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881

Introduction

With the loss of the past,
now become “insignificant,” devalued,
and incapable of revaluation.
Carl Gustav Jung

It is no secret that the main archaeological finds in ancient burials (and, most likely, in settlement complexes) are organic materials such as wood, leather, fabrics, various mats, plants, seeds, food, paints, etc., which would not have survived under normal conditions. As a rule, archaeologists have to deal with “imperishable” objects, which, however, cannot serve as an objective representation of the vanished cultures.* We can only learn how much has been lost when archaeologists come across burial sites such as the famous “frozen” graves of the Pazyryk culture.

*Although modern science and technology are capable of restoring much of what has been, seemingly forever, lost (of which there are numerous examples in the world and Russian archaeology)

“To measure an alien culture by the number of secure monuments is entirely wrong,” wrote Lev Gumilev. “There may be a magnificent civilization built on the basis of non-persistent materials like leather, furs, tree and silk, and a primitive one that uses stone and noble metals. The former will leave no trace while the latter will abound in artifacts” [1993, p. 31]. This, somewhat exaggerated, point of view is, however, true when it comes to the vast world of Eurasian nomadic herdsmen. Had it not been for happy coincidences (there is no better word for it), this world, in all its diversity and cultural wealth, would have disappeared forever. But nothing disappears without a trace, and, contrary to all laws of nature yet thanks to nature, the culture of the ancient Central Asian herdsmen has survived intact, down to a single little piece, in the “frozen” graves of the Altai Mountains, in the sand-covered burial grounds of Xinjiang, and in the deep tunnels of the Noin-Ula mounds in the north of Mongolia.

Until recently, this world, of which there is no written evidence, seemed hopelessly lost. The nomadic herdsmen of Central Asia were a persistent annoyance to travelers, who risked their lives, overcoming great difficulties, to explore these lands, which had been terra incognita until the end of the 19th century. The explorers, who were energetic and well-educated men, fearless in their insatiable desire to know the unknown, looked at the nomads of Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet as underdeveloped people who live solely for their herds, forgetting to take care of themselves and their families. The nomads’ life seemed “unpretentious,” and their only concern, i.e., taking care about their herds, did not require much effort. In the travelers’ opinion, the nomads disdained any physical work, considering richness (in a very peculiar sense of the word) and idleness the greatest good. The travelers were amazed that the life of the owners of huge herds with thousands of heads of cattle was no different from that of their servants.

Nikolay M. Przhevalsky, who devoted his entire life to the study of remote parts of Central Asia, got the following impressions from his journeys, “...due to the monotony of physical conditions, the nomads' life has not changed since antiquity. Today, like in those days, the felt yurt is their dwelling; the milk and meat of their herds is their food; the ancient nomad was as avid a rider and as a lazy a person as the present one. The desert peoples came and went, displacing one another, and so did the religions, changing from fetishism and shamanism to Buddhism, but the very life of the nomads remained unchanged—this is the peak of the Asian conservatism” [1881, p. 10].

The Taoist monk Chang Chun, who undertook in 1219—1220 a difficult journey from Beijing to Mongolia and then traveled across Siberia, Altai and Tianshan to get to Samarkand, left melancholic poetry lines devoted to the herdsmen of the Asian mountain pastures. His lines literally repeat the words that Przhevalsky would say seven centuries after, “Everywhere the eye has reached, there are endless mountains and rivers, wind and fog, and flowing rivers. What for did the Creator of the Universe commanded the people of these lands to graze horses and bullocks? They drink blood and eat wool, as in ancient times; they wear tall hats and tie their hair not like people in China. The holy sages were unable to bequeath them written education, and they have lived carelessly for centuries, contending themselves” [Xi Yu Ji, 1995, p. 301].

