SUSU Student Historians Return From Archaeological Practice


Summer is a traditionally hot time for archaeologists, who complete their field season in this time. For student historians of the ISSH this is when the complete their first academic practice which they complete in the form of an expedition under the guidance of professor of the Department of Russian and Foreign History, Andrey Epimakhov. This month spent far away from home should become the basis for understanding the pages of ancient history which remain only in the form of archaeological objects – settlements, burial grounds, and monuments to spiritual life. Learning to recognize them is not an easy task. It is even more different to interpret them correctly. This is the main goal of this practical training, and it is realized through the most authentic archaeological research, in which students are engaged from the first to last moment.

Over many years, the SUSU expedition with the Institute of Ural Division RAS History and Archaeology has be working in the natural area of Kamenniy Ambar in the Kartaly region. Here, the first steps have been made by SUSU's future historians since the first graduating class. Its worth representative, candidate of historical sciences I.V. Chechushkov, graduate student of the University of Pittsburg (USA), worked side by side this season with students and even organized a visit by professor Robert Drennan (h-index Web of Science – 12, Scopus – 13), who offered a lecture on the newest results of his research. In addition, the future historians had the chance to touch an ancient Chelyabinsk region architectural object - the Kesene mausoleum (“Tower of Tamerlan”), a monument to the bronze age and middle ages.

However, the practical session program mostly consisted of routine work in the dig sites of mound 12 of the burial site Kamenniy Ambar 5. This monument is already well known for years outside the country, but its value has only grown in the last few years. Specialists from the Harvard Medical School say that the largest series of ancient DNA in North Eurasia was found here. New research needed to be added to this impressive list, which became one of the main research tasks this season. Thanks to the coordinated work by the whole collective, these plans came to live successfully.

However, before this, they had to master the knowledge of field work with a level, shovel, and stretcher, learn to cook over a campfire, and live in a tent in the steppe, where you must be ready for both heat and rain in one day. The reward for hard work for the first weeks were the well-preserved bones from people from the bronze age buried more than 3500 years ago. In the double grave of adults, alongside the typical ceramic dishes, they found a bronze knife and a bony collar (apparently, a part of a whip). There were no less surprises in store when studying the bones themselves – on one of the skulls there were clearly visible traces of trepanation. This operation to remove parts of the skull is extremely rare in monuments of the bronze age, but what is more amazing is that the person clearly lived quite long after the operation, which is considered a difficult operation even today.

Still to come is the long stage of processing the materials – restoring the finds and analysis. Besides the anthropological remains, from which it will be possible to learn about appearance, nutrition, DNA, health, and more, the expedition also had some atypical sources of information. For example, they took samples of soil from vessels and abdominal cavity of the buried. The first can offer information about the contents of vessels during the completion of this ritual, the second – about the presence of intestinal disease in the ancient population. Right now, we can say that mound being researched was left by people from the Srubna archaeological culture, and the concrete date can be found out only after completing radiocarbon dating.

The student portion of this work is completed. The feelings from this practical work will remain in their memories and in reports, but the main thing is that they were able to personally touch the world of ancient culture known only in books and learn the basics of working as an archaeologist.

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