The intriguing find of the remains of a 4,500-year-old ‘noblewoman’ clutching a young child in a grave was made was made in the Republic of Khakassia. This discovery from ancient Okunev Culture is providing tantalising new clues about the Siberian ethnic grouping most closely related to Native Americans. In other words, it was ancestors of the Okunevs who populated America, evidently using primitive boats to venture to the ice-covered Beringia land bridge some 12,600 years ago.
Russian scientists have revealed they discovered dead woman’s treasures include an incense burner decorated by solar symbols, 1,500 beads that once adorned her costume, and 100 pendants made from animal teeth.
There is particular excitement about the incense burner because it contains sun-shaped faces which match previously-discovered ancient rock art in Siberia. The clay incense burner bearing three sun-shaped facial images, recovered from the grave, is the most important find of all.
The head of the expedition Dr Andrey Polyakov said the grave of the ‘noblewoman’ dated back to the Early Bronze Age, between the 25th and 18th centuries BC.
The location where the finds were made is known as the Itkol II burial site, in the Shira district of Khakassia. Excavations began here in 2008 – with some 560 finds in total so far – but there is a sense that the best is yet to come.
Rare image of a bull having rectangular body carved on one of the stones is known one the territory of modern-day Kazakhstan and not common on Southern Siberia. It suggests Okunev people migrated to Khakassia from the south. Does this mean modern-day Native Americans originated from Kazakhstan and not southern Siberia, as previously thought?
The culture owes its name to the locality of Okunev, in the south of Khakassia, where the first burial site of this type was excavated in 1928. The Okunev Steles – anthropomorphous stone columns several meters tall – are the most widely known monument attributed to this culture.
The top of these steles has the shape of a bird’s beak. The middle part is decorated with images of one or several anthropomorphous creatures, while the lower part resembles the open mouth of a snake.
Two years ago local fisherman pulled out of the water a 4000 year old unique pagan god carved in horn but later fossilised. The figurine had almond-shaped eyes, a large mouth with full lips, and a ferocious facial expression. The find was believed to be from the Okunev culture.
Photography © IIMK RAS