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Archaeological sites

Source:  Lake Baikal. - Irkutsk, 2005. - P. 34-37.

There are a lot of archaeological curiosities on Baikal shores and on its islands, affirming the fact that this territory has been inhabited since the Stone Age. The position of the lake between forest and steppe zones made a certain imprint on the culture and economic activity of the native people and on regional historical processes.

Man's activity in Pribaikalye traces back to more than 100 thousand years ago. The discovery of the upper paleolithic stopping places of Malta and Buret' in the 1920-30s enabled scientists to ascertain that about 25 thousand years ago people in Pribaikalye lived in big permanent settlements. They made both long-term homes of poles, sod, flagstones and bones of big animals, and light portable summer homes. The inhabitants of these settlements hunted mammoth, hairy rhinoceros, bison and reindeer. Living in the severe Ise Age people were able to make and feed the fire. They could count and knew how to keep calendars. They also kert religious rites.

Numerous neolithic and aeneolithic burials contain a rich variety of funeral implements. Things made of Sayan nephrite that are discovered in Pribaikalye and the Amur basin contribute to the intercommune exchange that was well developed in the VI-II thousand years B.C.

Numerous Baikal rock carvings also date from neolithic times. The most famous of them are the Shishkinskiye carvings stretching for about 2 km in the upper reaches of the Lena River. Ancient artists left carvings depicting animals, hunters and people in boats.

One of the masterpieces of early Scythian art is the Korsukovsky hoard discovered in 1983. Its former owner saved everything valuable he had in a bronze pot.

The Ivolginskoye site, the remains of an ancient town with the neighbouring burial plot, is considered to be the standard for investigation of culture, architecture and everyday life of the II century B.C. and the I century A.D. The town residents were engaged in cattle-breeding and agriculture, the smelting of cast iron and bronze and the forging of iron.

"Khun" sites are replaced by tent-like graves, located in groups on Olkhon Island and on the shores of Baikal. The tent-like graves, made of sandstone, arranged in a circle and equally sloping from the centre of the burial site, remind one of a yurt (or a tent) used by nomads. They are thought to have been left by Kurikans who lived in the VTXI century A.D. For selfprotection the Kurikans had to build fortified towns and defensive walls, some of which still exist. The sites of these towns were first discovered in the XVIIth century by explorers. Formal scientific archaeological exploration of Baikal ancient sites began in the XlXth century.

Sagan-Zaba.   The   carvings   were   first described and drew by N. Agapitov in 1881. Rock carvings represent the composition of -numerous figures of animals and birds. At -present some of the carvings were destroyed as a result of limestone leaching.

Orso - rock carvings of the V-X centuries A.D. These carvings were found and studied by B. Petri in 1913. The sizes of surface occupied by carvings are 1,3 x 0,9 m. The composition depicts six animals. The technique of the carvings is an outline embossment.

Shishkinskiye "pisanitsy" (carvings) are located on the right bank of the Lena River. For many centuries the rocks had been covered with carvings the majority of which according to Academician A. Okladnikov belong to the Kurykan culture of the VI-XI centuries A.D.

Archaeological monuments are important historical sources. Due to archaeological surveys it is possible to restore the history of human society. The shores of Lake Baikal are rich in various and diverse archaeological sites. There were found over thousands of ancient monuments. Among them there are articles of all the main archaeological epochs of the ancient history of mankind: Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages.

The richest and the most interesting sites are those at the settlements Malta on the Belaya River and Upper Buret on the Angara River. That was the period of the Stone Age (Upper Paleolith). People lived there for about 25 thousand years ago. In the Ice Age on the place of taiga there was tundra where wandered herds of mammoths, rhinoceroses, reindeer and other animals. At those sites there were found some articles of mammoth's tusk made by stone tools: needles, spears, jewellery, etc. The highest peak of the development of stone processing technique was in the New Stone Age (Neolith).

The sites and burials of the Bronze Age contained copper and bronze knives, axes, fishhooks, daggers, arrowheads and more perfect jewelleries. On the boundary of our age, bronze articles were being replaced by iron ones.

The monuments of the Iron Age were especially diverse. Numerous sites and fortified towns, iron smelting workshops, where a man made iron knives, axes and adzes, arrowheads, iron bit, stirrups and shovels, were found on the shores of Lake Baikal.

All the diversity of archaeological monuments of the shores of Lake Baikal is a historical and cultural heritage and our national wealth, which is protected by the state.

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