In Antiquity

Athenaion
Al'ma-Kermen
Bulganak
Gurzufskoye Sedlo
Dandake
"Ancient Chersonesos"of Strabo
"Another Harbor of the Chersonesites"
Eupatorion
Kalos Limen
Kara-tobe
Kerkinitis
Kermen-kyr
Kermenchik
Ktenous
Lagyra
Lampas
Napites
Neapolis
Palakion
Roman strongholds
The Sanctuary on the Isthmus of the Saki Lake
Symbolon Limen
"Walls"
Ust'-Al'ma
Chabaioi
Charax

In the Middle Ages

 
The Taurians

The text below is adapted translation of Igor Khrapunov's first chapter in his
"Ocherki etnicheskoy istorii Kryma v rannem zheleznom veke. Tavry. Skify. Sarmaty (The surveys on the ethnic history of the Crimea in the Early Iron Age: the Taurians, the Scythians, the Sarmatians"; Simferopol: Tavriya, 1995).

The Taurians were an ethnos with the whole history connected with the Crimea, and with the Crimea only. Numerous Scythians and, later, Sarmatians roamed through vast territories and considered the Crimea no more than a borderland of their country, though the history of the Taurians, according to all written and archaeological sources, started and finished within the Crimean peninsula, and they never moved out of its limits.

For the first time, the Taurians were mentioned in the "Histories" by Herodotus (4.99, 100, 102, 103, 119). Although this work was written in the middle of the 5th century B. C., the Taurians were discussed in context of the war between the Persians and the Greeks, which dated in the chronological interval between 519 and 510 B. C., according to modern scholars. When Persian king Darius I Hystaspes stood at the border of the Scythian land, the Scythians asked for help from the kings of neighboring tribes. They successfully found common language with several tribes, though the others, Taurians in particular, refused them assistance.

Herodotus provided a brief description of the territory occupied by the Taurians. In his words, this mountainous area projects into Pontos (Black Sea) and is located in between of Kerkinitis and Rocky Chersonesos, that is to say, if one uses modern toponyms, between the city of Yevpatoriya and Kerch peninsula.

We owe the most brilliant description of the Taurians' manners to the "father of history". They sacrificed the Hellenes from wrecked ships or captured in the open sea to their virgin goddess. In sanctuary of this goddess, the Taurians nailed the heads of their victims to poles and threw the bodies from a cliff or, according to another account, buried them in soil.

The heads of captured enemies (who were probably not taken in robberies but in some military operations) were raised on high poles above houses to be the guards of the dwellings. "The Taurians live by plunders and war," Herdotus sums up.

Herodotus gave birth to a special tradition of describing Taurians that became determinant of almost all ancient Greek and Roman historiography. In most of cases, Classical writers simply retold Herodotus account in more or less details or invented their own "pseudo-Taurian" stories. Among the latter are famous ones like "Iphigenia in Tauris" (or "Iphigenia among the Taurians" in the other translation) by Euripides or certain episodes in "Epistles from Pontus" by Ovid.

Strabo seems to use a source independent of Herodotus, according to which information "a Scythian tribe of the Taurians" once occupied the most part of the Crimea, and the most dangerous for navigators spot of it were vicinities of Symbolon Limen harbor (present-day Bay of Balaklava), where the Taurians most often laid their ambushes.

Diodoros of Sicily informs that the Bosporan king Eumelos (310/09 - 304/03 B. C.) successfully struggled against the pirates in Pontos (Black Sea), among which this historian listed the Taurians as well. This passage of Diodoros' text probably originates from a certain local, northern Black Sea source, so one can considerate the most reliable. According to Tacitus, when the Roman ships were in return from Bosporos in A. D. 49, some of them were cast on the Taurian coast. The barbarians destroyed almost every shipwrecked Roman.

