In Antiquity

Gurzufskoye Sedlo
"Ancient Chersonesos"of Strabo
"Another Harbor of the Chersonesites"
Kalos Limen
Roman strongholds
The Sanctuary on the Isthmus of the Saki Lake
Symbolon Limen

In the Middle Ages

Gurzufskoye Sedlo

High in the mountains above the south coast of the Crimea, at 1.400 m above the sea level there was an ancient sanctuary. Its remains were discovered at Gurzufskoye Sedlo mountain pass by accident, during the building of a gas pipeline. Later on, a team of Yalta archaeologists headed by N. G. Novichenkova has excavated this monument.

Wide panorama view opens up from the height of this mountain pass. Mountainous country of the south-west Crimea lies to the north and the endless steppe stretches after it. The coast and mirror-like surface of the Black Sea opens to the south. It is hard to find another place in the mountains, which is so convenient for observation of the son, the moon, and the stars. Nearby was the crossing of two ancient roads, one of which connected the mountainous regions with the coast and another led from the east to the west atop flat plateaus (yayla) of the mountains of the Main Ridge of Crimea.

In the middle of the sanctuary there was a small square sided with lines of curved in rock skin-deep pits. A fire was burning in its center where animal meat was blazed as a sacrifice to gods, in result of which the bedrock was annealed to the red color.

Various and often precious items were offered as sacrifices in this sanctuary. Archaeologists uncovered there hundreds of coins including gold pieces of Chersonesos, of the time of the Roman emperors Tiberius and Nero, of the Bosporan rulers Asandros, Dynamis, Aspourgos, and Mithridates VIII. They found set of statuettes depicting Hellenistic gods Zeus, Poseidon, Hermes, Artemis, and Tyche. A small box clasp was made in the form of a little sculpture of Aphrodite. Silver panther's head was a furniture adornment. Snake-shaped bracelet and silver figurine of a bird, probably of an eagle, were made of silver. Gold artifacts include seal ring with a snake-picture, gemstone ring with a picture of butterfly engraved on its garnet gem, one more finger-ring with a glass inset, and a brooch which was decorated with garnet.

A hypothesis states that the poetized by ancient writers sanctuary of Artemis, to whom the Taurian people made bloody sacrifices, was located just on the Gurzufskoye sedlo pass. However, the latest sites that could be related to the Taurians date to the 4th century BC, though the overwhelming majority of the finds from Gurzufskoye sedlo are of the later period, from the 1st century B. C. to the 1st century A. D. Ancient writers of that later period certainly knew about the Taurians and supplied picturesque descriptions of their cruel rites, but in scholars' opinion, the Taurians had already been scattered among the Late Scythians and had lost their own original material and spiritual culture by that moment. Besides this, the excavation of the site at Gurzufskoye sedlo mountain pass has not discovered any artifact that can be related to the Taurians proper. All the finds from that place were produced by the Ancient Greeks or Romans.

May this site be place to which the descendants of the Taurians brought the plunder they got when assaulting the Roman ships in A. D. 45? That was the year when the Romans entered the civil war in the Bosporan kingdom and soon afterwards presented the throne to their own protege. "However, in their return the fortune was not equally favorable [to the Roman army]: several ships, as they were sailing back [from Bosporos], were driven on the coast of the Taurians, and they were rounded up with the barbarians who killed the prefectus of a cohort and numerous warriors of the auxiliary troop" (Tacit. Ann. 12. 17). Nevertheless, the sanctuary existed many years before and many years after the episode described above. Yet numerous precious items, which were the excavated in this site, do not agree with our notion of the ascetic life of the Roman legionaries. That is why the interpretation of Gurzufskoye sedlo as a sanctuary of the Greek mariners sailing along the Crimean coast seems more probable.

© N. Khrapunov.

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