Gold trove found in ancient tomb in Kazakhstan

Archaeologists have discovered more than 3,000 gold ornaments in an ancient burial ground in Kazakhstan. The objects were found in a tumulus in the Eleke Sazy plateau of the Tarbagatai Mountains in eastern Kazakhstan, a site known for its 200 burial mounds of the Saka culture dating to the 8th-7th centuries B.C.

The Saka culture, a nomadic people who inhabited the Eurasian Steppe, areas of modern-day Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, in the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age. The Saki were not purely nomadic. Some subgroups founded permanent settlements with large burial grounds, planted crops and mined metals. Their processing of those metals was highly sophisticated, allowing them to produce meticulously constructed jewelry and other artifacts which they traded to neighboring populations on the steppes. They also buried large quantities of them with their leaders.

The artifacts unearthed in the grave are exceptional examples of Saka goldsmithing.

Among the finds are earrings in the shape of bells, gold plates with rivets, plaques, chains, and a necklace with precious stones.

Gold beads decorating clothes were made with the use of sophisticated micro-soldering techniques, indicating an exceptional level of development jewellery-making skills for the period.

There were also gold horse fittings, spearheads and chains. Archaeologists believe the combination of jewelry and weaponry indicates the occupants of the tomb were a husband and wife couple, either rulers or at least high-ranking elite of Saka society. They can’t be sure because they haven’t even gotten to the graves yet. This immense amount of treasure was found in the excavation of the burial mound. There is likely more to be found when they reach the actual interrals.

Such a rich find made after two years of excavations at the site extends hope that there are other graves of similar importance still be unearthed among the 200 known. It’s likely that the burials were plundered on a wide scale in antiquity, however, so discovering another haul of this magnitude is far from a sure thing.

The treasures from the burial mound will be cleaned and conserved before going on display in September during the annual international archaeological conference Altai, the Golden Cradle of the Turkic World.