The 4th century A. D. historian Ammianus Marcellinus repeated the account of the Taurians' cruelty and savageness which had been known since the time of Herodotus and added the names of three Taurian tribes who were distinguished by their "extraordinary severity": Arichi, Sinchi, and Napaei.

This way, according to narrative sources, the Taurians is the common name of the tribes who lived in the Crimean mountains (and, possibly, if one recollects Strabo's information, even in wider areas but within the Crimea limits). Their occupation was mainly piracy, and their captives were sacrificed to the virgin goddess.

There are several epigraphic documents, which mentioned the Taurians. A 5th century B. C. gravestone, which was uncovered in Pantikapaion, preserves an inscription in verse for Tychon, "Taurian by birth." The famous decree honoring Diophantos speaks of the Taurians who lived in the neighborhood of Chersonesos. Diophantos, who was a general from the Pontic Kingdom, brought the Taurians into subjection in the late 2nd century B. C. Two dedicatory inscriptions for the Bosporan king Aspourgos say that he made the Scythians and Taurians his subjects. One of these inscriptions has exact date, A. D. 23, thought the beginning of the reign of Aspourgos dates to A. D. 10/11, so the Taurians were subjugated in between of A. D. 10 and 23. There is a tombstone from Chersonesos, for two freedmen, of whom "at least one was killed by the Taurians". Tradition dates the inscription on this monument to the 1st century A. D., though there also is a more recent chronological interpretation, for the second half of the 2nd century.

There are few hypotheses for the origins of the ethnonym Taurians and toponym Taurica (as the Crimean peninsula was called in the Classical period), and none of them can be considered proven. For a long time, Mikhail Rostovtsev's hypothesis was dominating, according to which Taurians was a Graecized form of some indigenous word with similar pronunciation. In other words, the Greeks heard how the Taurians called themselves. This word sounding reminded them their own, Greek word tauroi (literally "bulls"), and the population of the peninsula received their Greek name in this way.

In Ella Solomonik's opinion, the Greeks called the Crimean mountains Tauros. Ethnonym Taurians and toponym Taurica originated from the above horonym (name of the mountains). Hence, the Taurians were the mountaineers, the inhabitants of the Tauros (Crimean mountain). This suggestion, however, met with criticism from some scholars.

Unfortunately, almost nothing is known about the language the Taurians spoke. None of the Taurian words survived except, may be, the self-name of this people in other-language, Greek pronunciation. Several attempts were made, against the background of analysis of linguistic array, in order to connect the Taurians with Indo-Arians who had settled in the Crimea, but one can not call these attempts successful. If one acknowledges the Taurians as the descendants of the people who developed the so-called Srubnaya (literally "Timber Grave") culture, one can construct the following deduction. Timber Grave tribes played an important role in ethnogenesis of the Cimmerians and Scythians. It seems that all the scholars agree with this inference, especially in relation to the Scythians. Both the Cimmerians and the Scythians spoke Iranian languages. Hence, it is quite probable that the Timber Grave people also spoke one or few languages of the Iranian group of the Indo-European family of languages. This conclusion finds additional argument in the coincidence of Timber Grave culture habitat and the area of Iranian hydronyms. This way, being the descendants of the people of Timber Grave culture, the Taurians might speak one of Iranian languages.

An anonymous description of Pontos Euxeinos preserves toponym Ardabda, that is Iranian "of seven gods." It was the name of Theodosia in "Alanic or Taurian" language. Alanic language certainly belonged to Iranian group. Taurian language may also belong to the same group if the closeness of two languages really existed. Other interpretations, however, are also possible. For example, the language might be called Taurian because it belonged to the Alans living in Taurica (in the mountains and foothills of the Crimea). Ellis Minns based his argument on the name of Ardabda and hypothesized that the Taurians were Iranian-speaking, but in the other passage of his work he found deriving this toponym from Alan language more probable.

