Archaeologists have uncovered two remarkable Bronze Age burial sites in Siberia, each containing the remains of a shaman sporting some astonishing paraphernalia. One of these ancient priests was buried in a costume made of around 50 bird beaks, while the other was found with a pair of what appear to be bronze spectacles.
The two skeletons were discovered at the Ust-Tartas archaeological site in the Novosibirsk region of Siberia, where more than 30 other burial sites have previously been excavated. However, Lilia Kobeleva from the Novosibirsk Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography told The Siberian Times that “nothing we found earlier was as impressive as [the] discoveries in these two graves,” adding that “both men must have carried special roles in the society.”
It is thought that the beaks that formed the ceremonial costume were from herons or cranes, although they have yet to be fully examined and analyzed. The avian accessory was placed along the back of the man’s neck and skull, which Kobeleva says could indicate that it acted as some sort of protective collar.
Researchers now plan to spend months painstakingly separating the feathers in order to determine the exact number, and to learn how they were attached, as no mounting holes are visible.
The second skeleton was located in a nearby multi-story grave, where two children – believed to have been five and 10 years old when they died – were buried on top of a wooden divider. Beneath this partition was the skeleton of an adult man, along with a pair of what look like spectacles next to the skull.
This ancient eyewear consists of two bronze hemispheres and a bronze bridge, although archaeologists are unsure if the apparatus was part of a burial mask or related to the man’s spiritual practice when he was alive.
Other ceremonial objects, including five crescent-shaped stone pendants, were also found next to the skeleton.
Both of these intriguing individuals are estimated to be around 5,000 years old, and probably belonged to the Odinov culture, which prevailed in the region. While the true purpose of the items found in these graves remains something of a mystery, they do at least provide some fascinating clues as to the social and religious practices of this ancient group of hunters.