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Administrative divisions of Kurgan Oblast • Chim-Kurgan • FC Tobol Kurgan • Glory Kurgan • Haga Kurgan • Håga Kurgan • Ipatovo kurgan • Issyk kurgan • Kamish Kurgan • Katta-Kurgan • Kurgan (Highlander) • Kurgan (cattle) • Kurgan (disambiguation) • Kurgan Airport • Kurgan Culture • Kurgan Kara-Tapa • Kurgan Oblast • Kurgan Oblast Duma • Kurgan Province • Kurgan West • Kurgan hypothesis • Kurgan stelae • Kurgan, Kurgan Oblast • Kzyl-Kurgan • Maikop kurgan • Mamayev Kurgan • Proto-kurgan • Shchuchye, Kurgan Oblast • Sufi-Kurgan • Taldy-Kurgan Oblast • Thracian tomb of Aleksandrovo kurgan • Tillya-Bay-Kurgan • Uch-Kurgan • Yar-Kurgan
||It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Tumulus. (Discuss) Proposed since October 2011.|
Kurgan is the Turkic term for a tumulus; mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves, originating with its use in Soviet archaeology, now widely used for tumuli in the context of Eastern European and Central Asian archaeology.
Kurgans were built in the Eneolithic, Bronze, Iron, Antiquity and Middle Ages, with old traditions still active in Southern Siberia and Central Asia. Kurgan cultures are divided archeologically into different sub-cultures, such as Timber Grave, Pit Grave, Scythian, Sarmatian, Hunnish and Kuman-Kipchak.
Kurgan barrows were characteristic of Bronze Age peoples, from the Altay Mountains to the Caucasus, Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria. Burial mounds are complex structures with internal chambers. Within the burial chamber at the heart of the kurgan, elite individuals were buried with grave goods and sacrificial offerings, sometimes including horses and chariots. Kurgans were used in the Ukrainian and Russian Steppes but spread into eastern, central, and northern Europe in the third millennium BC.
The monuments of these cultures coincide with Scythian-Saka-Siberian monuments. Scythian-Saka-Siberian monuments have common features, and sometimes common genetic roots. Also associated with these spectacular burial mounds are the Pazyryk, an ancient people who lived in the Altai Mountains lying in Siberian Russia on the Ukok Plateau, near the borders with China, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. The archaeological site on the Ukok Plateau associated with the Pazyryk culture is included in the Golden Mountains of Altai UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Scythian-Saka-Siberian classification includes monuments from the 8th century to the 3rd century BC. This period is called the Early or Ancient Nomads epoch. "Hunnic" monuments date from the 3rd century BC to the 6th century AD, and other Turkic ones from the 6th century AD to the 13th century AD, leading up to the Mongolian epoch. In all periods, the development of the kurgan structure tradition in the various ethnocultural zones can be distinguished by common components or typical features in the construction of the monuments. They include:
Depending on a combination of elements, each historical and cultural nomadic zone has its architectural peculiarities. The structures of the earlier Neolithic period from the 4th to the 3rd millenniums BC, and Bronze Age until the first millennium BC display continuity of the archaic forming methods driven by the common ritual-mythological ideas.
Pre-Scythian-Saka-Sibirian kurgans were surface kurgans and underground wooden or stone tombs constructed on the surface or underground and then covered with a kurgan. The kurgans of Bronze culture across Europe and Asia were similar to housing; the methods of house construction applied to the construction of the tombs. Kurgan Ak-su - Aüly (12th - 11th centuries BC) with a tomb covered by a pyramidal timber roof under a kurgan has space surrounded by double walls serving as a bypass corridor. This design has analogies with Begazy, Sanguyr, Begasar, and Dandybay kurgans. These building traditions survived into the early Middle Ages, to the 8th-10th centuries AD. The Bronze Pre-Scythian-Saka-Sibirian culture developed in close similarity with the cultures of Yenisei, Altai, Kazakhstan, southern, and southeast Amur regions. In the second millennium BC appeared so-called "kurgans-maidans". On a prepared platform were made earthen images of a swan, a turtle, a snake, or other image, with and without burials. Similar structures were found in Ukraine, in South America, and in India.
