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Late Scythian necropolis discovered in Crimea


From September 2020, the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences has been conducting large-scale rescue excavations at Sevastopol, on the final stretch of the Tavrida highway. The works are being carried out on the Kiel-Dere 1 burial ground discovered in 2018 as part of the survey of the future construction zone, located in Inkerman Valley on the slopes of a steep high hill. 


Late Scythian necropolis discovered in Crimea
Stone gravestones from the Kil-Dere 1 necropolis [Credit: Institute of Archaeology, RAS]




During the Roman era the Inkerman valley was densely populated and traces of these settlements have been recorded by archaeologists in the area, including several burial grounds (Sovkhoz 10, Tchernaya Rechka, Inkerman), located only a few kilometres from the present site. 


Late Scythian necropolis discovered in Crimea
Stone gravestones from the Kil-Dere 1 necropolis [Credit: Institute of Archaeology, RAS]


Unfortunately, the Kil-Dere 1 necropolis has been severely destroyed by looting that was carried out over the whole site for several years. Before the beginning of the research archaeologists counted more than 120 plunder pits, some of which appear to be quite recent. In fact, of the 232 burials examined thus far by the expedition, only 15 were untouched by looters. In this state of affairs, the expedition faced the difficult task of documenting as fully as possible the funerary structures, anthropological remains and the funerary paraphernalia remaining in the disturbed graves, allowing only a partial recreation of the original appearance of the burials.



Late Scythian necropolis discovered in Crimea
Stone gravestones from the Kil-Dere 1 necropolis [Credit: Institute of Archaeology, RAS]




The majority of the burials excavated were subterranean tombs with one or two chambers, some containing stone sarcophagi. A single cremation burial with the remains of an incinerated corpse placed in an amphora was also found. The boundaries and spatial organization of the burial ground were also determined: the western boundary was defined by a natural rock outcrop; the southern boundary by the southern slope of the hill; the eastern boundary by the slope of the existing road; and the northern boundary was at the foot of the hill, where excavations will continue. In the southern part of the burial ground there is a clear row of burials facing west-east. The situation is different in the central part of the burial ground, at the top of the hill, where the density of the burials increases and they are located one above the other.


Late Scythian necropolis discovered in Crimea
Looted burials at the Kil-Dere 1 necropolis [Credit: Institute of Archaeology, RAS]


In the southern part of graves Nos. 2, 3, 4, 6 stone gravestones were found in situ. In grave No. 6, a stone rectangular base with an oval hollow for sacrificial food was placed near the tombstone. In the course of further work, 63 tombstones were discovered with various motifs: anthropomorphic steles, tombstones with masks, and bases for steles. 


Late Scythian necropolis discovered in Crimea
Looter's pit at the Kil-Dere 1 necropolis [Credit: Institute of Archaeology, RAS]




Stone tombstones were typically placed on the graves of noble and wealthy people. The large number of gravestones in the Kiel-Dere 1 necropolis reflects its special status in this part of the Chersonesos and the entire Southwestern Crimea. Indeed, only 15 similar gravestones have been found at other cemeteries, making this the most significant collection ever obtained from the "Late Scythian" period in the Crimea.


Late Scythian necropolis discovered in Crimea
Pottery recovered from the Kil-dere 1 necropolis [Credit: Institute of Archaeology, RAS]


More than 1200 individual finds have been found at the burial site so far, including precious metal finds. Ceramic material is represented by red-lacquered vessels made on a potter's wheel, such as jugs, plates and bowls. Some of the plates are decorated with stamps, most often with "planta pedis" motifs.


Late Scythian necropolis discovered in Crimea
Aerial view of the Kil-Dere 1 necropolis [Credit: Institute of Archaeology, RAS]


By January 2021, 6,345 square metres of the necropolis had been examined, which is 75% of the entire necropolis. The archaeological materials obtained during the excavations are an important source of historical information for the study of "barbarian population" of Southwestern Crimea in the 2nd - 4th centuries AD. These materials testify to the fact that the burial ground began to be used at the turn of the 1st-2nd centuries AD up until the end of the 4th century AD, during the so-called "Great Migration of Nations". 
TANN

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