Seids, Nuraghe, menhirs: what do they contribute?
Stonehenge — the most famous of the megaliths — for centuries stirred the imagination of people. But thousands more not less mysterious prehistoric stone “sphinxes”, is puzzling to the researchers, scattered around the world. Many of these mysterious structures and on the territory of Russia. Alexander Gay, a prominent Russian expert on Eneolithic and bronze age in South-Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, I am sure: there is not enough for one generation.
What are the megaliths and how they differ from each other?
Constructions from huge stones, slabs and blocks were erected by different peoples and in different epochs. The pyramids of Egypt or the temple in Belbek — also megaliths. Just call them so is not accepted. Megalithic research and in wide use called, usually stone monuments of prehistoric peoples who have not reached the level of barbarity or civilization.
In France, on the Atlantic coast — the whole field from thousands of these megaliths, built in parallel rows for miles. In addition, the megaliths are of different types: Nordic seids, the Nuraghe of Sardinia, the Atlantic corridor of the tomb of Europe, which is often now called in Breton Karami; menhirs — standing stones-stelae; stone circles — stone circles; dolmens — tombs with pillars or walls of verticalnaya, usually covered with a flat roof.
What time is the majority of them?
In different parts of the world date is different. In Western Europe, in the UK, Ireland, megaliths originated in the fourth Millennium BC, and may, and at the end of the fifth Millennium BC. We have the oldest megaliths later: the end of the fourth or beginning of the second Millennium BC. The main problem — who and why built them. One of the most mysterious megaliths menhirs remain. In France, on the Atlantic coast — the whole field from thousands of these megaliths, built in parallel rows for miles. For what they were intended — can only guess.
Dolmens, no doubt, were tombs for a small group of people, family, genus. But why our ancestors put so much work into these graves and so they were issued? How I managed to implement this scope of work? There are no answers. Judge for yourself: the hardest plate weighing from two to twenty tons were transported through the mountains to a distance of four kilometers. It was very difficult and, of course, amazing.
One of the most interesting clusters of megaliths?
This Caucasian dolmens, distribution territory covering the Northern and southern slopes of the Caucasus mountains in modern border of Krasnodar Krai, Karachay-Cherkessia, Adygea. Especially on the black sea coast from Novorossiysk to Sochi and boundaries with neighbouring Abkhazia. According to various estimates, in the Caucasus there are from two to three and a half thousand dolmens.
In recent years began to open megalithic monuments and in the Urals. There is and menhirs, and in the region of Turgoyak lake — the remains of semi-subterranean buildings, laid out a fairly large stone blocks. However, they have just started to learn. Takes years of work to get at least some data about who and when built these buildings.
Why Caucasian dolmens — the most impressive megalithic culture in our territory?
First, they are very expressive. Secondly, I wonder about their origin. They are more recent than the European, and at the same time on design features close to them. And here lies the main mystery. Who built them? Introduced the “dolmen idea” to us from Europe? Or arose independently? But why then are our megaliths look like European? Maybe the reason for the similarity in the General rules for the treatment of large stone blocks and the similarity of views of people about how should look like a burial structure?
Many hypotheses. Some connect the appearance of dolmens in the South of Russia with the mysterious tribes of cashcow, came to us from Asia Minor and modern Turkey. Other groups of immigrants, merchants or travelers from the Mediterranean, penetrated into the Black sea. There is this idea that the dolmens are monuments to the ancestors of Abkhaz-Adyghe people. The Circassians have preserved many legends and myths associated with the dolmens: seemingly this is the home crafty dwarfs that led them to build a tribe of giants. Not less common ground at the dolmens and burial monuments of the black sea steppes, where there are stone boxes and stone circles. Don’t rule out that they left a “legacy” groups of ancient Indo-Europeans. Here on this problem and we have been working for many years.
And that often the archaeologists find inside the dolmens?
Rectangular or trapezoidal burial chamber and… a mix of bones from different eras. During the excavation of the dolmen in Arkhipo-Osipovka Gelendzhik near, have found a layer of human bones of up to forty centimetres thick! There was buried about eighty people. During the excavation we find the parting utensils for food or drink, bone and bronze ornaments, tools, weapons — bronze and iron knives, awls, spearheads and arrows. But in the dolmens in the villages of Okara and Usher in neighboring Abkhazia found bronze axes, hooks, pins, temporal decoration in the form of twisted rings of silver, gold and bronze.
Despite the apparent simplicity of this equipment, it helped the archaeologists to make important conclusions about the time of the erection of the dolmens, to determine what the ancient peoples continued to use them to their graves.
What we have today is exploring the megaliths?
The last decade two large expeditions: North-Caucasus Institute of archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, headed by your humble servant, and Western-Caucasian Institute of history of material culture. It is led by my colleague from St. Petersburg Victor A. Trifonov. We work closely and in General, results from each other do not hide.
During your expeditions have found out so far?
While we only assume, as erected megalithic structures. Upon delivery of the slabs and blocks of stone quarries, places which are already defined by geologists, it is most likely used draft power of oxen, and round pads-rollers made of logs. When assembling structures erected earth mounds to facilitate lifting of heavy slabs. A large group of people could raise the walls of the dolmen manually, and then the earthen ramp onto the massive roof. When viewed from the surface of the plates are detected and treatment methods, giving the stones the correct form.
And how is the process of searching for megaliths?
Excavations conducted during the summer months. At our campsite, which we from year to year split on a large meadow in the center of the cluster of dolmens, there are about thirty-five people, and the excavations of dolmens separate divergent groups of three to seven people. First, find an interesting stone, inspect, clean start, and suddenly it’s not just a block, and part of the collapse of the dolmen or the sanctuary. Is laid after the excavation, purposefully removed his entire area, to explore not only the camera but also the entire structure that surrounds it. Usually, the dolmen is located in the center of the stone mounds bounded by a circle of plates (cromlech), and the entrance has a patio area, where also was a place for religious ceremony.
We are digging down into the chamber of the dolmen, recording all findings, secertive and photographing the accumulation of bones or entire skeletons and their accompanying items. Then things sent to the Museum, but bone remains — a study in anthropology. The latter give the conclusion about the number of buried, their sex and age, and sometimes can tell you about diseases, diet, work activities and causes of death of ancient humans.
Since 2003, we have unearthed ten of the dolmens. And this is exactly how last summer was a unique dolmen-monolith consisting of separate plates, as usual, and entirely carved into the rocky cliff.
Were there any unexpected findings?
Undoubtedly the most remarkable discovery — the discovery of narrative images on the stones of the dolmen courts. In one of the excavated dolmens Viktor Trifonov found images of animals, and we dug up the plate with drawings of dancing men. The question arises: why is this petroglyph with the men associated with burial design? Depicts whether he is dancing during a funeral ceremony, mythological scenes, or something else? This is truly an amazing discovery! Because the dolmens still found only a simple, though no less mysterious symbols: a cross, a cross within a circle, or simply a zigzag line.
Many have not yet been excavated dolmens in Russia?
Only in the valley of a small mountain river Abin, where our expedition, since the late nineteenth century was recorded 8-10 monuments, numbering to ninety dolmen constructions of various degrees of preservation. Now here, we already have twenty-dolmen sites, and the number of identified structures exceeds two hundred. So there is enough work for more than one generation of archaeologists.