Unusual Medieval burials found on Yamal peninsula

Two burials of individuals in a crouched position were found on the Yur-Yakha III site in the Yamal peninsula. The burials dated to 11th century are believed to be ritual or even sacrifices.

Excavations at the site (by Andrey Plekhanov)

The individuals – one male and three females – were aged between 18-20 years old and all had serious diseases. The burial, foetal position, suggests that rituals, perhaps even sacrifices, were involved in the deaths of these nomads. Archaeologists know no similar Medieval burials from the area, where mainly individuals in extended position are found.

Female buried in a foetal position (by Andrey Plekhanov)

Archaeological examination revealed that the man’s body was set on fire after death. The man certainly did not die in a fire, and his body was  set to fire but not a very strong one as his bones remained almost intact. Such a ritual was not previously recorded in Medieval burial sites in the region.

Second female burial in a foetal position (by Andrey Plekhanov)

The man was aged between 45-50 at the time of death. He suffered from hyperostosis – excessive growth of bone tissue. All the individuals suffered from various health conditions, including shoulder dislocation, teeth anomalies, sinusitis, post-partum trauma of the sacrum and many others. According to researchers, the recorded disorders were typical for their time, but for four burials it is a very large number of diseases. One of the women probably died after giving birth.

Artefacts found in the graves, including bronze bracelet with bear image, silver pendant, ring, bronze pendant, knife and fragments of facial mask made of animal skin (by Andrey Plekhanov)

Two of the graves were robbed many centuries ago, but in the others important finds were made. One of the young women was buried with bronze bracelet with a bear image, a knife with a bronze handle, a yangach (for removing snow from clothes), a tanning scraper,  bronze and silver pendants, a temporal ring, kind of facial mask made of animal skin.  Fragments of pottery from the funeral meal were also found. The other young woman too only an iron knife to her afterlife.

(after Andrey Plekhanov & The Siberian Times)

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