Yet there is no desirable clarity in the discussion of the origins of the ethnos itself. Some scholars, such as Sergey Zhebelev, suppose that not all the Cimmerians left the northern Black Sea area after the Scythians defeated them. Some Cimmerians retreated to the Crimean mountains and became to be familiar to the Hellenes under the name of the Taurians. It seems that one can call this hypothesis intuitive one, grounded on some general ideas of the history of the northern Black Sea region in the Early Iron Age. It is not possible to find some confirmation of it either in written or in archaeological sources.

Alexander Leskov has based his argument on the similarity of some artifacts from Taurian cemeteries with finds from sites of Koban culture to reconstruct a process of migration in Late Bronze or Early Iron Age, when few tribes moved from Central and Northern Caucasus through the Straits of Kerch to the Crimea. Infiltration of Caucasian tribes was gradual process complicated by contacts with peoples of Prikubanskaya (literally "of Kuban region") and Timber Grave cultures. The migrants from the mountainous areas of the Northern Caucasus eventually settled in the Crimean mountains where they received the ethnonym of the Taurians.

Many scholars have related the ethnogenesis of the Taurians to the local Crimean ethnical substrate. V. A. Kolotukhin is the one who has been developing this concept in the last years and has grounded it with use of recently discovered archaeological materials. There turned out to be a genetic connection of pottery complex and funeral rite of the Taurians with late Timber Grave sites in the Crimea. Multi-layered settlements were discovered which originated in the Bronze Age and continued to exist in the Early Iron Age. This way, the idea that the Taurian culture formed against the background of late Timber Grave one is the best-grounded for this moment, from the point of view of archaeology. It is probable that on the turn of Bronze and Early Iron Age some Timber Grave tribes turned to nomadic way of life and became to be known to the ancient writers under the name of Cimmerians, the others consolidated in the foothills of the Crimea and developed another ethnos, the Taurians.

All the scholars agree to the fact that the Taurians were those who made cemeteries of the so-called cists (graves made of stone slabs placed on ground surface). Such sites have been uncovered in many places of the southern Crimean coast and the Main Ridge of the Crimean mountains. Some necropoleis consisted of a few grave constructions, the other contained tens of cists sometimes located in parallel lines. I can mention several sites just as an example. Cemeteries of stones cists are discovered in several places near Yalta and Gaspra, atop Koshka mountain in Simeiz and Malaba mountain near Alushta, as well as on the slopes of Chatyr-Dag mountain (all these places are the southern coast of the Crimea). Baydar valley in the south-west Crimea is densely saturated with burial sites of the Taurians. In the east Crimea, cists have been discovered in vicinity of Sudak, Koktebel, Shchebetovka. Above are only a few examples. Archaeologists know tens of Taurian cemeteries, listing which would take too much space.

Typical Taurian cist consists of four slabs, sunken into the ground, which form its walls. The fifth slab covers it from the top. It is very often case when every wall of the cist consists of a few stones adjusted to each other. The size of cists varied but not greatly. It would not probably be a mistake if one describes "average" cist as being slightly more than a meter long, one meter wide, and about a meter high. Cists were often encircled with stone pavements or fences of stones put on ribs.

Although practically all Taurian cemeteries are plundered (with the only exception of Mal-Muz necropolis in Baydar valley), the preserved remains allow one to be convenient that every cist was used for multiple burials. The dead were placed in crouched position time and time again till the cist was overfilled. Then they freed the cist from the bones leaving only skulls, and continued burying. One burial in Mal-Muz cemetery contained 68 skulls. Every grave construction probably was family or clan sepulcher.

Various artifacts were buried with the dead: weapons (swards, daggers, arrows) and horse harness of Scythian types, numerous bronze decorations (finger-rings, bracelets, temple pendants, neck-rings, badges, and earrings), beads, cowrie shells. All the cemeteries date to the period within the 6th - 5th centuries B. C. Actually, this chronology and area where cists were located do no allow the one to have doubts in the necropoleis described above belonged to the Taurians of the Hellenic written sources by the right of their time and place.

