The Info List - Kurgan

--- Advertisement ---

Pontic Steppe

Domestication of the horse Kurgan Kurgan
culture Steppe

Bug-Dniester Sredny Stog Dnieper-Donets Samara Khvalynsk Yamna

Mikhaylovka culture





Eastern Europe

Usatovo Cernavodă Cucuteni

Northern Europe

Corded ware

Baden Middle Dnieper

Bronze Age

Pontic Steppe

Chariot Yamna Catacomb Multi-cordoned ware Poltavka Srubna

Northern/Eastern Steppe

Abashevo culture Andronovo Sintashta


Globular Amphora Corded ware Beaker Unetice Trzciniec Nordic Bronze Age Terramare Tumulus Urnfield Lusatian


BMAC Yaz Gandhara grave

Iron Age




Thraco-Cimmerian Hallstatt Jastorf




Painted Grey Ware Northern Black Polished Ware

Peoples and societies

Bronze Age

Anatolians Armenians Mycenaean Greeks Indo-Iranians

Iron Age





Scythians Persians Medes



Gauls Celtiberians Insular Celts

Hellenic peoples Italic peoples Germanic peoples Paleo-Balkans/Anatolia:

Thracians Dacians Illyrians Phrygians

Middle Ages




Balts Slavs Albanians Medieval Europe


Medieval India


Greater Persia

Religion and mythology


Proto-Indo-European religion Proto-Indo-Iranian religion






Buddhism Jainism





Yazidism Yarsanism






Paleo-Balkans Greek Roman Celtic

Irish Scottish Breton Welsh Cornish


Anglo-Saxon Continental Norse


Latvian Lithuanian

Slavic Albanian


Fire-sacrifice Horse sacrifice Sati Winter solstice/Yule

Indo-European studies


Marija Gimbutas J.P. Mallory


Copenhagen Studies in Indo-European


Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture The Horse, the Wheel and Language Journal of Indo-European Studies Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch Indo-European Etymological Dictionary

v t e

4th century BC, Fillipovka, South Urals, Russia. This kurgan was excavated in a dig led by Russian Academy of Sciences Archeology Institute Prof. L. Yablonsky in the summer of 2006. It is the first kurgan known to be completely destroyed and then rebuilt to its original appearance.

In English, the archaeological term kurgan is a loanword from East Slavic languages
Slavic languages
(and, indirectly, from Turkic languages), equivalent to the archaic English term barrow, also known by the Latin
loanword tumulus and terms such as burial mound. These are structures created by heaping earth and stones over a burial chamber, which is often made of wood.[1] The term kurgan is the standard term for such structures in the context of Central European, Northern European, Eastern European and Central Asian archaeology. The noun курга́н (Kurgán) is first attested in Old East Slavic (also known as "Old Rus'ian"), which borrowed the word from an unidentified Turkic language or languages.[2] The modern Turkish word is kurgan, which means "fortress" or "burial mound". Following its use in Soviet archaeology, the word is now widely used for tumuli in the context of archaeology. The earliest kurgans date to the 4th millennium BC in the Caucasus[3] and are associated with the Indo-Europeans.[4] Kurgans were built in the Eneolithic, Bronze, Iron, Antiquity and Middle Ages, with ancient traditions still active in Southern Siberia
and Central Asia. Kurgan cultures are divided archeologically into different sub-cultures, such as Timber Grave, Pit Grave, Scythian, Sarmatian, Hunnish
and Kuman-Kipchak. Many placenames contain the word "kurgan".


