RUS   ENG

I. P. GRYAZNOV

THE KAMENKA ANCIENT SETTLEMENT

Dniepropetrovsk Publishing House «Promin» 1978

Archeologists possess a remarkable gift of discovering towns, the location of which have long been forgotten by mankind. For a long time very many scholars considered the events sung in Homer's «Illiad» to be a myth. Unexpectedly the German ama-teur-archeologist Henrikh Schli-man unearthed the walls of legendary Troy, and the heroes of «Illiad» found a historical prototype.

In the works of the ancient Greek geographer Strabo the capital of the late Scythians — Neapol — is mentioned. The historians are again bewildered: what kind of town could the Scythians have, a normad, a «barbarian» people? And Neapol really existed: in the centre of the Crimea, on the high bank of the Salgir river near present Simferopol, the Soviet archeo-logist P. N. Shultz discovered its ruins. At present it is a state reserve. But if the Scythians had a Neapol (Gr. neo—«new»+polis, «town»), then there must also be an old town somewhere. And it was found in the southern Ukrainian steppes, on the left bank of the Dnieper (at present the Kakhovka reservoir), where in the greenery of the orchards of Kamenka-Dnieprovskaya, a district town in the Zaporozhe, region spreads.

This discovery was made in 1899—1900 by a local teacher U. Y. Serdyukov, and the services to the systematic investigations of the site of the ancient settlement belong to the Soviet archeologist, Doctor of Historical sciences, B. N. Grakov.

The trip to Kamenka-Dnieprovskaya from Zaporozhe takes six hours by boat, one and a half by «Meteor» hydrofoil, three and a half by bus and half an hour by plane. Hut it is best to set off from the right bank of the reservoir at the town of Nikopol, from where every hour motor-vessels of the lake type, and twice or thrice a day (depending upon the season) self-propelled ferries leave.

Crossing the man-made sea you will follow with emotion how unhurriedly, as if from the bygone ages, the Kamenka bank is approaching you. And only when its outline shows through the bluish haze, can you consider that you have «cntered» the ancient capital of the Scythians; somewhere under the thick layer of water the last area of the once famous Dnieper rapids lies. At one time pilots on ships called it the «Kamenka Barriers and carefully circumnavigated it. The Kakhovka sea flooded the granite outcrop on the surface. Now not everybody understands where the name Kamenka-Dnieprovskaya (Kamen means «stone» in Russian) comes from.

Another interesting sight of the ancient Dnieper were its «plavni» (low parts of down-stream valleys covered with reeds and trees), with their ^impenetrable reeds and thickets^. Only before the Kamenka barrier did the «plavni» make way for the free passage of vessels. This circumstance played an exclusively important part in the history of Kamenka, one of the most ancient crossings and piers on the lower Dnieper known as «Kamennyi Zaton» (Stony Backwater).

The «plavni» were a real boon for the normadic stock-breeders. They provided a warm and nutritious wintering for their herds. And what about the fertile Kamenka lowlands, the. terrace above the floodplain of the Dnieper? Besides grain, up to 60 thousand tons of vegetables and fruit are shipped from here annually to industrial towns. The Byelozerka liman is one of the most abundant in fish in the Ukraine. Though both banks of the liman are built-up, even now flocks of swans of passage rest fearlessly in its middle. Here near Kamenka the steppe river Konka flowed into the Dnieper and again left it to flow parallel onward to the Black Sea. The Konka river (literally «watering-place for horses — Russ. kon, «horse») watered the herds of wild horses.

By the VII century B. C. the Scythians established undivided rule in the steppes from the Don to the Lower reaches of the Danube, and dislodged their predecessors — the Cimmerii, part of whom mixed with the conquerors. Apparently, the «Kamennyi Zaton» included the primordial part of Scythia, as thorny arrow-heads, which were used by the Scythians back in the VI century B. C. were found here. The so-called «Kingly Scythians» were normads, according to Herodotus they were the most valiant and the most numerous Scythian tribe who considered the other Scythians dependent on them. It is quite natural that the superior tribe chose the best part of Scythia for their territory: from the Sea of Azov to the Crimea including «Kamennyi Zaton».

