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Arkaim - a Russian "STONEHENGE"

q002Russian archaeologists have discovered an arrangement of wooden poles that resemble Stonehenge in form, suggesting that ancient European and Russian peoples shared pagan outlooks. Russia now has a Stonehenge of its own. In the summer, a 4,000-year-old megalithic structure was uncovered at a Spasskaya Luka site, in the central Russian region of Ryazan. This structure, which, archeologists believe, was built as a sanctuary, sits on a hill overlooking the confluence of the Oka and the Pron rivers. The surrounding area has always been seen as an "archeological encyclopedia," a kaleidoscope of cultures ranging from the Upper Paleolithic to the Dark Ages.

 

If we look at this archeological site as represented on a map, it will be a circle seven meters in diameter, marked with pillars, half a meter thick and the same distance apart from each other," says the expedition leader Ilya Akhmedov, who works in the Moscow Historical Museum's Archeological Monuments Department. "Here's a large rectangular hole and a pillar in the center of the circle. The wooden pillars have not survived, of course, but the large holes from which they once stuck out can be seen pretty clearly. Along the edges of the site there are two more holes. Originally, there may have been four of them, but the bank over here is being destroyed by a ravine, so the temple has caved in partially."



Another hole with a pillar has been unearthed several meters east of the site. And there is also one to the south, which was discovered three years ago. "In all probability, there's a second row of pillars surrounding the shrine, a dozen meters away," Mr. Akhmedov says.

The two pillar pairs form a gateway, which, if looked through from the center, will provide a spectacular sunset view in the summertime. Another pillar, behind the circular fence, points to where the sun rises. The monument's structure has prompted scholars to advance a hypothesis about its astronomical purpose. The objects found here must have been designed with religious ritual in mind.

The size of the holes varies from 44x46cm to 75x56cm. A small ceramic vessel has been found in the central hole. It is finely decorated with zigzags, resembling sunrays, and with curly lines, which symbolize water. Archeologists specializing in the Bronze Period have recognized the artifact as dating back to "their age." Visually, it is reminiscent of objects produced by southern Eurasian tribes.



Fragments of long bones and teeth have been extracted from one of the holes outside the sanctuary. These are believed to be the remains of a sacrifice. But neither can we disregard the fact that the large holes were used for burial. A layer of organic decay has been discovered on the bottom of the central hole-archeologists put the decomposition of bones down to some peculiar properties of the local soils. The remains found here may well have belonged to a posthumously sanctified tribal chief.

Old sanctuaries are often located beside burial sites. This is attributable to pagans' view of death as the point of transition to the afterlife. In ancient folklore, not only the life of nature was seen as a cycle, but human life was, too. The solar and the lunar cults were related to the cult of fertility and to the mythological link between life and death. There are numerous tombs at Stonehenge and Avebury - Europe's most famous circular-shaped sanctuaries. The very idea of a circular structure goes back to ancient legends about the Creation. The circle - a magic geometrical shape with no beginning or end - was regarded as a symbol of eternity and infinity.

 

Town of Arkaim

Sometimes referred to as the Russian Stonehenge, the ancient town of Arkaim is one of the most mysterious places on our planet. It is situated on the outskirts of the city of Chelyabinsk, a large industrial center in the Urals. Arkaim was discovered quite by chance in the summer of 1987. Scientists believe it is at least 4,000 years old. It is older than the legendary Troy and the Egyptian Pyramids and is close to being the same age as Stonehenge.

According to one theory, Arkaim was built by the Aryans, representatives of one of the most ancient Indo-European civilizations, and the forefathers of many Europeans.

Arkaim is a settlement within a fortress, some 20 square kilometers in size, which has a distinctly circular shape. On the outside there is an external ring of a massive fortified wall up to four meters thick and six meters tall and a deep moat filled with water.

Within the external wall there is another ring of a smaller diameter but fortified equally well. In the space between the walls were residential quarters and shops. Artifacts found there indicate the wide use of copper smelting furnaces. Why copper is still unclear. Today there are no traces of the raw material for copper in the vicinity, which means that it either was there at the time or it was brought there from afar. But why they needed copper is still a mystery. Many experts believe that it was in Arkaim that the first copper smelting furnace in the world was built. It was there too that the horse was first domesticated and the two-wheeled chariot was invented.


The residential area of the fortress boasted advanced amenities considering the time it was built in. The pavement made of thick logs hid a sewage system. Two round one-storey houses positioned along the perimeter between the two fortified walls comprised separate apartments, a hundred or more square meters each. In addition to several rooms, each apartment had a hearth and a well. In the very center of the city-fortress was a square where religious rites were performed.

Why did Arkaim have a circular layout which was so unusual for a city of the time? Such a shape is considered very convenient during military defense operations — no corners, therefore the enemy is clearly seen from all sides. According to another theory, a circle resembles the shape of the sun, and the people living there worshipped the Sun god.
Yet another hypothesis has it that certain installations found by archeologists indicate that they were intended to be used for star watching. Some scientists believe that the entire city was nothing other than a huge well-equipped ancient observatory. Therein lies the similarity between Arkaim and Stonehenge.

It's interesting that both places are not just of roughly the same age, they are also located at the same latitude. Both were designed to be precisely oriented on stars. Both were constructed in very similar locales — valley at the foothill. Are these mere coincidences, or is there a link between the two? The question remains unanswered as yet.

Unlike Stonehenge that is relatively well-preserved, not much is left of Arkaim — mostly defense moats, earth banks and building foundations. Archeological excavations that have been going on for 20 odd years indicate that the city was destroyed well-nigh entirely by a massive fire. Fascinating finds like ceramic utensils, work implements, smelting furnaces and other artifacts make it possible to visualize what the city was like 4,000 years ago. Oddly enough, among the archeological finds there are no human remains or bones of domestic animals. No valuables, no jewellery, no religious objects. Could it be that they have disintegrated over the millennia gone by? But why then have similar items survived in ancient burial places outside the fortress walls? Why has time spared them?



Two hypotheses address the issue. According to one of them, the residents of Arkaim knew for certain that the city would be destroyed shortly by a calamitous event and evacuated everybody including domestic animals ahead of time. The other hypothesis suggests that having abandoned the city, the residents themselves set it on fire. When and why they did it is yet another mystery.

Arkaim doesn't cease to excite interest and attention. Not only among scientists and experts. Tourists from Russia and abroad have been visiting there in droves every year. There are no hotels in Arkaim, so those wishing to spend the night on this enigmatic soil have to do so in tents. In summer time most visitors prefer to spend the night under the open sky on one of the three neighboring hills: the Hill of Repentance, the Hill of Love, or the Hill of Reason. Everyone is free to choose the priority area of their life, and hope and pray that their wish comes true.

 

 

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