1 Origins and spread

1.1 Scythian-Saka- Siberian
monuments 1.2 Cultural influence

2 Usage

2.1 Kurgan
hypothesis 2.2 Architecture

2.2.1 Common components 2.2.2 Pre-Scythian-Saka-Sibirian kurgans (Bronze Age) 2.2.3 Scythian-Saka-Sibirian kurgans (Early Iron Age)

2.3 Gender

3 Archaeological remains

3.1 Excavated kurgans 3.2 Kurgans in Poland

4 Gallery 5 See also 6 Notes 7 References 8 Sources 9 Further reading 10 External links

Origins and spread[edit] The earliest known kurgans are dated to the 4th millennium BC in the Caucasus.[3] Kurgan
barrows were characteristic of Bronze Age
Bronze Age
peoples, and have been found from the Altay Mountains
Altay Mountains
to the Caucasus, Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria. Kurgans were used in the Ukrainian and Russian steppes, their use spreading with migration into eastern, central, and northern Europe
in the 3rd millennium BC. Scythian-Saka- Siberian
monuments[edit] The monuments of these cultures coincide with Scythian-Saka-Siberian monuments. Scythian-Saka- Siberian
monuments have common features, and sometimes common genetic roots.[5] Also associated with these spectacular burial mounds are the Pazyryk, an ancient people who lived in the Altai Mountains
Altai Mountains
lying in Siberian
on the Ukok Plateau, near the borders with China, Kazakhstan
and Mongolia.[6] The archaeological site on the Ukok Plateau
Ukok Plateau
associated with the Pazyryk culture is included in the Golden Mountains of Altai
Golden Mountains of Altai
UNESCO World Heritage Site.[7] Scythian-Saka- Siberian
classification includes monuments from the 8th to the 3rd century BC. This period is called the Early or Ancient Nomads
epoch. "Hunnic" monuments date from the 3rd century BC to the 6th century AD, and other Turkic ones from the 6th century AD to the 13th century AD, leading up to the Mongolian epoch. Cultural influence[edit]

Oleg being mourned by his warriors, an 1899 painting by Viktor Vasnetsov. This burial rite, with the funerary tumulus, is typical of both Scandinavian and Eurasian nomadic customs.

The tradition of kurgan burials was adopted by some neighboring peoples who did not have such a tradition. Various Thracian kings and chieftains were buried in elaborate mound tombs found in modern Bulgaria. Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, was buried in a magnificent kurgan in present Greece; and Midas, a king of ancient Phrygia, was buried in a kurgan near his ancient capital of Gordion.[8] Usage[edit] Kurgan
hypothesis[edit] Main article: Kurgan
hypothesis The Kurgan hypothesis
Kurgan hypothesis
postulates that the Proto-Indo-Europeans
were the bearers of the Kurgan culture
Kurgan culture
of the Black Sea
Black Sea
and the Caucasus and west of the Urals. The hypothesis was introduced by Marija Gimbutas in 1956, combining kurgan archaeology with linguistics to locate the origins of the Proto-Indo-European (PIE)-speaking peoples. She tentatively named the culture "Kurgan" after their distinctive burial mounds and traced its diffusion into Europe. This hypothesis has had a significant impact on Indo-European studies.[note 1] Those scholars who follow Gimbutas identify a " Kurgan
culture" as reflecting an early Indo-European ethnicity, which existed in the steppes and southeastern Europe
from the 5th to 3rd millennia BC. In Kurgan
cultures, most of the burials were in kurgans, either clan kurgans or individual ones. Most prominent leaders were buried in individual kurgans, now called "royal kurgans". More elaborate than clan kurgans and containing grave goods, the elite examples have attracted the greatest attention and publicity. Architecture[edit] Burial mounds are complex structures with internal chambers. Within the burial chamber at the heart of the kurgan, elite individuals were buried with grave goods and sacrificial offerings, sometimes including horses and chariots. The structures of the earlier Neolithic
period from the 4th to the 3rd millenniums BC, and Bronze Age
Bronze Age
until the 1st millennium BC, display continuity of the archaic forming methods. They were inspired by common ritual-mythological ideas. Common components[edit]

Inside view of the Thracian mound tomb at Sveshtari, Bulgaria

In all periods, the development of the kurgan structure tradition in the various ethnocultural zones is revealed by common components or typical features in the construction of the monuments. They include:

funeral chambers tombs surface and underground constructions of different configurations a mound of earth or stone, with or without an entrance funeral, ritual, and other traits the presence of an altar in the chamber stone fence moat bulwark the presence of an entryway into the chamber, into the tomb, into the fence, or into the kurgan the location of a sacrificial site on the embankments, inside the mound, inside the moat, inside the embankments, and in their links, entryways, and around the kurgan the location of a fire pit in the chamber a wooden roof over or under the kurgan, at the top of the kurgan, or around the kurgan the location of stone statues, columns, poles and other objects; bypass passages inside the kurgan, inside tombs, or around the kurgan funeral paths from the moat or bulwark.

