The Cold Siberian Tundra

Image: Russia Beyond

On the isolated Gydan Peninsula, a fierce cold wind blows almost constantly across the icy terrain. A place where extreme weather reigns supreme, the Gydan Peninsula is not a place you’d put at the top of your vacation list. However, for archaeologists, the Gydan Peninsula unexpectedly became an exciting place to dig when a strong wind unearthed something beyond their wildest imaginations.

Edge of the World

Image: LNG World News

Lying along the coast of the Kara Sea, the Gydan Peninsula is in the autonomous region of Siberia. The place is so remote, it has often been called the “edge of the Earth” or “Yamal” in the native Nenet tongue. This region covers a total of 297,000 square miles and has a population of 536,000.

A Brutal Environment with a Rich History

Image: The Independent Barents Observer

Known for its chilling temperatures, Siberia’s winters can go as long as eight months out of the year. Temperatures will drop to as low as -67 degrees F, although snow is not as common as you may think. Despite the brutal cold, there is a long and rich history of humans settling in the region as far back as 45,000 B.C.

The Nenet People

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One of the first records of the native Nenet people dates to the 11th century and researchers believe the Khanty people have been there since 500 A.D. where they hunted reindeer. Despite the arctic climate, the people have adapted to the bitter cold and still hunt polar bears in the region to this day.

The Endless Tundra

Image: Barent Observer

Across the 250-mile wide peninsula are many lakes and rivers, but most of all there is endless tundra covered by a thick layer of permafrost due to the unforgiving cold. However, that permafrost could disappear due to climate change.

Melting Permafrost

Image: Seeker

The permafrost that covers the peninsula has been there for hundreds of thousands of years. But with the threat of climate change looming, it is possible the permafrost could one day disappear. Realizing this was a possibility, a group of Russian scientists were dispatched to study the soil on the Gydan Peninsula. The first team to set foot in the area in over 25 years.

The Ceremonial Bowl

Image: Siberian Times

On one of these expeditions, a ceremonial bowl was discovered that would be identified as a burial site marker. Due to wind erosion and the melting of the permafrost, the team was able to spot the rare find, which normally would have been hidden.

Destroyed by Wind Erosion

Image: Daily Mirror

“We were extremely lucky to find it. Of course, on one hand, it is a pity that the burial was partly destroyed by wind erosion. But it helped us to find it…” Andrey Gusev, an archaeologist at the Arctic Research Center, told the Siberian Times.

Image: Siberian Times

The bronze bowl that marked the burial site was broken into various fragments due to the wind erosion. Beneath the bowl, they found the head of a child between six months and three years old. According to the medical expert on the team, he could 100% confirm the bowl and skull were part of a burial.

Persian Knife Discovery

Image: Daily Express

The bowl was dated to be over 2,000 years old and from the Persia region, which is now modern-day Iran. With the bowl, the remains of a knife were also found, all that was left was the bronze handle and sheath. According to the researchers, it would date the burial back to the 11th or 12 centuries.

A Royal Burial

Image: Arctic Ru

As the scientists continued to dig in the area, they recovered a temple ring, and the remains of fur/animal skin clothing.  “We can definitely say that this child was not ordinary. He or she was from some wealthy family, judging by the things laid in the grave. The parents could afford quite expensive things.”

Merchant Routes of the 7th Century

Image: SCFH

According to Dr. Arkady Baulo from the Novosibirsk Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, the bowl most likely was brought to the site by Asian merchants. These merchants exported walrus tusks, furs and hunting birds from the north. These trade routes ran through the Kama and Ob regions during the 7th and 8th centuries.

Rituals of Arctic Tribes

Image: Siberian Times

What makes this particular site special is how far northeast artifacts from that era were found, especially in the Arctic. The scientists believe that the Persian items most likely served in rituals for the local tribes. During festivals, they most likely would be used to offer food offerings to the gods.

Nine Other Sites

Image: Erch 2014

Since the discovery of the burial site, nine others were found near the rivers on the Tazovsky Peninsula. However, only two have been excavated thus far. Just like the discovery on the Gydan, these sites were graves of children.  According to the archaeologists studying the sites, they are quite unusual due to the fact the graves are isolated and not near any burial grounds.

Artifacts Dated from the 15th Century

Image: Siberian Times

One of the more recent graves discovered was that of a boy roughly around seven years old. It was dated around the 15th and 16th century and filled with items that would identify the child as coming from a wealthy family. The question that remains is why all of these random graves of rich children were dug in the middle of nowhere.

Buried with Riches

Image: Siberian Times

“The child was lying on an underlay of birch bark. There were two iron knives in the area of the belt, an arrowhead and reindeer bones under the feet.” Dr. Tkachev said. The child was also clothed in furs and roasted venison was buried with him as well.

2,800 Years Ago…

Image: Siberian Times

The previous year another child in his teens was found with burial robes covered in white bronze inlays. It’s believed these graves belonged to children of the Sikhirtya people who came to the region around 2,800 years ago.

Similar Sites Discovered

Image: Siberian Times

On a similar peninsula, the Yamal, another mysterious burial site was discovered. At this site, the bodies were all diseased and buried in strange fetal positions. According to the researchers, during the medieval times, there were no other burials similar to what they had found.

New Revelations

Image: Siberian Times

Another startling revelation is that three of the bodies found may have been used in some sort of ritual sacrifice. What the scientists do know is that the bodies were malnourished and were buried with bronze knives, bracelets and other tools.

As the Climate Shifts

Image: Climate State

If the climate continues to change and the permafrost in these remote areas continues to melt, it is quite possible that more discoveries will reveal themselves. Unfortunately, the downside is the melting permafrost could also release viruses that have been dormant for thousands of years. As the ice continues to melt at a rapid rate, we will soon know the truth.