Does Russia's Ryazan Have Stonehenge of It's Own?

The central part of Russia's Ryazan region is famous for its advantageous geographical location. At all times different peoples passed across the place either from the west to the east, or from the south to the north. The wonderful height over the junction of the Russian rivers Oka and Pronya received people of different cultures living there, the fact has been proved by archaeologists after numerous excavations held in the region. However, archaeological excavations held in Spasskaya Luka last summer were a surprise even for worldly-wise participants of expeditions organized by the State History Museum. The highest point of the hill covered a 4,000-year sanctuary resembling Stonehenge.

Ilya Ahmedov, the head of the expedition, researcher from the State History Museum's department of archaeological monuments, says that nothing of this kind has been ever found in the Ryazan region or in the nearby woods. "If we look at the excavations site on the map, we'll see it is a circle of three meters in diameter. The circle is made by poles of 0.5 meter thick placed at an equal distance from each other. There is a large rectangular hole and a post in the center of the circle. It’s quite natural that wooden poles didn't survive, but we can see distinct round holes in the places where they stood. Possibly, there were four poles; but the river banks are destroyed by a gully there, that is why part of the pagan temple collapsed. Several meters to the east from this site the excavations revealed one more hole with a similar pole. There is also a pole in the south, it was discovered three years ago, but researchers failed to explain its character. It's likely that there is another line of poles some ten meters from the sanctuary. This season we plan to find out whether it exists or not.

In 1979, some other expedition performed excavations in this area. The researchers dug a trench which revealed only the poles, but they failed to explain the meaning of the discovery. Within the circle, two couples of the poles make up gates. Sunset can be seen through the gates if an observer stands in the center of the circle. One more pole outside the circle points at the sunrise."

The structure of the monument suggested archaeologists an idea that it could be built for astronomic purposes; and articles found on the excavation site prove that devotions had been performed there. We found a small ceramic vessel with delicate ornamental design in the central hole. Short lines of the design make up zigzag resembling the sun rays; the rows of wavy lines symbolize water. Bronze Age specialists admitted that the vessel belonged to that very age. They say that the whole of the construction we have discovered can be dated back to the late third – early second millennia B.C. It's astonishing that the vessel was made in accordance with the steppe people's tradition who lived in southern Eurasia at that period. In the words of Ilya Ahmedov, the vessel resembles articles found in Sintashta, the legendary city of ancient Aryan people in Siberia. The resemblance of the vessel to vessels belonging to the cultures living in the Volga and Ural areas was obvious.

Two vessels of quite a different aspect were found in holes behind the central poles; they were large, with thin sides and round bottoms, without any ornament at all. They were more crude as compared with the steppe vessel. Ware of this kind was made by forest people who lived in the area in the Bronze Age (4 thousand years ago). It is strange that articles made in different traditions were kept in one place. The researchers say, it's highly likely the articles denote the very rise of some culture. "We may imagine that steppe people of Iranian origin came from the east and merged with the forest people living there; the forest people were probably of Perm or Finno-Ugric origin. The merger was probably on a confessional or a military basis, the same way it happened with Huns and Alans."

The researchers say that pagan priests observed not only sunrises and sunsets in that place. In the center of one of the holes outside the pagan temple they found pieces of a vessel and human bones placed close to the vessel. These are signs of sacrifice made among the mysterious poles.

In a couple of millennia, during the Great Resettlement of peoples Finno-Ugric people came to that region. They were perfectly aware of the sanctity of the place and made a cemetery there. None of the burials from the large burial ground damaged the observatory. It means that the religious construction could be seen perfectly well; the huge polls were certainly broken, but the high hill was distinct. It is astonishing that archaeologists have come across the unusual monument now.

The sanctuary discovered in the Russian city of Ryazan is very old and actually unique. Similar constructions were also discovered in the steppe zone and in the Ural tundra, but they are not so beautiful and complicated. Sanctuaries with poles of this kind started spreading in the European part since the end of the 1st millennium B.C.; they were discovered in Czechia and Slovakia where Celtic people lived. The head of the archaeological expedition says that the discovery can be compared to Stonehenge which originally made of wood as well. however, any real kinship between the people who constructed Stonehenge and those who built the observatory in Ryazan is ruled out.


Translated by Maria Gousseva

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