Depending on the combination of these elements, each historical and cultural nomadic zone has certain architectural distinctions. Pre-Scythian-Saka-Sibirian kurgans (Bronze Age)[edit] In the Bronze Age, kurgans were built with stone reinforcements. Some of them are believed to be Scythian
burials with built-up soil, and embankments reinforced with stone (Olhovsky, 1991). Pre-Scythian-Saka-Sibirian kurgans were surface kurgans. Underground wooden or stone tombs were constructed on the surface or underground and then covered with a kurgan. The kurgans of Bronze culture across Europe
and Asia were similar to housing; the methods of house construction were applied to the construction of the tombs.[9] Kurgan Ak-su - Aüly (12th–11th centuries BC) with a tomb covered by a pyramidal timber roof under a kurgan has space surrounded by double walls serving as a bypass corridor. This design has analogies with Begazy, Sanguyr, Begasar, and Dandybay kurgans.[9] These building traditions survived into the early Middle Ages, to the 8th-10th centuries AD. The Bronze Pre-Scythian-Saka-Sibirian culture developed in close similarity with the cultures of Yenisei, Altai, Kazakhstan, southern, and southeast Amur regions. In the 2nd millennium BC appeared so-called "kurgans-maidans". On a prepared platform were installed earthen images of a swan, a turtle, a snake, or other image, with and without burials. Similar structures have been found in Ukraine, India and South America.[citation needed] Some kurgans had facing or tiling. One tomb in Ukraine
has 29 large limestone slabs set on end in a circle underground. They were decorated with carved geometrical ornamentation of rhombuses, triangles, crosses, and on one slab, figures of people. Another example has an earthen kurgan under a wooden cone of thick logs topped by an ornamented cornice up to 2 m in height. Scythian-Saka-Sibirian kurgans (Early Iron Age)[edit]

Coloured lithograph by Carlo Bossoli
Carlo Bossoli
(London, 1856)[10] of the so-called "Tomb of Mithridates", kurgan near Kerch

The Scythian-Saka-Sibirian kurgans in the Early Iron Age
Iron Age
are notable for their grandiose mounds throughout the Eurasian continent. The base diameters of the kurgans reach 500 m (1,600 ft) in Siberia[citation needed] (Great Salbyk kurgan (53°54′10″N 90°45′47″E / 53.9027959°N 90.7629436°E / 53.9027959; 90.7629436[11][12]) of the settled Tagar culture); in neighboring China
they reach 5,000 m (16,000 ft)[citation needed] (kurgan of the first emperor of China
in the 3rd century BC near Sian) (Mason, 1997: 71). Kurgans could be extremely tall: the Great Salbyk kurgan is 22–27 m (72–89 ft)[citation needed] (the height of a 7-story building); the kurgan of the Chinese emperor is over 100 m (330 ft)[citation needed]. The presence of such structures in Siberia
testifies to a high standard of living and a developed construction culture of the nomads. Gender[edit] Females were buried in about 20% of graves of the lower and middle Volga river
Volga river
region during the Yamna and Poltavka cultures.[13] Two thousand years later, females dressed as warriors were buried in the same region. David Anthony notes, "About 20% of Scythian-Sarmatian "warrior graves" on the lower Don and lower Volga contained females dressed for battle as if they were men, a phenomenon that probably inspired the Greek tales about the Amazons."[13] A near-equal ratio of male-to-female graves was found in the eastern Manych steppes and Kuban- Azov
steppes during the Yamna culture.[13] In Ukraine, the ratio was intermediate between the other two regions.[13] Archaeological remains[edit] The most obvious archeological remains associated with the Scythians are the great burial mounds, some over 20 m high, which dot the Ukrainian and Russian steppe belts and extend in great chains for many kilometers along ridges and watersheds. From them much has been learnt about Scythian
life and art.[14] Excavated kurgans[edit] Some excavated kurgans include:

