Burial mounds disclose their ancient, mysterious secrets
A recent archaeological dig near Mogilev has unearthed a pendant in the form of an encircled cross, a silver temporal ring and beads made from Byzantine glass — all worn by noble women from the Krivichi tribe in the 10th-11th century. The pendant-cross indicates that the wearer was a Christian, making it the earliest Christian burial hill discovered in the Mogilev Region to date
By Mikhail Pimenov
Igor Marzalyuk, who heads the Mogilev State University’s Department for Archaeology and Special Disciplines, invited me to visit the site, allowing me a rare chance to touch little studied historical pages. Just 10km from Mogilev, we turn onto a forest track which would be delightfully picturesque but for the excessive mud which threatens to entrap us. Mr. Marzalyuk explains that, in 1941, Fascist troops were shot there, with remains of German uniforms still being discovered. At last, the path through the forest ends and we approach a village, crossing a bridge over a stream on the other side before climbing a hill. Stopping, we view a group of over ten apparently untouched burial mounds. In fact, during the 1812 war, the French dug into the top of them to install guns for shelling General Raevsky’s headquarters.
A strong old oak grows on one — almost 500 years old. Mr. Marzalyuk notes that the Slavs cherished such giants in pagan times and everything possible is being done to preserve the tree during next year’s digs on the site.
A small hole is visible at the centre of one mound: where the burial was made. The remains of a wooden bucket found beside the legs of the buried woman probably once contained honey. In addition, there is evidence of a large fire which must have accompanied the burial ceremony. The identity of the noble woman remains a mystery but she was probably the wife or daughter of a rich kinsman. Mr. Marzalyuk believes she may have been related to Mogilev’s hypothetical founder, Mogila.
Of course, the findings are priceless, showing the move from paganism to Christianity, as well as defining the borders of the Krivichi’s re-settlement in the Mogilev Region. The unique artefacts will join those of the Mogilev State University’s archaeological laboratory.