Abundance of burial mounds, which seem to be as rivets of the time, piercing our steppes here and there, defies explanation. Given the lack of other notable monuments of the history, it seems that the ancient inhabitants of these places only knew how to die, and it occurs that all foothills of Semirechye are one huge cemetery.
Thousands and thousands of graves became here a familiar part of the landscape that generations of descendants ceased to give homage to the graves of ancestors at all. Over ancient coffins are built all our settlements, starting with the Verniy (Almaty) and ending with suburban area in Talgar and Issyk. Fields that feed townspeople are fertilized not only with nitrates, but also with human bones that annually root with plows up from destroyed mounds.
World of the dead in Semirechye are very closely intertwined with the world of the living, so we could say that the time vector is almost the main component of our existence. But, unfortunately, very few people are realizing the true position of this feature of Semirechye environment; that is why, everybody keeps silent. However, among the countless large and small mound cemeteries in our region, there is one that every dunce knows its name. This is "royal cemetery" of Issyk.
The beginning of the local fame started on rainy summer of 1970. The second year of the expedition (led by K. Akishev and B. Nurmuhanbetov), which explored Saka cemetery in Issyk, did not anticipate anything extraordinary. Three uncovered mounds brought so little findings that it could be assumed that archeologists expected only disappointment from the fourth one. Especially, the huge gutter crater on the top of the mound was an eloquent evidence of the fact that it has been robbed by the ancient robbers.
All visible mounds that are scattered across the steppes of Eurasia, were plundered so many times during its long history, that only very naive person can seek treasure there. The point is that the mound originally meant for the journey of the deceased to other worlds (in the future?) and it was equipped with all necessary things for such trip, what made it a perfect mark for treasure hunters. Its distinctive form is like a sign "Here treasure lies". However, deceased was protected not only by high stone mound, but also by magical amulets. But, as history shows, all efforts of Egyptian builders and omnipotent priests were not an obstacle to the greedy burglars. So what can be said about the steppes, where the whole situation could change with the speed of bullet?
...The fourth mound was robbed too. A couple of repeatedly robbed skeletons were found in the burial. They laid there – heads on the west, faces on the east, as it was common in Saks. But it was already an element of surprise, under the same bulk was another burial that found room for itself on south side. Unnoticed by ancient robbers, it was filled with the greatest discovery Kazakhstani archeology of Soviet time. It was the tomb of the Golden Man.
Riddle of the legless Tsarevich
After this discovery was made and Golden Man was cleaned from the age-old dust, he got immediately covered with a thick layer of speculation, fiction and folly, like any notable discovery, especially relating to the ancient tombs and treasures.
In one women's magazine, for example, I came across an article that claimed that Saka tsarevich, buried in Issyk mound, is not actually the tsarevich but a tsarevna. I have to admit that at this moment I was sincerely glad that I came across a magazine about women, and not about the dogs, or sexual minorities.
In fact, many archaeological sensations arise solely from the fact that they have consumers that love to be fooled. Meanwhile, any amateur can determine a gender from the skull. Although, there is a rumor that the Golden man’s skull was not preserved, it was lost after excavation. And his right leg was not preserved as well. At the very first sketch that was made during the clearing of the burial, it is clear that Golden Man does not have right leg, from the middle of the thigh.
Was tsarevich legless?
Or maybe became? When I saw the sketch, I remembered the rumors that followed the announcement of discovery; how archaeologists were waiting for several days for tomb to get dry after the rain, and while they were waiting, unknown robbers (boys!) managed to steal his leg, along with the rest of the boot embroidered with gold plaques. In another variant of the story, the leg was stolen while bulldozer operator went to call professionals, after he scratched the top off.
So, anyway, Golden man was initially described legless. A few years later, after renovation, he appeared in a full kit in front of the audience. Wonders!
With the right leg and the Golden Man lost his main weapon - iron sword as well. Funs of Hollywood devilry see in the disappearance of sword a magic intervention, and researchers - an unfortunate accident, that took opportunity to determine the length of the blade. Another surprise was the complete absence of "funeral food" - animal bones. Was proud Nomad a vegetarian?
Saka warrior with a human face
Nothing left from the mound, where was made a sensational findings. In its place now there is motor-transport depot that extended due to the ancient cemetery. But everything that was recovered from the mound by scientists is preserved in the form of exhibits and objects for scientific research.
Golden inventory of Issyk burial has about 4000 items. Most of these items have the same type, golden plaques, which were used for clothes decoration. But in general, the whole costume is the unique finding, which allows not only to judge the level of Saka’s art, but also to try to restore the world of Saks. After all, this costume is a symbolic image of the multi-storey universe, where sequence of lives and deaths of ancient nomads passed.
However, the greatest excitement in academic circles caused not gold, but dull silver cup with a mysterious inscription "unknown letter". Years of studying brought a lot of riddles to the local researches, but solution of the inscription was not found (however, for the sake of truth, I must say that, for example, a linguist Vladimir Livshits has not seen in an inscription from the Issyk burial nothing new, and brought many other findings of "unknown letter").
But generally speaking, failures haunt Golden man from the moment when daylight appeared again above him, 2500 years later. With a helping hand from publishers of album "Kurgan Issyk", who placed an inverted image of the restored Costume, and Warrior became a lefty; sword is in the left hand and dagger is in the right (although the finding was the opposite), so the image began to replicate this way. It is enough to recall the confusion with the first Kazakhstani mark where an inverted image was accompanied by grammatical error in the name of the country. However, it was withdrawn from circulation because of this, the mark itself has become the "gold" among collectors.
I do not know what it is like for everybody, but for me this whole story reminds of what happened and what is happening around one of the most spectacular findings of the XX century - Tutankhamen's tomb. It is the same in that story, no one could longer distinguish truth from fiction, verity from figment and not even trying to listen what the experts say. That is, apparently, the fate of all epochal archaeological discoveries in a century of domination of the mass media!