The Ipatovo kurgan revealed a long sequence of burials from the Maykop culture c. 4000 BC down to the burial of a Sarmatian
princess of the 3rd century BC, excavated 1998–99. Kurgan
4 at Kutuluk near Samara, Russia, dated to c. 24th century BC, contains the skeleton of a man, estimated to have been 35 to 40 years old and about 152 cm tall.[15] Resting on the skeleton's bent left elbow was a copper object 65 cm long with a blade of a diamond-shaped cross-section and sharp edges, but no point, and a handle, originally probably wrapped in leather. No similar object is known from Bronze Age
Bronze Age
Eurasian steppe cultures. The Maikop kurgan dates to the 3rd millennium BC. The Novovelichkovskaya kurgan of c. 2000 BC on the Ponura River, Krasnodar
region, southern Russia, contains the remains of 11 people, including an embracing couple, buried with bronze tools, stone carvings, jewelry, and ceramic vessels decorated with red ocher. The tomb is associated with the Novotitorovka culture nomads. The Kostromskaya kurgan of the 7th century BC produced a famous Scythian
gold stag (now Hermitage Museum), next to the iron shield it decorated.[16] Apart from the principal male body with his accoutrements, the burial included thirteen humans with no adornment above him, and around the edges of the burial twenty-two horses were buried in pairs.[17] It was excavated by N. I. Veselovski in 1897.[18] The Issyk kurgan, in southern Kazakhstan, contains a skeleton, possibly female, c. 4th century BC, with an inscribed silver cup, gold ornaments, Scythian
animal art objects and headdress reminiscent of Kazakh bridal hats; discovered in 1969. Kurgan
11 of the Berel cemetery, in the Bukhtarma River
Bukhtarma River
valley of Kazakhstan, contains a tomb of c. 300 BC, with a dozen sacrificed horses preserved with their skin, hair, harnesses, and saddles intact, buried side by side on a bed of birch bark next to a funeral chamber containing the pillaged burial of two Scythian
nobles; excavated in 1998. The Ryzhanovka kurgan, a 10 metre high kurgan 125 km south of Kiev, Ukraine, containing the tomb of a Scythian
chieftain, 3rd century BC, was excavated in 1996. The Solokha kurgan, in the Zaporizhia Oblast
Zaporizhia Oblast
of Ukraine, Scythian, dates to the early 4th century BC. Mamai-gora, kurgan on the banks of Kakhovka Reservoir
Kakhovka Reservoir
south west of Enerhodar
(near the village of Velyka Znam'yanka). Known as one of the biggest tumulus in Europe. The height of the kurgan is 80 meters. Here were found remains of people from Bronze Age, Scythians, Sarmatians, Cimmerians
and Nogai people. The Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak, near the town of Kazanlak
in central Bulgaria, is a Thracian kurgan of c. the 4th century BC. The Aleksandrovo kurgan
Aleksandrovo kurgan
is a Thracian kurgan of c. the 4th century BC. The Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari, Bulgaria, is a Thracian kurgan of c. the 3rd century BC. The Håga Kurgan, located on the outskirts of Uppsala, Sweden, is a large Nordic Bronze Age
Bronze Age
kurgan from c. 1000 BC. The Pereshchepina Kurgan
is a burial memorial of the Great Bulgaria Khan Kubrat
from c. AD 660. Noin-Ula
kurgan, located by the Selenga River
Selenga River
in the northern Mongolia hills north of Ulan Bator, is the tomb of Uchjulü-Chanuy (8 BC – AD 13), head of the Hun

Kurgans in Poland[edit]

Memorial of the Battle of Varna, which took place on 10 November 1444 near Varna, Bulgaria. The facade of the mausoleum is built into the side of an ancient Thracian tomb.

