Archeologists have announced the discovery of a 2,000-year-old ceremonial suit, likely warrior armor, made with reindeer antlers. Found in the Arctic Circle, researchers believe the suit was decorated and left by an ancient polar people as a sacrifice to the gods.
The discovery, which dates back to between the first century BCE and the first century CE, was made at the Ust-Polui site – an ancient sacred place – and represents the oldest evidence of armor ever discovered north of western Siberia. Excavations at the Ust-Poloi site started in 1935, and since then more than 18,000 artifacts have been discovered. Previous finds at the site suggest a bear cult existed among these early people. Russian archaeologists have unearthed evidence that Ust-Poloi was a major ritual center during the first three centuries CE.
“There are about 30 plates in the collection of Ust-Polui. They differ regarding the degree of preservation, as well as the size, location of mounting holes, and the presence or absence of ornamentation,” Andrey Gusev, an archeologist with the Scientific Research Centre of the Arctic in the Russian town of Salekhard, is quoted as saying in an article published by the Siberian Times, adding, “The ornamentation on the plates can be individual, that is after the thorough analysis we could say how many warriors left armour here, judging by the style of decorations.’”
The largest plates are between 23 and 25 centimeters long and in ancient times would have been attached to a leather surface, offering a dependable type of protection. Other plates, which are are between 12 and 14 centimeters in length, are thinner and richly ornamented.
Conical shaped armor has also been seen on the plated helmets which were worn by ancient warriors in the taiga zone (also known as boreal forest) of Western Siberia. The discovery of iron helmets is extremely rare, however, bronze images from the middle of the first century CE that show people wearing headdresses that clearly resemble helmets have been found. The armor resembles the armor worn by warriors of the Kualai people, fishermen and hunters indigenous to the taiga.
Previous finds at the site include a 2,000-year-old ring, believed to be evidence of a bear cult. These ancient people didn’t leave any written records. Made using high quality bronze, the ring, so tiny in diameter researchers believe it was put on a bear claw, features the image of the head and paws of a bear.
Experts theorize that the ring was on the claw of a previously slain bear, an animal that was worshipped by Khanty tribes as sacred and an ancestor. After the slaying of the bear, the paws and head were adorned with rings and a handkerchief, followed by a festival honoring the animal.
Image courtesy of Andrey Gusev