Dotting the Ukrainian steppes in great chains along watersheds, the kurgans of the steppe nomads provide the most valuable archaeological relics of Scythian cultures and tribes. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote an extensive account of Scythian customs. Incredible as some of his stories may seem, they were largely confirmed by archeological excavations.

Herodotus describes Scythian burial customs; “When the king dies, they dig a grave, which is square in shape, and of great size. There the body of the dead king is laid in the grave prepared for it, stretched upon a mattress. In the open space around the body of the king they bury one of his concubines, first killing her by strangling, and also his cup-bearer, his cook, his groom, his servant, his messenger, some of his horses, firstlings of all his other possessions, and some golden cups; for they use neither silver nor brass. After this they raise a vast mound above the grave, all of them vying with each other and seeking to make it as tall as possible.”

“After the burial, those engaged in it have to purify themselves, which they do in the following way. First they well soap and wash their heads; then, in order to cleanse their bodies, they act as follows: they make a booth by fixing in the ground three sticks inclined towards one another, and stretching around them woolen felts: inside the booth a dish is placed upon the ground, into which they put a number of red-hot stones, and then add some hemp-seed. They take some of this hemp-seed, and, creeping under the felt coverings, throw it upon the red-hot stones; immediately it smokes, and gives out such a vapour as no Grecian vapour-bath can exceed; the Scyths, delighted, shout for joy.”

“When a year is gone by, further ceremonies take place. Fifty of the best of the late king’s attendants are taken and strangled, with fifty of the most beautiful horses. The fifty strangled youths are then mounted severally on the fifty horses. The fifty riders are thus arranged in a circle round the tomb, and so left.”


– Histories, Book IV, Herodotus



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Top Image:  A view of Oleksandropol’skyi Kurhan*

Bottom Image:  A reconstruction of a kurhan section (by. V. Hertz and G. Tomm)*



**Disclaimer: TMORA is in the process of obtaining the copyright to the images of burial mounds. If you have any information in regards to the ownership and domain of the images, please contact TMORA immediately.  



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