Who Built the Complex?
It’s unclear who the builders were. It was possibly built by the Huns. From the 1st to the 7th century AD, the Huns, a nomadic people moved across the continent ranging from Asia into Eastern Europe and southeast into the Caucasus.
It’s believed that around 91 AD, the Huns lived near the Caspian Sea and then in 150 AD migrated to the Caucasus. The archaeologists also believe that the nomadic tribes moved through this specific region during the time period when the Huns were moving through Asia into Europe (1).
What has been unearthed at the excavation site reveals massive stone slabs rising vertically from the ground where they were placed, reminiscent of Stonehenge (2). Many of the stone slabs feature various carvings of what have been identified as creatures. Other carvings are of various weapons. The structures vary in sizes. Some are massive and measure 112’ x 79’ while the smallest is a modest 13’ x 13’.
Silver and Leather Saddle Found
Pieces of a saddle were also found. Embellished with a silver background, relief etchings of various images of deer, boars and “beasts of prey” that scientists believe might be depictions of lions appear to have been added to the silver.
In an article featured on Live Science, the researchers described how they believed the images were created by artisans. They stated that the leather images were first glued onto wood boards and silver-plated in place (3).
Image Credit: Live Science (http://www.livescience.com/56855-ancient-stone-monuments-discovered-along-caspian.html)
From Discovery to Excavation
The mammoth site was accidentally discovered in 2010 by a man using a metal detector. During his search for various metal finds, he discovered bits of silver that the archaeologists identified as pieces of the later excavated saddle. Other artifacts were also discovered by the metal detector. These were highly unusual finds along the desert terrain dotted with sagebrush.
It took the archaeologists over 4 years to gain excavation access to the site due to various social and economic issues. The excavation began at the site where the man first found the artifacts. The excavation revealed the first structure. Within the structure was the part of the saddle as well as two pieces of bronze that had been part of a whip.
The scientists have so far surmised that nomadic tribes are the most likely candidates as the creators of the stone structures. They arrived at this conclusion based on the various embellishments and designs found in the saddle remains. They believe that the saddle dates back to the last days of the Roman Empire.
Image Credit: Archaeology News Network (https://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2016/11/mysterious-1500-year-old-stone-monument.html)
So who owned such a spectacular saddle? Archeologists believe that the saddle owner was someone of great wealth and power. In addition to the precious metal (silver) they discovered a tamga symbol that’s engraved over the heads of the predator animal relief carvings.
A tamga is a stamp or seal that Eurasian nomads used (4). The tamga was an emblem that represented a specific tribe or clan. This symbol was commonly used during the Classical Antiquity period (8th-7th century BC) (5) and into the Middle Ages (5th -15th century AD) (6).
The combination of the symbol and precious metal along with the artistry of the saddle indicate that the owner was of privilege. Such an adorned saddle would have been a status symbol. Archeologists further speculate that the symbolism of the animals and the tamgas indicate a specific clan that the owner was a member.
The team of archeologists will publish a paper dedicated to the saddle and further research about its origins sometime in 2017. In the meantime, it will take time to complete the full excavation of the site.
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