Sunday 19 June 2022

The Melitopol Kurhan

Since a few hundred pieces of gold from this site have been in the news recently, I thought the reader might like to know more about the site they came from. The Melitopol’ Kurgan [Мелітопільський курган; Melitopilskyi kurhan] was a Scythian barrow of the fourth century B.C.(340-320 BC), which is one of the most spectacular of the monuments of this nature excavated in Ukraine (alongside the royal Scythian barrows at Solokha and Chertomlyk). The mound measuring about 6 m high was located in what is now Scythian (formerly May Day) Street, near the railway station in the northwestern part of the city of Melitopol, Zaporizhia oblast. After a local resident accidentally came across one of the tombs, the site was excavated first by local archaeologists from the Melitopol Museum of Local Lore in May 1954. Subsequently, the work was continued until September that year by a team from the Institute of Archeology of the USSR Academy of Sciences, led by Aleksii Ivanovych Terenozhkin (1907—1981). In the body of the mound, two chamber tombs were discovered. The northern one contained the remains of a high status woman and a female slave. The second tomb in the centre of the mound belonged to a Scythian warrior buried with a boy and this grave was probably slightly later in date. A grave containing two horses was found near the second catacomb and the remains of a funerary chariot were also found. These tombs contained a large number of grave goods including about 4000 (c. 2 kg) gold objects. Among the most famous is a Greco-scythian gorytus (quiver) faced with repousee gold depicting Achilles, a belt with metal fittings, and 50 small gold plaques. The military gear was decorated with animal (eagles, lions, wild boars) and mythological (Athena, Achilles) motifs. Eleven amphorae and a bronze kettle were also found. Many of these goods were apparently gifts from the Greeks to the Scythians, The mound had been looted at some time in the past, and the looters had probably removed other gold items. It was originally planned to transfer the treasures from this mound to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, but Ukrainian scientists managed to create their own museum in Kyiv – the Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine, and this is where the bulk of the collection is stored, while a small group of artefacts from the first season of excavations is in the museum at Melitopol. Here is a video about the significance of this find for the development of the Ukrainian museum:


Scythian Gold 4 | Virtual Museum Tour,  Posted on You Tube by UATV English Oct 27, 2019

REFERENCE  Terenozhkin, A. I. “Skifskii kurgan v g. Melitopole.” In the collection Kratkie soobshcheniia instituta arkheologii AN USSR, fasc. 5. Kiev, 1955.  

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