There is a site of settlement discovered atop Koshka mountain in Simeiz, on the south coast of the Crimea. It covered the area of 1.5 hectares and was protected with a relatively strong defensive wall with towers. Inside this fence, the settlement was occupied by small stone houses. Under the level of the floors, a Bronze Age layer was discovered. Taking fragments of pottery vessels into account, the scholars relate stone house-building to the Taurian layer. Pavel Schultz has hypothesized that the defensive walls belonged to the Taurians also. However, the absence of analogies at Taurian sites and some observations on stratigraphy allows the one to suggest that the stone fortifications were of medieval origin.

There are tens archaeological sites located in the foothills of the Crimean mountains, which have been discovered from 1920s onwards and interpreted as Kizil-Koba archaeological culture. Among the others, the settlements of Uch-Bash (near Sevastopol), Inkerman, Balaklava, Ashlama-Dere (in vicinity of Bakhchisaray), Kizil-Koba (this eponymic for the whole culture site is located near cave of the same name), Simferopol, Shpil' (at the source of Malyy Salgir river, near village of Druzhnoye) are investigated better. All these settlements had no fortifications and were covered with pit-houses or aboveground wattle-and-daub dwellings having numerous grain pits around. The excavations unearthed a relatively big number of stone tools, and sometimes bronze decorations, arrowheads, parts of horse harness absolutely similar with the artifacts found in Taurian cists. The main contents of the cultural layer, however, are fragments of hand-made vessels. Among them were very large pots and other pots of various types, bowls, beakers, ladles with hands highly pulled up above rim, colanders or filters with perforated walls, and several other types. Many vessels are decorated with applied cordons and relief knobs. Numerous polished to black, brown or reddish color vessels with white incrustation (surface is decorated with incised ornament, which is filled with white paste) make a special feature of Kizil-Koba culture.The finds of remains of cereals and legumes, bones of domesticated animals, ceramic spindle whorls (weights which were put on spindles) supply evidences to reconstruct the economy of Kizil-Koba population.

О хозяйственной деятельности населения свидетельствуют находки остатков злаковых и бобовых культур, кости домашних животных, глиняные грузики-пряслица, одевавшиеся на веретена.

In many cases, the cemeteries are located near settlements. These necropoleis consist of less monumental, when on the southern coast, cists which were often encircled with cromlechs. Some burials were made in pits and covered with stone pavements. Low barrows were raised above some grave constructions. Each grave contained remains of 2-3 to few dozens of the dead. The bodies were placed in extended or contracted position. The dead were accompanied with vessels of the same types as those discovered when excavating the settlements, horse harness and weapons of pre-Scythian (Cimmerian) or Scythian appearance, various bronze decorations similar to those found in cists on the southern coast.

In general, Kizil-Koba culture dates from the 8th to the 4th or 3rd century B. C.; each site certainly has more narrow chronology.

The archaeologists have been discussing the ethnic element of Kizil-Koba culture for ages. The first reflection on recently found sites led G. A. Bonch-Osmolovskiy to the conclusion that the sites belonged to the Taurians. Later on, this idea found support from the scholars who had much more archaeological materials in possession. Yet as early as 1930s V. N. D'yakov noticed certain contradictions between the data of archaeology and account of written sources and hypothesized that Kizil-Koba culture had not been that of the Taurians. This concept also has its champions who offered new arguments for it. The discussion regarding the ethnic element of Kizil-Koba culture has been described in already printed studies in every detail, so I will restrict myself to brief paraphrase of arguments of supporters of both hypotheses.