However, it was not always so. The archaeological discoveries that accompanied the geographical ones allowed researchers to see the previously unknown pages in the ancient history of Central Asia, when this region was inhabited by predominantly Caucasoid tribes, who spoke Indo-European languages. The tribes' obvious bonds with the ancient civilizations were, in some way, a rich heritage, and the culture of the population inhabiting these lands was distinguished by an exquisite adaptability to the harsh local climatic conditions and lifestyle. Many of the cultural achievements of the nomadic medieval Turkic and Mongolian civilizations, which are known from the written documents left by their delighted eyewitnesses such as Guillaume de Rubrouck, Marco Polo, or Plano Carpini, had been prepared in the previous, “Iranian” period in the history of Central Asia. This is evidenced by the treasures of the “frozen” Pazyryk graves.

Interestingly, according to T.A. Chikisheva, among the Pazyryk culture bearers of the Altai Mountains, there were representatives of the relict ancient Iranian type. L.L. Barkova and I.I. Gokhman rightly see images of these people on the famous felt carpet from the Fifth Pazyryk mound, “... all of them—the goddess sitting in a chair, the horse riders, the beastly man...—have pronounced Southern Caucasoid facial features” [1994, p. 27]. We see the same faces in the heart of Asia—in the Bronze- and Iron-Age Xinjiang mummies from Hami, Cherchen, Subashi, Lobnor... Culture was not passed like a baton in relay race; it came together with its bearers.

Many of the achievements associated with the ancient states of Southwest and Central Asia became part of the culture and life of the peoples that settled far to the east from the borders of China. Thus, together with the Pazyryks, Altai got thoroughbred horses raised in the regions of Central Asia that are favorable for horse breeding [Vitt, 1952, pp. 163—206]. These horses, well known throughout the ancient world, which resembled the modern Akhal-Teke and Arabian horses [Alekseev, 1990, pp. 162—163], were found not only in the “royal” Pazyryk mounds but also on the Ukok plateau, in the burials of noble warriors [Grebnev and Vasiliev, 1994, p. 106—111].

The Pazyryk culture preserved much of what had been brought to Altai from other regions, which fact largely ensured the unique “blossoming” of this culture, unparalleled in the Hun or Turkic epochs, or in the ethnographic past of the peoples who inhabited the Altai Mountains. No wonder that, when creating their “modern mythology” (according to M. Eliade, [2000, pp. 171—172]), the Altaians and Kazakhs want to see the Pazyryks as their ancestors (see, e.g., [Soenov and Ebel, 1994, pp. 52—55]). Being related to the well-known ancient culture would mean a mystical bond with its achievements and suggest that a nation has a history going deeply back to antiquity.

Understanding an archaeological culture as a part of our historical past cannot be limited to tangible things only. “In symbolic thinking, the world is 'open' as well as 'live': an object is never only itself (as in modern thinking), but a sign or center of something else, some reality that is transcendent with respect to the existential characteristic of the object” [Eliade, 1999, p. 224].

**Here, the term mentality is used in the sense in which it was understood by representatives of the French Annales School, who introduced this term to historical research as far back as in the mid-1950s. According to Georges Duby, mentality is a system (namely, a system) in motion, which is thus the object of history.
However, all of its elements are closely linked; it is a system of images and concepts that are combined differently in the different groups or strata that make up a society, but always underlie the people's understanding of this world and their place in this world and, therefore, determine the people's actions and behaviors” [1991, p. 52]