building has a long history in Poland. The Polish word for kurgan is kopiec or kurhan. Some excavated kurgans in Poland:

Burial mounds of the Unetice culture
Unetice culture
include fourteen kurgans dated to 2000–1800 BC[19] Kraśnik
(stone age) kurhans Tombs at Pleśnik[20] Trawiasta Buczyna — hundreds of stone kurhans dated to 1200–1000 BC Skalbmierz
has kurgans dated 4000 BC.[21] Zambrow[22] Mounds at Jawczyce [23] were described by Bishop Nankerus in 1322. Kurgan
mounds dated to the Neolithic
or Bronze Age
Bronze Age
included a burial of an elderly person, probably male. Some weapons and pottery fragments were also found in the tomb.[24] Near Sieradz
a tomb dated to the Trzciniec culture
Trzciniec culture
of c. 1500 BC contains a man and woman buried together. A kurgan burial site at Łubna-Jakusy
and a kurgan cremation near Guciów
are examples of Trzciniec culture
Trzciniec culture
of c. 1500 BC. The Krakus Mound
Krakus Mound
is located in Kraków. Legend says it is the burial place of Krakus, founder of the city. Wanda Mound, burial place of the daughter of Krakus, is located in Kraków. Piłakno near Mrągowo, excavated in 1988, is an example of west Baltic kurhan culture.[25] In Bełchatow
there is a pagan temple built upon a kurgan. Dating of this structure awaited results of carbon 14 tests in 2001.[26] The mound called Kopiec Tatarski at Przemyśl
is triangular in shape, 10 meters in length, and pointing east. In 1869, T. Żebrawski found bones and ancient coins. In 1958, A. Kunysz found skulls and bones and medieval ceramics. a structure called Templum S. Leonardi was constructed around 1534 on top of the mound; it was destroyed in World War II. Kopiec Esterki was erected in the 14th century by Casimir III of Poland for his deceased wife. Kopiec Władysław III of Poland
Władysław III of Poland
was buried after 1444 in Varna Image:VarnaMemorial.jpg Kościuszko Mound
Kościuszko Mound
in Kraków
was completed in November 1823 as a memorial to Tadeusz Kościuszko The Union of Lublin Mound
Union of Lublin Mound
was completed in Lviv
in 1980. Artificial mound in modern-day Ukraine. A Mound of Immortality was constructed to honor poet Adam Mickiewicz in 1898. Kopiec Wyzwolenia (Mound of Liberation) commemorates the 250th anniversary of the passage of the Polish Hussars through the city of Piekary Śląskie
Piekary Śląskie
under John III Sobieski. It was completed in 1937.[27] Piłsudski's Mound
Piłsudski's Mound
in Kraków
honors Polish general and politician Józef Piłsudski.


Salbyk kurgan before excavation, 5th-4th century BC, upper Enisey-Irtysh interfluvial. Salbyk kurgan is surrounded by balbals, and topped with Kurgan

royal Alexandropol (Ukraine) kurgan C14 dated 394–366 BC, before excavation in 1852–6.

Engraving of Ukraine's Perepyat kurgan cemetery group before its excavation.

Undated unattributed unexplored kurgan on the west side of the Samara Bend, Russian Federation, with a visible tunnel made by grave robbers.

Kántor-kurgan near the city of Szentes

Józsepi-kurgan near the Mindszent

Kurgans near Mindszent. One of them is covered by trees.

See also[edit]

Animal sacrifice, Ashvamedha Mamayev Kurgan, used during the Battle of Stalingrad. Scythia Tarpan Ukrainian stone stela Yamna culture Kleczanów Wood


^ It also had some cultural influence; a character representing an ancient culture was referred to as The Kurgan, in the hit movie series Highlander.