The scholars who interpret Kizil-Koba culture as Taurian usually base themselves on the following facts:

  • Cist cemeteries located on the Main Ridge of the Crimean mountains and the southern coast of the peninsula are by no means Taurian and date to the 6th and 5th century B. C., though Kizil-Koba sites in the foothills date from the 8th to the 3rd century B. C. Consequently, the culture represented by the cists corresponds to one of the stages of Kizil-Koba culture in chronological point of view.
  • Written sources of the period earlier than the 2nd century B. C. knew no other people residing in the Crimean mountains and foothills but the Taurians.
  • Actually, every type of artifacts discovered in Taurian cists was also found in excavations of Kizil-Koba settlements and cemeteries.

The scholars who believe that Kizil-koba culture was created by another people, ethnonym of which did not preserve in written sources, usually offer the following arguments:

  • According to archaeological data, Kizil-Koba people were agriculturalists and pastoralists, which fact does not correspond to written sources account representing the Taurians and plunders and pirates.
  • There are differences in construction of grave structures and in funeral rite of the foothills population on the one hand and that of the Main Ridge and southern coast of the Crimea on the other hand. Materials from the excavations of Kizil-Koba settlements are practically incomparable because only one settlement is uncovered and considered Taurian, that on Koshka mountain.
  • Taurian cemeteries did not possess the most brilliant feature of Kizil-Kobe culture: polished vessels with incised ornamentation.

To begin with, I would like to notice that the last item of the list can not be taken into consideration, because vessels with incised ornamentation are uncovered around Taurian cists being probably remains of funeral repast. The absence of such ware in graves can be probably explained as a certain norm of local funeral rite.

There are some compromise suggestions to solve the above-described problem. In particular, Valeriy Ol'khovskiy related the genesis of Kizil-Koba culture with the Taurians and one another ethnic component, which he could not identify.

The arguments of champions of both hypotheses regarding the ethnic component of Kizil-Koba culture seems well-grounded and are based on solidly established facts. But these facts, prima facie, contradict to each other, so the conclusions are controversial.

The tendency of interpretation Kizil-Koba culture as Taurian predominates in scholarship now. Its supporters, however, could not ignore the difference between the sites in the mountains and those in the foothills. This difference appears in the construction of cists, smaller number of burials in one grave, and the presence of individual burials in the foothill region, in larger variety of grave goods in this area, as well as in almost lack of long-lasted settlements on the Main Ridge and the southern coats of the Crimea, though there are tens of such monuments within the limits of Inner and Outer Ridges of Crimean mountains.

I will try to accord all the data in possession within the framework of one hypothesis. For this purpose, we need to use the idea of "economic-cultural type", which is often used by Russian and Soviet school of ethnology (cultural anthropology). Economic-cultural type usually refers to a certain complex of particular features of economy and culture out of connection to ethnic component of the people who created this complex. The shaping of different economic-cultural types depends mainly on environmental and climatic conditions in the area where lived and level of social and economic development of the given ethnos. There are numerous examples of how different economic-cultural types and, consequently, particularities of material culture, developed in the area of one ethnos. Social, blood and family ties, and common ethnic identity fixed in ethnonym preserved as well.

Archaeology usually grasps particular features of material culture. All the other factors, that have the same importance for the life of the ethnos, can not be fixed as a rule. That is the reason why many scholars think that identification of the concept of ethnos with that of archaeological culture is principally impossible. At any rate, such a coincidence is relatively rare phenomenon. Complete cultural complex itself rarely corresponds to ethnic limits, all the more it is true for such a separate features of archaeological culture as funeral rite and ceramic ware. Economic-cultural type, in contrast, can not be separated from the culture of population of this or that area due to its definition. So the archaeological sites, which are nothing more but aggregated remains of ancient culture, often allows one to reconstruct economic-cultural type of the population that formed these sites.

One may try to apply this theoretical discourse to concrete archaeological materials.

