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электронный журнал "Новые исследования Тувы"

Archeological monuments are under threat by water, people and animals

Despite a squeamish attitude of some residents of the republic towards the man-made Shagonar sea, plenty of people go there in the summer to relax. People feel maximally uninhibited - there is nobody to chase them away from the water. In the growth of wild hemp on the shore, there are copious signs of active relaxation: bottles, plastic bags, and other detritus of human life activities. But these are not the only “riches” of the shores of the reservoir.

After an official wedding ceremony and all the traditional following activities, a bunch of young people from Chaa-Khol together with their closest friends and relatives decided to continue the celebration by the water. It was hot - it would be difficult to think of a better place. They came, found a suitable spot, lit a camp fire.  As the party was getting lively, suddenly out of nowhere a group of people appeared, with incomprehensible demands It turned out that the visitors did not settle just anywhere, but right on top of an ancient burial. And the people who asked them to move were archeologists from St. Petersburg institute of history of material culture of RAN, who are conducting excavations of the threatened burials on the shore.

As the archeologist, a senior scientific worker of the institute, Marina Kilunovskaya told us,  it is not just people who present a danger to the archeological objects.   The human visitors moved without further argument to another place as soon as the archeologists showed them a human bone sticking out of the sand right next to them. It is much more difficult to explain anything to animals. Cows wandering along the shores and descending to the water to drink have an altogether different interest in the human remains thousands of years old. They chew the bones.

- We have to fight with the cows,- Kilunovskaya tells us. - We open a burial, and as soon as we go for lunch or  something like that,  you look around, and already there is a cow at the burial, chewing the bones. Most probably the animals need calcium.

The archeologists have been conducting rescue works in the zone of submersion for quite a few years. Every spring when they arrive at the reservoir, they collect large numbers of human and animal bones, as well as pottery fragments on the shore, which are getting washed out from the ancient burials by the water. It has to be pointed out that the burials which the archeologists have to rescue in a hurry date from 3rd to 6th century before our era - they were made in Early Scythian epoch. Especially interesting objects are among them, including unique bronze artifacts of which there may be only a single specimen in the world. The scientists are demoralized by the fact that a large number of objects which represent historical treasures might be irretrievably lost. More than 50 burials  from the Scythian epoch, discovered on the shores of the reservoir in the area of Chaa-Khol bay can be destroyed by water in very near future. The water level of Shagonar Sea changes regularly, and the monuments are being opened in a planned manner.

- To excavate a kurgan takes about two weeks, - Marina Kilunovskaya explains. - Of course, that does not apply to such large ones like those in the Valley of Tsars.  Those take years to dig.  The first week we clean off the kurgan mound, then documentation, drawings, then gradually we take the mound apart. After that you excavate the burial itself. It is a long job, and there are no shortcuts.

Beside that, financing is also necessary for the excavations, which is traditionally a  painful matter. Every year the archeologists bring up the problem with the local administration, but there is no material support.

- Our task now is to clean off the log structure, the chambers. When we finish this,  next, according to plans, is the cemetery upstream on the Yenisei opposite Bedelig stream. There are colossal disruptions there.  Terrible sight. The cemetery is far enough from the shore, but the surf is breaking the shore up, and  the log chambers with bones are being uncovered. There are hundreds of them, it is a huge cemetery. When we surveyed it in May, we discovered large numbers of bronze objects - daggers, knives… Very beautiful things. They are now in Kyzyl. We’ll take them to St. Petersburg for restoration.

The archeologists will be working on excavation of the burials until end of July, and already in August they will go to survey the route of the future railroad branch. Four teams will be working on the route of the railroad. Three of them are currently working in Krasnoyarsk territory and one in Tuva. Last year, archeologists already performed a preliminary research and found 56 cemeteries and more than 100 kurgans which fall into the construction zone.

- Last year we noted everything that needs to be done, now we will take soil samples and test pits, we will be looking for  settlements, for the cultural layer, -  informs us Marina Kilunovskatya.  - We’ll start from Eerbek, and through the mountain pass - to Uyuk valley. The client gave us only very short amount of time.    They met us halfway and partially changed the route of the railroad so that fewer of the archeological monuments would be affected. This year the project will be confirmed, and the construction will probably start already next year, and at the same time we will be starting the excavations. Generally we work  most often  on new construction sites, when the construction has already started and suddenly they encounter an archeological object. In one case we saved a damaged object, it was in Todzha. We made a survey - very beautiful earthwork kurgans  stood there. we came back a month later, when the construction had already started. all the kurgans have already been damaged by technology. I am afraid that such development of events could happen with the railroad construction as well.

Viktoriya Kondrashova, Tuvinskaya pravda, translated by Heda Jindrak
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