The National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage of the Cultural Heritage Administration (Acting General Director: Kim Samki) has published 『Ancient Tombs in Zhetisu Kazakhstan』, introducing the ancient tomb culture of the Zhetisu area in Kazakhstan, which was a key point of the Silk Road, a World Heritage Site.
The National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage has been carrying out Joint Academic Research Projects with the Institute of Archaeology of A. Kh. Margulan and the National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan, which are located on the Central Asian Silk Road, to inquire into the aspects of our ancient cultural exchanges since 2014. This publication is the very first report, that includes the outcomes of the distribution surveys and excavations conducted on the tombs in the Zhetisu area by the Archaeological Studies Division of the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and the National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan between 2015 and 2018 in cooperation.
This report introduces the archaeological culture that corresponds to the early stage of the Iron Age in Kazakhstan (8 – 2 Century B.C.) and includes results of the excavation of the Kurgans and various natural scientific, multidisciplinary research results on exhumed artefacts.
The tombs in the Zhetisu area are Cairn* tombs. This type of tombs appear both in Ancient Korean and Kazakh cultures, in which Korean tombs are called Wooden Chamber Tombs with Stone Mounds* and Kazakh tombs are called Kurgans (Курган). The academia has always been paying a lot of attention to the connection of the two tomb cultures due to the similarities in their forms and artefacts exhumed despite the great temporal and spatial differences of their developments.
* Cairn tombs: Tombs with stone-pile mounds including the Mongolian Pazyryk burials, the Southern Siberian Kurgan tombs, Kazakh Kurgan tombs, etc.. The appearance of large stone-pile tombs in the Three Kingdoms Period point out the establishment of ancient states.
* Wooden Chamber Tombs with Stone Mounds: A type of tomb, in which either a hole is dug underground or an outer coffin is made, above which a mound of stone-pile and earth heap are placed.
The National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage has conducted geophysical prospection and excavation surveys on Ancient Tombs of Katartobe, located in the Southeast of Zhetisu area over 3 years to inquire into the aspects of the exchanges between those two cultures based on this viewpoint and carried out distribution studies on the tombs of the Zhetisu area. According to physical anthropological characteristics, individuals buried in the tombs turned out to be Caucasoid*, and stable isotope analyses* revealed that their diet mostly consisted of meat and dairy. Also, dogs, horses, sheep, cows, etc. were verified to have been used for sacrifices through animal bone analyses.
* Caucasoid: Term for ‘white race’ (next to Negroid and Mongoloid)
* Stable Isotope Analysis: Analysis applying isotopes except the radioactive elements – an analysis method used in archaeology in order to figure out sources of nutrients.
『Ancient Tombs in Zhetisu Kazakhstan』 will be distributed to national and public libraries, research institutions in- and outside of the country, etc., and be made available online on the website of the NRICH (www.nrich.go.kr, Cultural Heritage Research Knowledge Portal) for public access.
The National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage of the Cultural Heritage Administration as an Executive Agency will continue to elaborate to study the interchange between the Central Asian area and our ancient culture and consequently contribute to the research of the history of world civilization.
Archaeological Studies Division, National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage
Kang, Dong-seok Senior Researcher(042-860-9171), Nam, Sang-won Researcher(042-860-9339)