The tribes of Kizil-Koba culture were engaged, in all probability, in primitive horticulture and herding pastoralism. All the scholars agree with the above idea. Their conclusions are grounded on topography of the settlements, the presence of grain pits and inserts for sickles in every settlements, numerous osteological and some paleobotanic finds. Less is clear about the economy of the people who left cemeteries of cists in the Crimean mountains. The scholarly usually take into account words of Pseudo-Scymnos that "the Taurians… like nomadic life in mountains", natural circumstances of the Main Ridge and southern coast of the Crimea where agriculture is extremely difficult, and almost complete lack of long-term settlements, so they infer that the Taurians mainly did transhumance.

If one uses data of written sources, one will have to assume that piracy plaid some (however it is unknown which exactly) role in the economy. By the way, it is absolutely unclear why all that pillaged artifacts disappear. At any rate, the excavations uncovered no imports but beads.

To sum up all the described above, I can draw the following conclusions. Taurians were an ethnos that shaped as a consolidation of parts of tribes who lived in the Crimea in late Bronze Age and originally concentrated in the foothills of the Crimea doing agriculture and herding pastoralism. In the 6th century B.C. some of the Taurian tribes moved to the mountains and the southern coast of the Crimea, where they formed the economic-cultural type connected with transhumance and possibly with piracy. Differences in economy and certain territorial separation resulted in forming specific features of material and spiritual culture. Hence, in the 6th and 5th centuries the Taurians were separated into two sub-ethnic groups corresponding to two economic-cultural types.

It was the 4th century when the population migrated back to the foothill area and new consolidation of Taurian tribes on the base of settled farming and pastoral population took place. This conclusion is drawn against the background of the circumstance that there is no burial in the mountains nor in the southern coast of the Crimea which could be dated later than the 5th century BC. Many settlements in the foothills continued to exist in the 4th and 3rd centuries.

More than once the scholars paid attention to the passages where Herodotos mentioned "the kings of Taurians" and to above-cited information by Ammianus Marcellinus about Arichi, Sinchi, and Napaei and made conclusion that the Taurians were ethnically heterogeneous and divided into several tribes. In general, this conclusion can not raise objections. In this regard, I would like to underline that ethnologies have fixed "ethnic fluctuation" for the entire tribal world, so the tribes showed weak discontinuity in many of the most important ethnical characteristics and kin and other groups of people could easily transit from one tribe to another. Cultural processes (especially in material culture) revealed much less dynamics than ethnic ones. One may even say that common culture provided a possibility for easy ethnic transformations. Some ethnologists think that tribal division was far from being universal in antiquity. Tribal structure may appear only in result of contacts between primitive periphery and class societies. That is why any attempt to establish locations of different Taurian tribes by archaeological methods would seem to have no perspective.

Taking all the aforementioned into account, it would be correct to call the 8th - 3rd century B. C. population of mountainous and foothill areas of the Crimea the Taurians. The ethnonym Taurians should be considered as collective for a group of tribes. Otherwise, it is impossible to understand the situation which is unexplainable for the champions of the hypothesis separating the Taurians from Kizil-Koba people: why did the Greeks know no other but the Taurian people in the Crimean mountains and foothills.

For judgment that this or that people really existed, ethnonym is more important than archaeological culture. If we interpret Kizil-Koba culture as that of the Taurians, we will widen the range of possibilities when solving some problems, which are important for the ethnic history of the Taurians. In particular, one can try to clarify the habitat of the Taurians and investigate their interrelations with other ethnoi with the help from such an ethnic indicator as polished ware with incised ornament. This type of ceramic ware is uncovered in course of excavations of actually all cities of Bosporan Kingdom and in Kerkinitis, as well as isolated shreds can be found in Chersonesos. This ceramic ware is evidence that the Taurians were among the dwellers of ancient Greek cities.

Their social status was unclear. They might be slaves or some other category of dependent population, or women who married Greek colonists. However, gravestone of Tyhon the Taurian from Pantikapaion, which was discussed above, is an evidence for at least some of them became members of civil community. In circumstances of Greek city, the Taurians were assimilated by the Hellenes loosing their own ethnic particularities.

