The Siberian Times reports that archaeologists have been excavating a Bronze Age necropolis, made up of about 600 tombs, in Staryi Tartas village of the Novosibirsk region (map) in Russia. Researchers were able identify these graves as belonging to the Andronovo culture (1800 – 1400 BC), from modern day Iran, because of the grave goods that were buried with the bodies. Dozens of these burials contain the skeletal remains of two adults embracing each other. It was recently revealed that some of the graves contain adults and children, while others contain just children. This discovery has archaeologists scratching their heads and hope that DNA tests will shed some light on the kinship of these individuals.
On the surface these 3500 year old graves look like the ending of a fairy tale, that these couples loved each other so much that they wanted to spend eternity together, but one Russian archaeologist offers a more macabre explanation.
Professor Lev Klein, of St Petersburg State University, argues that the inhumation burials containing couples are the result of a reincarnation ritual that was influenced by “deeksha” ceremonies, ancient consecration rituals linked to the religions of the Indian sub-continent (i.e. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism). Deeksha rituals in this context would have involved a symbolic “second birth,” and a ritual sexual act would have been necessary to complete the ceremony. According to Klein, the man would have offered his body to be part of the deeksha rite where he performed a ritual sexual act to impregnate a woman. During this period, the deceased’s family may have wanted to recreate the ‘deeksha’ postmortem, and sacrificed a woman and simulated sexual intercourse in the grave. Right now researchers don’t know if the females in the graves are wives or a female who was sacrificed to complete the woman’s role in the ritual. If this deeksha ritual had only two participants (one male and one female), this hypothesis doesn’t explain the presence of children in some of the graves.
Another hypothesis is that the people in these Bronze Age graves were part of a nuclear family unit, and these burials display the importance this culture placed on this relationship. Did the man die first and his wife was sacrificed and placed in the grave? Was the grave was left open after one person died and the spouse was added later? Did the entire family die at the same time from a tragic accident or disease? In the cases of the graves containing adults and children, are these the skeletal remains of individual who are related to each other? If so, how are they related?
Right now archaeologists are waiting on the results of genetic testing to establish the kinship of these individuals before they reach any other conclusions.
Read more and view more pictures at The Siberian Times.