial of a well-known Scythian king Ateas
(i.e. Atails, another
name of the line Atilla, Atatürk,
Atabek, ataman etc. that come from "ata" - Türkic "father"), who
died in 339 BC (thus timing this kurgan construction to
339 BC), or
2. The burial of the "Anonymous" king who died in the
winter of 328/329 BC.
Ateus (Ατεας, Ateas, Atheas) - Scythian king, who at the
turn of the 4th-5th cc. BC created a strong Scythian kingdom in the lower Bug/Buh and
lower Danube area. In 339, at age 90, he was killed in a battle with Philip of Macedon. The name Ateus/Ateas/Atei (Ατεας, Atheas) is a Greek distortion,
manifestant of other distortions that historians and linguists take for academic-level
spelling and even try to perfect by using all kinds of convoluted diacritics, like
Áţĥėãš, akin to showing mm at a distance eyeballed at about 2 days of travel. We know
how Atails - not Atheas - coined his name:
The legend says ATAILΣ, an obvious Ata + Il + Σ = Tr. "Father" +
"Land, Country, Nation" + Greek affix "Σ", a compound used over and over through the
millennia, in all kinds of combinations that start with Ata or include Il, Ata-Türk
and El-Terish Kagan are most familiar).
According to the archaeological artifacts, the Oguz kurgan
can be dated by 350-300 BC, or 350-325 BC, and the Aleksandropol kurgan
by 330-300 BC.
C dates of the monuments belonging to the 3rd period
of the Scythian Epoch are presented in
. The majority of
the dates were produced in the 1996-99, particularly for the
European Scythian monuments. The table includes dates for
Southern Siberian ordinary monuments received
earlier but not yet published.
Both the earlier and new 14
C dates for the Pazyryk group (in
Sayan-Altai), Dogee-Barry-2 and te Kopto kurgans (in
Central Asian Tuva) are based on tree rings were
already published, the newer dates are presented and
discussed in separate reports in this issue, and used for the more precise
dating of the calendar position for these kurgans.
are similarities in the artifacts of the Pazyryk kurgans
(in the Altai) and the Seven Brothers kurgans (in Europe).
The histogram of the distribution of the 14C dates for
these groups is presented in Fig. 4, which shows that the
range of the 14C dates is similar, consistent with the
archaeological point of view.
A growing number of 14C dates for the European Scythian
kurgans, produced during the last decade, allow comparison
of the dates for the royal European Scythian kurgans:
Seven Brothers, Solokha and Chertomlyk. The histogram of
the distribution of the 14C dates for these is presented
in Fig. 5. The tombs can be arranged on the relative time
scale as follows: Seven Brothers, Solokha and Chertomlyk,
which does not conflict with the archaeological data.
Fig. 4 14C date distribution histogram for Pazyryk group kurgans and Seven Brothers kurgans
||Central (i.e. Middle) Asia
Seven Brothers kurgans (Kuban)
Figure 5 Distribution
histogram of 14C dates for the Royal kurgans in Europe
A large territory of the Eurasian Steppe belt in the
Scythian Epoch was populated by a mosaic of nomadic cultures
called by (ancient historians and
modern scientiscts with a blend of) different
(exo- and endo- and totally random,
and even misnomer) names in different regions:
Scythians in Europe, Sauromatians in the Lower Itil and
Caspian Sea, Southern Ural regions, Tasmola and Saka
Cultures in Western Kazakhstan, Maiemir and Pazyryk Cultures
in the Sayan-Altai, Tagar Culture in Southern Siberia,
Aldy-bel Culture in Central Asia (Fig. 1). For a long time,
the chronology of these cultures was approached
differently, caused by a (grotesque)
lack of 14C dates for the European Scythian monuments, which
"chronology" was based on archaeological analogies with
different imported objects. The majority of European
Scythian monuments were excavated
destructed without preserving forensic evidence for future
studies) before 14C dating was available. The
monuments in the Asian territory contained material suitable
for 14C dating, mostly remains of wood from the kurgans'
construction. Dating of the Southern
Central Asia and Sayan-Altay regions' monuments began in the 1960es.
Now, with accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) can be
produced 14C dates for
materials from the museum collections.
Dating of the European Scythian monuments began in the
1990s. A representative series, including over 200 14C
tests for the eastern and western parts of the
Great Eurasian steppe Scythian monuments belonging to
different time periods allows a comparison of their
chronological position on a unified 14C time scale. The
histogram of the distribution of all 14C dates for both the
eastern and western parts of Eurasian steppe is presented in
Fig. 6. As seen in this histogram, beginning of
the Scythian Cultures in Europe fall some hundreds of years
later than in Asia, which does not contradict the most
recent archaeological theories. Addition of the 14C
(still missing) dates for the Chernogor type monuments in Europe
a refinement of this comparison.
Together, the 14C chronology of the Scythian monuments for
different time periods is consistent with
("the most recent ")
archaeological theories as can be seen in Tables 1-3 and results mentioned above.
In this comparison, the results on the
absolute/calendar chronology are not so important
For the most part, the monuments for the Great Steppe belt:
Kazakhstan, Southern Ural, and Lower Itil river
regions, still have not been dated, as can be seen in
Fig. 1. This fact makes difficult chronological comparison
of the nomadic cultures in the Scythian Epoch
over the whole territory of Eurasia. Hopefully, these
gaps will be filled in the future.
|Fig. 6 Distribution histogram for all
14C dates for Scythian time monuments of
(Note that the timescale stops
at 100 AD, while the kurgans kept on going up until
Series of 14C
dates for the monuments of Eurasia Scythian Epoch are consistent with
("the most recent")
existing chronological and archaeological theories. The three
periods of Scythian history confirmed in this research are
in concordance with the categorization suggested by Gryaznov (1979) based
on the synchronization typology of the key monuments:
1) The Arjan-Chernogor phase: 8th-7th century BC,
2) the Maiemir-Kelermess phase: 7th-6th century BC, and
3) the Pazyryk-Chertomlyk phase: 5th-3rd century BC.
Lack of reliable imported objects in the Scythian monuments of Central Asia and Siberia
enhances the role of scientific methods including dendrochronology and 14C dating (sometimes incorporating
wiggle matching) in piecing together a unified chronology for these cultures.
This research is supported by
INTAS, project No 97-20362
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