The relations between the Taurians and Chersonesos developed in different ways. Only few fragments of Kizil-Koba vessels and primitive clay statuettes, which could be made by the Taurians, are found in the city proper. Outside the city walls, the Chersonesites pushed the Taurians away from the Gerakleyskiy peninsula according to the Doric colonization model and partly subjugated or enslaved them. To be true, the latter hypothesis is based on unpublished materials from the investigations of Taurian settlements in the close neighborhood of Chersonesos, which is why it can not be checked and still has a view of logical construction with no support from archaeological data.

The problem of Taurian settlements that existed at places where ancient Greek cities were founded later on is still open. No case is known when Kizil-Koba cultural layer under the earliest Greek one was uncovered. Therefore, although future investigations may result in discovery of such a situation, for the time being one should believe that the Taurians came to Greek cities that existed already.

There is a necropolis discovered in the northern area of the city-site of Chersonesos. It consists of graves with no grave goods or extremely poor burials. About a half of the dead were placed in graves in crouched position, which is why many scholars hypothesized that this necropolis was made by the Taurians who lived in Chersonesos. Vladimir Kadeyev, however, has made detailed analysis of every part of burial rite and convincingly proved that this necropolis belonged to the Greeks. Small number of crouched burials is uncovered in excavations of many ancient Greek cites. As these graves contain no goods, they give no reason to infer about the time and ethnic component of these burials. Crouched position may be an evidence for low social status of buried persons.

More than once did scholars attempts to interpret the above-mention passage from Strabo's "Geography", according to which the Taurians lived far away from the mountainous part of the Crimea. The lack of chronological milestones and appropriate archaeological reality does not allow the one drawing unequivocal conclusions. I can only establish, in the most general terms, that, if we believe Strabo, the limits of the area populated by the Taurians were not stable and included from time to time a part of Crimean steppe.

The frontier between the steppe and foothills was, in the 6th and 5th centuries B. C., an area where the Taurians (who shaped Kizil-Koba culture) were mixing with the Scythians; it is confirmed by a series of graves under barrows, which combined Taurian features of funeral ritualism with Scythian ones.

One can say only few words about spiritual culture of the Taurians. I have already discussed above their worship of virgin goddess and human sacrifices to her. Some of Crimean caves contained fragments of Kizil-Koba ceramic ware and animal bones. Yeni-Sala II cave houses stalagmite with animal skull on its top; there are images of human face and cross on the wall of MAN cave. Above are the reasons to suppose that the caves housed sanctuaries of a certain pastoral cult. It is really hard to imagine that cold and wet caves were used in some other way. Nevertheless, the presence of fragments of vessels from other periods in the same caves remains the questions when the animal bones appeared there and wall paintings were made still open.

Excavations of Shpil settlement near present-day Druzhnoye village uncovered various artifacts made of ill-baked clay and sometimes colored red. Among them are anthropomorphic and zoomorphic statuettes, balls and large cone-shaped artifacts. All clay items are fragile, so utilitarian usage of them is impossible, and one has no doubt that they were used for purposes of cult. Similar clay ware was discovered in many places of East European forest-steppe, in the areas populated by the Fracians, as well as at Bronze Age settlements in the Crimea. They are often found near or under fireplaces, inside of them or in cinder taken from fireplace and deliberately heaped in one place. Only in Thrace, clay statuettes were used for grave goods. Analogies from East Europe show that clay artifacts were related to fireplace cult that existed among the Taurians. At the same time, all the finds under my present interest were found at the settlements of the people whose main economy was agriculture. Nomadic peoples of the steppe did not make such things. Therefore, it is possible that clay statuettes had some relations to fertility cult, first of all, to the cult of earth.