Some kurgans had facing or tiling. One tomb in Ukraine has 29 large limestone slabs set on end in a circle underground. They were decorated with carved geometrical ornamentation of rhombuses, triangles, crosses, and on one slab, figures of people. Another example has an earthen kurgan under a wooden cone of thick logs topped by an ornamented cornice up to 2 m in height.
The Scythian-Saka-Sibirian kurgans in the Early Iron Age are notable for their grandiose mounds throughout the Eurasian continent. The base diameters of the kurgans reach 500 m in Siberia (Great Salbyk kurgan of the settled Tagar culture); in neighboring China they reach 5000 m (kurgan of the first emperor of China in the 3rd century BC near Sian) (Mason, 1997: 71). Kurgans could be extremely tall: the Great Salbyk kurgan is 22 – 27 m (the height of a 7-story building); the kurgan of the Chinese emperor is over 100 m. The presence of such structures in Siberia testifies to a high standard of living and a developed construction culture of the nomads.
In the Bronze Age were built kurgans with stone reinforcements. Some of them are believed to be Scythian burials with built-up soil, and embankments reinforced with stone (Olhovsky, 1991).
The most obvious archeological remains associated with the Scythians are the great burial mounds, some over 20 m high, which dot the Ukrainian and Russian steppe belts and extend in great chains for many kilometers along ridges and watersheds. From them much has been learnt about Scythian life and art.
Females were buried in about 20% of graves of the lower and middle Volga river region during the Yamna and Poltavka cultures. Two thousand years later, females dressed as warriors were buried in the same region. David Anthony notes, "About 20% of Scythian-Sarmatian "warrior graves" on the lower Don and lower Volga contained females dressed for battle as if they were men, a phenomenon that probably inspired the Greek tales about the Amazons." A near-equal ratio of male-to-female graves was found in the eastern Manych steppes and Kuban-Azov steppes during the Yamna culture. In Ukraine, the ratio was intermediate between the other two regions.
The tradition of kurgan burials touched not only the peoples who buried their deceased in kurgan structures, but also neighboring peoples without this tradition. Various Thracian kings and chieftains were buried in elaborate mound tombs found in modern Bulgaria; Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, was buried in a magnificent kurgan in present Greece; and Midas, a king of ancient Phrygia, was buried in a kurgan near his ancient capital of Gordion
The Kurgan hypothesis postulates that the Proto-Indo-Europeans were the bearers of the Kurgan culture of the Black Sea and the Caucasus and west of the Urals. The hypothesis was introduced by Marija Gimbutas in 1956, combining kurgan archaeology with linguistics to locate the origins of the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) speaking peoples. She tentatively named the culture "Kurgan" after their distinctive burial mounds and traced its diffusion into Europe. This hypothesis has had a significant impact on Indo-European studies.
Those scholars who follow Gimbutas identify a "Kurgan culture" as reflecting an early Indo-European ethnicity which existed in the steppes and southeastern Europe from the fifth to third millennia BC. Marija Gimbutas' Kurgan hypothesis is opposed by Paleolithic Continuity Theory, which associates Pit Grave and Sredny Stog Kurgan cultures with Turkic peoples, and the Anatolian hypothesis, and is also opposed by the Black Sea deluge theory. In Kurgan cultures, most of the burials were in kurgans, either clan kurgans or individual ones. Most prominent leaders were buried in individual kurgans, now called "Royal kurgans", which attract the greatest attention and publicity.
Some excavated kurgans include:
Undated unattributed unexplored kurgan on the west side of the Samara Bend, Russian Federation, with a visible tunnel made by grave robbers.
Kurgan building has a long history in Poland. The Polish word for kurgan is kopiec or kurhan.
Some excavated kurgans in Poland:
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