The Pazyryk culture has been studied long and thoroughly enough to try to understand its mentality**, i.e., get in touch with its spirituality, or the system of closely related images and ideas that the Pazyryks relied on in their behavior, which ultimately found expression in their understanding of this world and their place in this world. It would be impossible to understand the Pazyryk culture, like any other ancient culture, in all its facets, i.e., to explain the essence of things and rituals, unless researchers are themselves part of this culture; of course, one should make no mistake on that score. However, by recreating the culture's material objects—the only evidence we have—we can come closer to understanding the culture itself. In a culture with no writing, material things are, according to Yu. Lotman, “...sacred mnemonic symbols that are included not in a verbal text, but in that of the ritual. Moreover, they retain a certain freedom with respect to this text: their material existence extends beyond the ritual” [1996, p. 351]. The intact Ukok burials, which have survived in ice in sealed larch chambers and woodblocks, make a complete illusion of participation in the events that took place 2,500 years ago. Here, archaeology comes in contact with ethnography because almost all the things made of wood, fabric, leather, felt, or horn look as if they have just been picked out from an ethnographic collection. The homeliness of the things, the possibility of identifying and establishing connections between the various objects found in the burial chamber, and a large number of small details make Pazyryk a “live” culture. The collections of unique objects associated with the Pazyryk culture, which has preserved in the “frozen” graves of Altai, make it possible to ask new questions and look for new approaches as well as expand opportunities for comparative analysis. This book considers only a few components of the culture, which reflect the worldview of the Pazyryks, i.e., their clothes, dishes, felts, embalming and tattoos, attitude towards women, botanical knowledge, development of natural resources, and lifestyle. This choice is largely based on the availability of new and original materials, which allow a better understanding of these aspects of the ancient culture, which are important to its creators.

This work is based on the traditional principles underlying humanities research: it was important to reveal what the Pazyryk culture has in common with the contemporary world of other cultures and civilizations and the cultures of the preceding and subsequent periods, i.e., to identify the background, which clearly shows the unique features of the Pazyryk culture.

The main research method is a comparative historical analysis of different types of sources. First of all, these are archaeological sources such as materials and studies on the ancient cultures that exited synchronously with Pazyryk on the adjacent territories, i.e., the narrow circle of the immediate neighbors. A wider range of sources embraces all the herdsmen cultures of the Eurasian steppes, up to the near-Black-Sea Greek city-states and Achaemenid states in the west and China in the east.

Another important source for the comparative analysis are ethnographic materials and research. The materials of the Pazyryk culture give the best possible evidence for comparison with the finds that are known, from collections and publications, to belong to the medieval and traditional cultures of South, West and East Siberia (the historical fates of the indigenous peoples of this region are known to be closely related to one another), Central and Southwest Asia, Mongolia, and China. This range of cultures and peoples might seem too broad; however, we are dealing with a multicomponent and mobile society, whose culture had formed from various sources and had become an integral part of many cultures of later periods.

Communication with the outside world is one of the main conditions for herdsmen to survive [Khazanov, 1975; 1984; Masson, 1980; 1989; Chvyr, 1996; etc.]. The outside world for the Pazyryks was the hunter and angler tribes of West Siberia, hersmen and farmers of Xinjiang, Tuva, Kazakhstan, and western Mongolia, and the contemporary state of China and Central and Southwest Asia. “The two ancient civilizations—European and Chinese—were developing at the two edges of the Old World; Altai was in-between,” as it seemed to G.N. Potanin [1912, p. 16]. The world of the ancient oriental civilizations and Central Asian states was partly the Pazyryks' world although there is no reason to believe that the Pazyryk culture belonged to the Iranian world only. The latter had the most noticeable impact, but it was not the only one. Ancient China also left a mark on the culture of the Altai herdsmen. Thus, there seems to be compelling evidence of the contacts between the Pazyryks and the peoaple of the ancient kingdoms Chu and Yan Qin (see, e.g., [Juliano, 1991, pp. 25—30]). Starting from S.V. Kiselev [1951, p. 356], researchers have been trying to trace the Chinese influence in the Pazyryk art [Perevodchikova, 1994, pp. 128—138; Yatsenko, 1996, pp. 154—158]. The Pazyryk culture may be related to that of the taiga Ugric population in West Siberia as the former was influenced, presumably in the early Iron Age, by the Iranian culture. The Iranian stratum in the culture of the Khanty and Mansi has survived to the present day [Gemuev, 1990, pp. 190—195]. The “speaking” world of Avesta, Herodotus' History, Xenophon's Cyropaedia, Chinese treatises and myths, the Rig Veda, the Atharva Veda, and other sources helps better perceive the spirit of the times when the Pazyryk culture existed in the Altai Mountains. When using these sources, I am fully aware of the fact that written sources are not an absolute truth to verify and interpret archaeological facts; these sources are very specific and often give a heavily transformed picture of historical reality [Lelekov, 1987, pp. 29—30; Vyazovikina, 1996, pp. 34—37].

