Archaeological discoveries in Tuva: excavations of the Ala-Tey and Terezin cemeteries of the Xiongnu period in 2015–2016

Abstract

Archaeological sites in the territory of Tuva possibly related to the Xiongnu culture include the burial sites of Bay-Dag 2, Aymyrlyg-XXXI, Urbiun-III, and the recently discovered burial sites of Terezin and Ala-Tey, all located in the Ulug-Khem (Yenisei) River basin, at the entrance to the Sayan canyon of Yenisei. This critical location marks the start of the route to the Minusinsk Hollow through the Sayan Mountains and possesses the largest and best grazing areas in Central Tuva. About 50 flat graves of the Xiongnu period have been excavated at Ala-Tey and Terezin: burial types include stone cists and pits faced with stone or wood. Burial positions were mainly stretched, supine but several burials feature flexed legs. Each grave contained either one or two ceramic vessels. Unlike Ala-Tey, at Terezin, weaponry was found, namely, a bone bow strengthener and an arrowhead. Burials at both sites include many decorations for belts and clothing, beads, pendants, earrings, Chinese wu zhu coins, and Western Han mirrors and their fragments. The openwork bronze belt plaques represent true masterpieces of ancient nomadic art. Artifact types and AMS dates suggest these sites may date to the second-first centuries BC.

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Correspondence to Marina Kilunovskaya.

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Kilunovskaya, M., Leus, P. Archaeological discoveries in Tuva: excavations of the Ala-Tey and Terezin cemeteries of the Xiongnu period in 2015–2016. asian archaeol 1, 45–62 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41826-018-0004-5

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Keywords

  • Xiongnu
  • Tuva
  • Late Scythian archaeology
  • The Ulug-Khem culture
  • Stone cist burials
  • Ordos bronzes
  • Openwork belt plaques