Entombed inside two large barrows (burial mounds) located on an open plain in northern Serbia, a team of scientists from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IAEPAN) found some highly anomalous skeletons. The men in these burial mounds were of significant height, and the bones of each had been painted over with red ochre dye made from the clay of the earth.
Based on their extensive study of these remains, the IAEPAN archaeologists have determined that the men lived and ᴅɪᴇᴅ nearly 5,000 years ago and had likely belonged to a group of immigrants who arrived in ancient Serbia from the steppes of southern Russia and the uκʀᴀιɴᴇ.
Sacred Burial Mounds of Immigrants from the Northeast?
The mounds and their eye-opening contents were discovered in the autonomous district of Vojvodina, in Serbia’s Šajkaška region near the lower Tisza River. This location is at the western edge of the greater Eurasian steppe, making it a logical destination for nomadic groups migrating across the open landscapes from the northeast.
As prominent landmarks on an otherwise undistinguished landscape, the two large barrow burial mounds are an impressive sight to behold. Both are about 130 feet (40 meters) in diameter and approximately 12 feet (3-4 meters) high, which means they tower over a person standing beside them.
As for the skeletal remains, the first bodies were buried inside the mounds sometime between 3,000 and 2,900 BC, while the second burial took place about 100-200 years later. At the time of the second burial the size of the burial mounds was increased dramatically, and they remained ᴘʀᴇsᴇʀvᴇᴅ in that larger form from that point on.
While the burial chambers inside each mound were quite expansive, their design was basic. Grave goods were noticeably lacking, which in normal circumstances would be taken to mean the people buried there were not wealthy or powerful.
“The graves we discovered were not spectacularly furnished,” expedition leader Dr. Piotr Włodarczak confirmed in an interview with the Polish news service PAP. “But the red color of some of the bones attracted attention.
This was due to the use of ochre to cover, or possibly color, the bodies of the ᴅᴇᴀᴅ.” It is known that red was a sacred color among some groups of people who lived in Europe 5,000 years ago, including those that came from the steppes of far eastern Europe and southcentral Asia. As a result, ochre paint was frequently used during ceremonies or rituals designed to honor or protect the ᴅᴇᴀᴅ.
In addition to the red paint on their bones, the other factor that stood out about the men in the barrows was their size. These individuals were more than six feet (1.8 meters) tall, a height that in Bronze Age times was rarely reached by the normal European.
This startling fact could best be explained by a foreign origin for these men, the Polish researchers concluded.
“Both the use of ochre and the above-average height of the deceased—men living in this part of Europe at the turn of the 4th and 3rd millennia usually reached about 1.6 meters—indicate that the ᴅᴇᴀᴅ were immigrants,” Dr. Włodarczak said. “The ritual with the use of ochre and placing individual burials in large mounds is associated with communities living in the eastern European steppe areas.”
Genetic analysis on the remains recovered from the Serbian tombs has verified that the men were either immigrants from the east, or directly descended from others who’d made the trek from the Ukraine/southern Russia area. More fascinating data was found as a result of isotopic analysis performed on the bones, which helped determine certain facts about the way the men had lived.
It was revealed, for example, that they’d been heavy consumers of meat .“It was no surprise to us that the deceased consumed a lot of meat, as these communities were involved in livestock farming,” Dr. Włodarczak explained. The Yamnaya Culture in Eastern Europe.
So, who exactly were the tall, meat-eating immigrants from the east who left behind the burial mounds filled with ochre-covered skeletons in Serbia?