Friday, September 12, 2014

Armor Made of Bones Found in Bronze Age Grave

by Rossella Lorenzi

Archaeologists in Siberia have unearthed Bronze Age armor crafted from bones in an outfit that George R.R. Martin's epic fantasy character "Rattleshirt" might have worn.
Dating to between 3,900 and 3,500 years old, the armor was buried without its owner at a depth of 5 feet near the Irtysh River in Omsk. Analysis is underway to determine what kind of animal bones were used for the protective outfit, but it was likely assembled with bones from elk, deer and horse.
A reconstruction of the Bronze Age bone armor.
Polina Volf, Yuri Gerasimov, A.Solovyev-The Siberian Times
"At the moment we can only fantasize — who dug it into the ground and for what purpose. Was it some ritual or sacrifice? We do not know yet," Yury Gerasimov of the Omsk branch of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography told The Siberian Times.
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He believes it's possible the site was a place of worship.
"Armor had great material value. There was no sense to dig it in the ground or hide it for a long time — because the fixings and the bones would be ruined," Gerasimov said.
The archaeological site is known for findings dating from the Early Neolithic to the Middle Ages.
During the Bronze Age, the region was inhabited by animal breeder members of the Krotov culture.
The armor, however, resembles artifacts from the Samus-Seyminskaya culture, whose members originated in the Altai Mountain, about 620 miles to the south east, and who later migrated to Omsk.
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If this is the case, the bone outfit could have been a gift, an item obtained through trade, or a spoil of war.
Most likely it belonged to an elite warrior and would have offered protection from Bronze Age weapons such as bone and stone arrowheads, bronze knives, spears tipped with bronze, and bronze axes.
"It was more precious than life, because it saved life," Boris Konikov, curator of the excavations, said.
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The fragile armor is now undergoing restoration. Fragments of bone plates are carefully extracted from blocks of soil in the lab; once cleaned, they will be glued in a full plate.
"It's a long, painstaking process. As a result we hope to reconstruct an exact copy of the armor," Konikov said.
Image: The Bronze Age bone armor. Credit: The Siberan Times.

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