The objects and substances from the “frozen” Ukoka burials were studied by scientists from various institutes of the Siberian Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences: Dr.Sci.(Chem.) V.V. Malakhov and A.A. Vlasov (Institute of Catalysis); Cand.Sci.(Chem.) V.P. Fadeeva and M.M. Shokirov (Institute of Organic Chemistry); Senior Researcher T.A. Chanysheva (Institute of Inorganic Chemistry); Senior Researcher V.G. Stepanov (Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry); Dr.Sci.(Geo.-Min.) Yu.G. Shcherbakov (Institute of Geology, Geophysics and Mineralogy); and many others. Had it not been for interdisciplinary synthesis, these studies of archaeological materials might have lost the most valuable and original information because one can hardly see the main things straight away. Using modern effective multi-element physical methods, researchers were able to go deeper into the Pazyryk secrets. Our understanding of the embalming methods and techniques used by the Pazyryks largely benefited from the data provided by anatomic pathology and medicine. The studies were conducted by the Swiss pathologists Dr. R. Hauri-Bionda and his assistant W. Blater and at the Science Center of Biological Structures, Russian Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (Moscow), by Dr.Sci.(Med.) V.L. Kozeltsev. The aromatic seeds, plants, and herbs from the burials were identified at the Herbarium of the Botanical Gardens SB RAS by Cand.Sci.(Bio.) I.A. Artemov, E.A. Korolyuk, and M.I. Lomonosova. A lot of valuable information was obtained by studying the Ukok materias by dendrochronological methods; the study was conducted jointly by M. Seifert from the Laboratory for Dendrochronology (Archaeological Bureau, Zurich, Switzerland), a wood anatomy specialist from the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (Birmensdorf, Switzerland), and I.Yu. Slyusarenko (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography SB RAS, Novosibirsk, Russia). Highly important were the data on the anthropology and genetics of the Pazyryks (by Cand.Sci.(Bio.) T.A. Chikisheva, A. Romashchenko, and M.I. Voevoda) and on paleozoology (the studies of Pazyryk horses performed by I.E. Grebnev and S.K. Vasiliev).

However grand the “frozen” Ukok graves may be, they would never be so important and informative if they were not “backed” by Pazyryk, Bashadar, Tuekta, Katanda, and Shibe; the burial sites of Ulandryk, Yustyd, Sailugem, and Kok-Su, and many other archaeological sites. Thanks to the highly professional and successful work of my predecessors S.I. Rudenko, M.P. Gryaznov, V.D. Kubarev, and others, Ukok has become a landmark point in the study of the Pazyryk culture, i.e., the missing piece of the mosaic that can shed light on the most part of the picture. I will not list here all the scientists who have studied the Pazyryk burial grounds; you can find their names in my book. This work would not be possible without them.

The first part of the book describes the basic monuments of the Pazyryk culture of Ukok that were investigated by the author. This overview is necessary to give an idea about the main source used for the reconstruction of the worldview of the Pazyryks, who are the focus of the most part of this study. All the materials come from burial sites, but this is not a limitation for our tasks, which, I hope, you will see for yourselves. As Lotman rightfully said, “...the face of the epoch is reflected in the face of death” [1994, p. 28]. Moreover, speaking of Asia, the artist D. Plavinsky, who had a fine feeling of antiquity, said that, paradoxically, the heart of the people beats in the city of the dead, as “it is only the relief of the cemeteries that bears an image of the people's sole facing the eternity” [1991, p. 124].

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