Kizil-Koba culture ceased to exist in the 4th or, as latest, in the 3rd century B. C. After that, we remain without archaeological sources for the history of the Taurians. This, nevertheless, does not mean that they ceased to exist as ethnos. The Taurians are mentioned in the first centuries A. D. epigraphic documents which deserves every credit and by Tacitus in relation to the events of the war between Rome and Bosporan Kingdom in 49 A. D. At the same time, inscriptions and other written sources widely used synthetic term "Tauroskythoi" or "Scythotauroi" for the Crimean population.

The beginning of those processes could probably be dated to the 2nd century B. C., when the sources started to call the Taurians "a Scythian tribe". Mixing of the Taurians and Scythians was a gradual process, so, for example, Bosporan king Aspourgos, who led wars with his neighbors, made clear distinction between the two people.

One may be waiting that the reconstruction of the ethnic history of the Crimea in the first centuries A. D., which is made against the background of written sources, would be proved by the materials from the excavations of Late Scythian sites. These expectations, however, come true to smaller extent only. The traces of the Taurians who stayed amidst the Late Scythians can be caught, with difficulties, in some details of funeral rite (most apparently in barrows of Tavel') and separate forms of hand-made vessels.

Kizil-Koba artifacts are discovered in course of excavations of almost every Late Scythian settlement. It is still not established, however, did the Taurians continue to live in their settlements when the Scythians came or the latter populated areas, which had been left by the former population.

Multitude of ancient Greek and Roman artifacts was discovered by accident, when plowing, in vicinity of present Yalta, in a place called Selim-Bek. Among the other finds there were at least 1,500 Roman, Bosporan, Chersonesos, and other coins, which dated from the 1st century B. C. to the 4th century A. D. (most part to the late 2nd and 3rd centuries A. D.). Besides that, bronze bracelets, finger-rings, buckles, buttons, sculpture of a horse, silver plates, beads, fragments of glass and clay vessels were found there. The finds include also clay statuettes representing females. These are of two groups: typical Greek terracotta ware of relatively high artistic quality and primitive, ill-baked pyramids with finger-made tucks representing nose and sexual parts. Alexander Berthier de Lagarde, who published the finds from Yalta, hypothesized that they were offerings to a sanctuary of some female deity. He was very careful about ethnic component of the people who established this sanctuary and called them "local population" being under Bosporan influence. The scholars who worked with artifacts from Selim-Bek area have much more concrete opinion. They based their hypothesis on the idea that primitive statuettes were inconsistent with common concept of Classical culture and the sanctuary location to interpret the latter as Taurian site. I would like to notice, anyway, that rough anthropomorphic images similar to the ones from Yalta were uncovered in different Greek settlements in the northern Black Sea area, for example, in Bosporos, Chersonesos, the chora of Olbia, as well as in the capital of the Late Scythian state. No more barbarian artifacts were found in the sanctuary near Yalta. Hence there is no reason to exclude it from the circle of ancient Greek and Roman sites.

Another sanctuary, similar to that in Yalta, but a larger one, with numerous, various and precious artifacts has been being investigated in recent years at Gurzufskoye Sedlo mountain pass by archaeologists from Yalta. The earliest finds include some number of weapons and decorations similar to those uncovered from Taurian cists. This sanctuary, however, was most actively used in the 1st century B. C. and 1st century A. D., when hundreds of coins, silver and bronze miniature sculptures, medical instruments, ceramic and glass vessels, and many other artifacts were offered to it in sacrifice. The person who excavated this site, Nataliya Novichenkova interprets it as Late Scythian one. However, the absence, at list among the published finds, of any barbarian material of the time when the sanctuary flourished brings one to relate the site to Classical culture.


© I.N. Khrapunov, 1995


[In Antiquity] [In the Middle Ages]

[History]  [Excavations]  [Museum]  [Park]  [City]  [Chora]  [Outlying areas]  [Service]
[Virtual map]  [Our gallery]  [Add photo]  [Rus]  [Ukr]
© Project "Megarica", 2016

info@chersonesos.org
All rights reserved
Rambler's Top100