^ "kurgan." Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002. http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com (14 October 2006). ^ Vasmer, Max (1953–1958). Russisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. Heidelberg: Winter. p. 2424. Retrieved 27 July 2015.  ^ a b Kipfer 2000, p. 291. ^ Mallory & Adams 1997, p. 339. ^ Akishev K.A., Kushaev G.A., Ancient culture of Sakas and Usuns in the valley of river Ili, Alma-Ata, Kazakh SSR Academy of Sciences publication, 1963 (pp 121 - 136) ^ "Ice Mummies: Siberian
Ice Maiden". PBS - NOVA. Retrieved 2007-07-31.  ^ "Golden Mountains of Altai". UNESCO. Retrieved 2007-07-31.  ^ The Funerary Feast of King Midas
@ UPM Archived February 4, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. ^ a b Margulan A.N., "Architecture of the ancient period" in the Architecture of Kazakhstan, 1956, Alma-Ata, (pp 9-95) ^ British Museum ^ "Salbyksky mound". unknownsiberia. Archived from the original on 2014-05-12. Retrieved 2014-05-09.  ^ " Tumulus
of the Kings Valley". Wikimapia. Retrieved 2014-05-09.  ^ a b c d Anthony, David W. (2007). The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-05887-3.  ^ John Boardman, I.E.S. Edwards, E. Sollberger, N.G.L. Hammond. The Cambridge Ancient History. Cambridge University Press. (January 16, 1992), p.550 ^ Rose, M., Cudgel Culture Archaeology, March/April, 2002[dead link] ^ Honour and Fleming, 124 ^ Honour and Fleming, 123 ^ Piotrovsky, 29 ^ Polish ^ Mogily, PL: GDA  ^ Skalbmierz, PL: Krakow  ^ Cieciorkami, PL: Ugzambrow, archived from the original (JPEG) on February 22, 2007  ^ "Jawczyce Barrow Cemetery". megalithic.co.uk. August 7, 2008. Retrieved January 2, 2017.  ^ Mounds in Jawczycach, Odyssei  ^ Historycy  ^ Odkrywca. nr1(25), 01.2001, Historycy, archived from the original on May 14, 2013  ^ Polish


Hugh Honour
Hugh Honour
and John Fleming, A World History of Art, 1st edn. 1982 (many later editions), Macmillan, London, page refs to 1984 Macmillan 1st edn. paperback. ISBN 0333371852 Kipfer, Barbara Ann (2000), Encyclopedic Dictionary of Archaeology, Springer  Mallory, J.P.; Adams, Douglas Q. (1997), Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture, Taylor & Francis  Piotrovsky, Boris, et al. "Excavations and Discoveries in Scythian Lands", in From the Lands of the Scythians: Ancient Treasures from the Museums of the U.S.S.R., 3000 B.C.–100 B.C. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, v. 32, no. 5 (1974), available online as a series of PDFs (bottom of the page).

Further reading[edit]

"In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology
and Myth" by J. P. Mallory, ISBN 0-500-27616-1 " The Kurgan
The Kurgan
Culture and the Indo-Europeanization of Europe: Selected Articles From 1952 to 1993" von Marija Gimbutas
Marija Gimbutas
u.a., ISBN 0-941694-56-9 "Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture" ed. James Mallory, D. Q. Adams, ISBN 1-884964-98-2 D. Ya. Telegin et al., Srednestogovskaya i Novodanilovskaya Kul'tury Eneolita Azovo-Chernomorskogo Regiona. Kiev: Shlyakh, 2001. Reviewed by J.P. Mallory, JIES vol. 32, 3/4, p. 363–366. "Reconstruction Of The Genofond Peculiarities Of The Ancient Pazyryk Population (1st-2nd Millennium BC) From Gorny Altai According To The mtDNA Structure" Voevoda M.I., Sitnikova V.V., Romashchenko A.G., Chikisheva T.A., Polosmak N.V., Molodin V. I http://www.bionet.nsc.ru/bgrs/thesis/99/. O.Ismagulov 'Population of Kazakhstan
from Bronze Epoch to Present (Paleoanthropological research)', Science, Alma-Ata, 1970

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kurgan.

Culture excavated kurgans (archaeology.org). Ritual Sites, and Settlements: Eurasian Bronze and Iron Age[dead link] book for download (www.csen.org) An extensive list of mounds in Poland

Authority control