Origin of the Hsiung-nu


TSARAM project

2000 Field Season -- NEW!


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2000 Field Season

This work included the excavation of the upper sections of the central barrow of Complex No. 7 and the excavation of three smaller burials neighboring the central barrow to the west. The excavation was conducted systematically and all structures and objects were carefully excavated, mapped, photographed, and recorded.

Construction of the Central Barrow of Complex No. 7

The surface of the barrow consisted of a soil platform of roughly square shape, covered by clay and having the dimensions of 28 x 29 meters and the height of approximately 1 meter. The construction was sided with stones. After clearing overlying vegetation and accumulated soil, the surface visible structure was carefully excavated to reveal a large burial pit feature near the contemporary surface soil level. The area of the pit feature quite nearly approximated the extent of the mound fmeasuring 26 x 26 meters. The excavation of the central burial structure followed the burial pit to a depth of seven meters below the surface. The burial pit walls were vertical near the pit opening and showed a slight slope inwards as the excavation progressed downward. The pit was characterized by several stratum of soil which consisted of mixtures of gray sandy-loam with traces of yellow clay or of yellow sand mixed with small amounts of gray sandy-loam. A single longitudinal and seven perpendicular partitions divided the upper section of the burial pit into nine distinct compartments. The single longitudinal partition that divided the upper burial section into east and west sections was discovered to extend into the 20 m "dromos" (entrance way) as well. Each partition was constructed from wooden beams stacked one upon another sometimes having a thickness of two to three logs. The partitions were supported by stones, and compacted soil and clay.

At a depth of seven meters, our excavations revealed a layer composed of large stones and wooden logs covering the extent of the floor of the upper section of the tomb. This layer is presumed to overlie the main burial chamber and in the soil immediately above this layer our team discovered fragments of white jade, ceramic sherds, and human and animal bone. A complete plan of this section of the burial structure was made noting the location and depths of artifacts and skeletal remains. All finds were collected for laboratory analyses along with radiocarbon, dendro, and soil samples. At this point, excavation was halted to be continued during the 2001 fieldseason.

Excavation of Exterior Burials

As noted above, burials having evidence for human sacrifice were found ringing the central barrow of Complex No. 7 at Tsaraam. Five of these were excavated during the 1998-1999 field seasons and three more burials were excavated during the 2000 field season. Each of the three burials excavated in 2000 (numbers 12-14) were located 25 - 29 m to the west and southwest of the central barrow and were arranged in a line running north-south.

Burial no. 12

Surface features were destroyed by agricultural tillage. The internal construction of the burial consisted of a stone cist at the bottom of the burial pit inside of which was found a wooden frame-work enclosure containing a wooden coffin. The burial had clearly been disturbed by robbing in the past and the contents of the coffin included human bones, iron arrowheads, an iron knife, iron belt plaques, bone and horn pieces of composite re-curved bows, and bone artifacts resembling chopsticks.

Burial no. 13

The surface feature prior to excavation consisted of a small rounded mound of stones having a diameter of 8 m with a depression in the center. At the base of the burial pit, stone slabs were arranged in the form of a lined cist and human bone was found among the slabs. Below the cist there was found evidence of a wooden coffin with no remaining artifacts. This burial is potentially one of those excavated by J. Talko-Gryntsevich in 1903.

Burial no. 14

No surface feature remained suggesting that it might have been destroyed by plowing. The internal construction consisted of a stone-lined cist and a wooden coffin. The cist was built of vertically arranged stone slabs and the coffin was made of boards having a thickness of from 5-6 cm. Two long boards covered the opening of the coffin lengthwise. Again, the burial was disturbed by pillaging and finds included human bone, ceramic fragments, and fragments of iron and bone implements. Burials 12-14 are interpreted as sacrificial interments associated with the elite central barrow and contained the skeletons of male individuals of different ages at the time of death.

Field Work for the 2001 Field Season

The third and final stage of field investigation of the Trans-Baikal Archaeological Expedition at Tsaraam is planned for the 2001 field season.

corrected by William Honeycherch