December 31, 2013
Skeletons Holding Hands Unearthed At 3,500-Year-Old Siberian Burial Site
Archaeologists in Siberia have discovered a 3,500-year-old burial site containing skeletons of men and women buried together, some facing each other and holding hands. Dozens of tombs had skeletons caught in these "post-mortal hugs;" some also had skeletons of men and women buried with a child. Some 600 of these tombs dating back to the Bronze Age were unearthed in the Staryi Tartas village near the city Novosibirsk in Russia.
Many theories have been fielded by the archaeologists who found them, in order to explain why the skeletons were buried in such a manner. One such theory is that, between 17th and 14th century BC, couples were probably buried together to emphasize the importance of nuclear families as a unit, even in death. Another theory suggests links to reincarnation beliefs.
“We can allege that husband died and the wife was killed to be interred with him as we see in some Scythian burials, or maybe the grave stood open for some time and they buried the other person or persons later, or maybe it was really simultaneous death… we can raise quite a variety of hypotheses, but how it was in fact, we do not know yet,” Vyacheslav Molodin, Director of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the Siberian Times.
Archaeologists hope that modern genetic tools and DNA tests will help shed some light in the next few years. Establishing genetic links between the bodies might help them understand why they were buried together.
“We found the burial of a man and a child. What is a degree of their kinship? Are they father and son? The same question arises when we found a woman and a child. It should seem obvious - she is the mother. But it may not be so. She could be an aunt, or not a relative at all.”
“Until recently archaeologists had no such opportunity, they could establish only the gender and age. But now as we have at our disposal the tools of paleogenetics, we could speak about establishing the kinship,” said Molodin.
Another fact that surprised the archeologists was that the skeletons belonged to the Andronovo culture where cremation was more common than burial.
The skeletons also appeared to have been buried together with care, and not hastily, like burials after a battle, for instance. Some tombs also contained personal belongings such as bronze decorations, ceramic pottery and armaments, including 'gaming pieces' and bone arrowheads.