The history of which nation does not begin with myths! The Scythians were not lacking fantasy either. Scholars suppose that they came from the Volga area or from Central Asia and Siberia. The Scythians consider themselves to be primogenitors of the Near-Black Sea area, decendents of Zeus and the daughter of the Borisphen river (or according to another version of myth —from Hercules and the serpent-footed goddess Api).

«Marvellous hippomolgi men», that is, mare milkers — this is how Homer called the Scythians in his «Illiad». With herds of small, but surprisingly strong hardy horses, with herds of cattle and sheep the Scythians roamed from one pasture to another. Every family had a vehicle with a felt top. The women and children sheltered themselves in it. The men almost never dismounted their horses, guarding their property from wild beasts and unfriendly neighbours. But the Scythians themselves considered wars for the sake of spoil the highest valour. Every Scythian was on archer on a horse. Galloping after the Cimmerii who fled from them to Asia minor, the Scythians remained there for 28 years besieging the town and laying it under tribute. Egypt bought themselves off from the Scythians at a considerable price. The Scythians also knew the way to Western Europe.

In 514 B. C. the Scythians defended their lands with honour against Darius, the king of Persia. During this war the Scythians used the tactics of exhausting the enormous Persian forces, and when Darius called upon them to engage in an open battle, they answered: «We have our fathers' graves here. Find them and try to destroy them, then you will find out whether we are ready to fight for these graves or not». According to Herodotus these graves were in Gerri, up to which the Borisphen was navigable. Orientating themselves on the Kamenka barrier with its granite boulders jutting out of the water on the Nikopol shoals, which since older times had hindered and at times blocked navigation, the scholars identify Gerri, this Scythian shrine, with the steppes around the «Kamennyi Zaton».

Almost at the same time with the Scythians and apparently with their consent, the Greeks began to settle down on the northern shores of the Black Sea... Scores of town-colonies appeared with stone walls and houses, temples and theatres. From «Kamennyi Zaton» it was a short distance to the main ones such as: Olvia on the Southern Bug, Khersones of Tavria and Pantikapei in the Crimea. Not in far distant lands or during their military campaigns, but near at hand the normads saw life so different from theirs.

The V century B. C. was the golden age of classical Greece. More than 200 former isolated town-states united into a mighty sea power. The Parthenon — the glory of ancient culture — was raised on the Athenian Acropolis. Scythia became the second state after Urartu on the territory of our country, which was under the absolute rule of King Atei, an outstanding captain and diplomat. The Kamenka site of the ancient Scythian settlement — the capital of the new state — is a steppe contemporary with the Parthenon.

How surprising it may seem, yesterday's normads proved to be good builders: the town was built according to a rationally composed plan, and if they did follow the Grecian patterns in anything, they introduced their own amendments. There were no stone walls as in Olvia or Khersones, though local granite was more than enough. The Scythians substituted stone for a more habitual material, the same from which they piled up their burial-mounds — earth. A thick earthen rampart with a moat of a regular geometrical arc encircled the town from the steppe side, with its ends planted against the «plavni». A purely Scythian novelty is the free space (from 800 to 1,200 metres) between the rampart and the buildings. It served as a common pasture for their cattle and was of defence significance — not to give the enemy the opportunity of shooting incendiary arrows into the town.

The ancient settlement of Kamenka covered a unprecenden-ted area according to that time — 12 kilometres! The handicraft section was situated on the sandy «Kuchuguri» (dunes) which were not flooded even during the fiercest high water on the Dnieper. Only about 60 kilometres away was the Krivoy Rog area, next to the «plavni» — the forest for making charcoal. Thus from all corners smith craftsmen flocked to this ancient settlement, and the Kamenka «Kuchuguri» became the symbol of the iron age in Scythia. The iron was smelted out of the ore by means of a very primitive method. Swords, daggers, spears, knives and bridle sets were forged from this iron. Sickles for farming and other implements necessary for the inhabitants of the steppe were made. But arrow-heads even in the iron age were of bronze. They were produced in countless quantities at the bronze foundry shops. Large cauldrons were also cast there. Even now the women's bronze earrings and bracelets found in the «Kuchuguri» gladden the eye.

