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Kurgan (Russian: курга́н) is the Russian word (of Turkic origin) for tumulus, a type of burial mound or barrow, heaped over a burial chamber, often of wood. <ref> "kurgan." Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002. http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com (14 Oct. 2006). </ref>
In 1956 Marija Gimbutas introduced her Kurgan hypothesis combining kurgan archaeology with linguistics to locate the origins of the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) speaking peoples. She tentatively named the culture "Kurgan" after their distinctive burial mounds and traced its diffusion into Europe. This hypothesis has had a significant impact on Indo-European research. Those scholars who follow Gimbutas identify a Kurgan culture as reflecting an early Indo-European ethnicity which existed in the steppes and southeastern Europe from the fifth to third millennia BC. In Kurgan Cultures, most of the burials were in kurgans, either clan kurgans or individual. Most prominent leaders were buried in individual kurgans, now called "Royal kurgans", which attract highest attention and publicity. A member of the people or peoples sharing this culture. The earliest Kurgans are considered by some to be speakers of Proto-Indo-European. <ref> The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.  </ref> <ref> Calvert Watkins, The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, Houghton Mifflin Reference Books, Sep 14, 2000, pg xxxiv, 0618082506 </ref>
A plethora of placenames that include the word "kurgan" spread from lake Baikal to the Black Sea. After establishing control over newly captured territories, a few places in Russia were not renamed, and are still called Kurgan.
Kurgan type barrows were characteristic of Bronze Age nomadic peoples of the steppes, from the Altay Mountains to the Caucasus and Romania. Sometimes, burial mounds are quite complex structures with internal chambers. Within the burial chamber at the heart of the kurgan, members of the elite were buried with grave goods and sacrificial offerings, sometimes including horses and chariots. A circular burial mound constructed over a pit grave and often containing grave vessels, weapons, and the bodies of horses as well as a single human body; originally in use in the Russian Steppes but later spreading into eastern, central, and northern Europe in the third millennium b.c. The most obvious archeological remains associated with the Scythians are the great burial mound (Kurgans), some over 20m high, which dot the south Russian steppe and extend in many great chains for many kilometers along ridges and watershed. It is from them that most has been learnt about Scythian life and art. <ref> John Boardman, I. E. S. Edwards, E. Sollberger, N. G. L. Hammond. The Cambridge Ancient History. Cambridge University Press. Jan 16, 1992, pg 550 </ref>
Some excavated kurgans
- See also: Scythia
- The Ipatovo kurgan revealed a long sequence of burials from the Maykop culture ca. 4000 BC down to the burial of a Sarmatian princess of the 3rd century BC, excavated 1998–1999.
- Kurgan 4 at Kutuluk near Samara, Russia, dated to ca. 24th century BC, containing the skeleton of a man, estimated to have been 35 to 40 years old and about 152 cm tall. Rose, M., "Cudgel Culture", , Archaeology , March/April, 2002. Resting on the skeleton's bent left elbow was a copper object of a length of ca. 65 cm with a blade of a diamond-shaped cross-section and sharp edges, but no point, and a handle, originally probably wrapped in leather. No similar object is known from Bronze Age Eurasian steppe cultures, and the object has been compared to the vajra thunderbolt of Indian Indra.
- Novovelichkovskaya kurgan of ca. 2000 BC on the Ponura River, Krasnodar region, southern Russia, containing the remains of 11 people, including an embracing couple, buried with bronze tools, stone carvings, jewelry, and ceramic vessels decorated with red ocher. The tomb is associated with the Novotitorovka culture nomads.
- Issyk kurgan, in southern Kazakhstan, containing a skeleton, possibly female, 4th century BC, with inscription on a silver cup, with 4.000 gold ornaments, with Scythian animal art objects and headdress reminiscent of Kazakh bridal hats, discovered in 1969.
- Kurgan 11 of the Berel cemetery, in the Bukhtarma River valley of Kazakhstan, containing a tomb of ca. 300 BC, with a dozen sacrificed horses, preserved with their skin, hair, harnesses, and saddles intact, buried side by side on a bed of birch bark next to a funeral chamber containing the pillaged burial of two Scythian nobles, excavated in 1998.
- Ryzhanovka kurgan, a 10 metres high kurgan 125 km south of Kiev, containing the tomb of a Scythian chieftain, 3rd century BC, excavated in 1996.
- Aleksandrovo kurgan, a Thracian kurgan of ca. the 4th century BC.
- Håga Kurgan, a large Nordic Bronze Age kurgan from ca 1000 BC.
- Mamayev Kurgan, used during the Battle of Stalingrad.
- Marija Gimbutas
- Kurgan hypothesis
- Yamna culture
- Ukrainian stone stela
- Animal sacrifice, Ashvamedha
- "In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology and Myth" by J. P. Mallory, ISBN 0-500-27616-1
- "The Kurgan Culture and the Indo-Europeanization of Europe: Selected Articles Form 1952 to 1993" von Marija Gimbutas u.a., ISBN 0-941694-56-9
- "Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture" ed. James Mallory, D. Q. Adams, ISBN 1-884964-98-2
- D. Ya. Telegin et al., Srednestogovskaya i Novodanilovskaya Kul'tury Eneolita Azovo-Chernomorskogo Regiona. Kiev: Shlyakh, 2001. Reviewed by J.P. Mallory, JIES vol. 32, 3/4, p. 363–366.
- "Reconstruction Of The Genofond Peculiarities Of The Ancient Pazyryk Population (I-II Millennium BC) From Gorny Altai According To The mtDNA Structure" Voevoda M.I., Sitnikova V.V., Romashchenko A.G., Chikisheva T.A., Polosmak N.V., Molodin V.I.
- Kurgan Culture
- the Ipatovo kurgan
- excavated kurgans (archaeology.org).
- Ritual Sites, and Settlements: Eurasian Bronze and Iron Age book for download (www.csen.org)
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