Ural Federal University: Arkaim Inhabitants Used Young Healthy Horses for Rituals

The inhabitants of the ancient settlement of Arkaim (the territory of the modern Chelyabinsk Region) used mainly healthy and young horses for various rituals, and very rarely – mares. Scientists have found out that the sacrificial animals were selected as carefully as the horses for chariots, said Pavel Kosintsev, a Senior Researcher of the Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Ural Federal University.

“Working in Arkaim, we found out that horses were selected for burial according to the same principles as for the real chariots. Preservation of such selection was observed even when they were used in funeral rites. Animals for rituals were chosen approximately the same height, the same parameters that allowed them to be used in chariots. Horses were also specially selected according to their age, they were usually males between 5 and 14 years old, at that age they have the greatest stamina,” said Pavel Kosintsev.

The horse was widely used in rituals by the population of Arkaim, the scientist notes. Similar finds – a large number of burials of horses – in Russia are not so numerous, the most numerous are in Arkaim. Cows and sheep were used less often for rites, but similar finds were also found in other regions. Sometimes dogs were used in the funeral rites.

“There are different speculations as to why dogs were buried, but on the basis of general notions, we can assume that perhaps they symbolized a guide to the netherworld or a guardian who would protect his owner. This is only our reconstruction, they are based on what we know about the use of dogs in the cult plan by ancient populations, such as the Scythians and the ancient Greeks in written sources,” explains the scientist.

Kosintsev notes that the study of sacrificial animals, describing and comparing different rites allows us to understand how the ancient people’s ideas about the world, their attitude to animals, funeral rites, the role of animals in the rites were changing.