The workshops and living quarters of the metallurgists were under one flat roof. The walls were of wooden pillars with a clay coating which were dug into the ground. The fortified part of the settlement — the acropolis standing on the other side of the high bank mark — looked entirely different. The additional inner rampart enclosing it was reinforced by a walling of clay bricks. There were no workshops on the acropolis, the buildings were mostly of stone and the entire mode of life as to wealth, greatly exceeded that of the craftsmen. This was the residence of the kings and the nobility. The military councils, the sharing of spoils and tributes, the reception of ambassadors and merchants from ships took place here. Hunting was the favourite pastime for the royal court. The archeologists have gathered the bones of 30 deer, 26 wild boars, 25 beavers and many other beasts from the cultural layer on the acropolis.

As to the splendour and luxury which surrounded the Scythian kings in the classical epoch, it is best to judge from the burial-mounds: you see, they carried away all the best which they used during their life with them into their graves. The burial-mound Solokha is situated 12 kilometres from the acropolis in the steppe. Thanks to Professor N. I. Veselovsky, who unearthed the burial-mound in 1912—1913 and carefully presented its majestic contours, we can feast our eyes on Solokha in its original appearance.

The burial-mound is 18 metres high. A whole subterranean palace was hidden under it: a shaft with steps, a passage ten meters long and a vaulted burial chamber with three recesses on its sides. The main recess served as a tomb for the king, and the other two for parting-food: three cauldrons with horseflesh, mutton and beef, ten amphorae with wine and a set of precious dishes. The king's faithful servants: his equerry with five saddle-horses, an armour-bearer and a boy wine-scooper accompanied him into the next world. The king lay clad in gold from head to foot. A massive golden hoop with a clasp in the shape of a lion's head shone on his neck, five plate bracelets on his hands and a sword with a golden facing at his side. Golden plates from his clothes were scattered about. His quiver held 180 arrows with bronze arrow-heads.

Crowning all this was the famous golden Solokha comb. Who does not know this from the history text-booksl Don't you recall it? Nineteen faceted teeth, and on the top — a sculptural group: a noble Scythian horseman with a copper helmet and armour, with his horse on its hind legs, he draws back his spear to inflict the last blow upon another noble Scythian. Beside him is a servant on foot with a dagger. Their enemy is obviously doomed, he is knocked off his saddle, and is fighting, standing on the ground; his horse is wounded... This comb was on the king's head. Was it he who is depicted on it as the conqueror?

The Chertomlitsky burial-mound near Nikopol is famous for its silver vase with its circular relief of inimitable beauty, which depicts Scythian herdsmen and their horses. Recently a golden pectoral (an ornament worn on the breast) weighing 1150 grammes from the Tolstaya mound, also near Nikopol, became world famous. On it some Scythians are depicted sewing shirts from sheep-skin and milking sheep. Let us recall some treasures from other burial-mounds — 3500 golden plates from the Melitopol burial-mounds, a bowl with bearded kings from the Gaimanova burial-mound near the village of Balka, a golden horse's headrest with the serpent-footed original mother of the Scythians from the Tsimbalka burial-mound in the village of Bolshaya Byelozerka...

There is a golden ring of burial-mounds also in the centre of the Kamenka ancient settlement. Better proof that it was really the capital of the Scythians cannot be hoped for. And in which of these burial-mounds was King Atei buried? To our regret nobody can tell. You see, the Scythians did not know writing; no stone slabs with any inscription were anywhere to be found. A nameless settlement, nameless burial-grounds...

The Sarmatians, a kinsfolk, inflicted a crushing blow upon the Scythian sway in the steppes. Having become stronger the Sarmatians pushed forward to the west, and in the III—II centuries B. C. they came to the Dnieper. The Territory of the Scythians was reduced to half its size. The Scythians transferred their capital to the Crimea, to Scythian Neapol. But the Kamenka ancient settlement was not razed to the ground. Only the «Kuchuguri» part became deserted and sand-drifted, but the acropolis survived and existed for another 400 years as an ordinary Scythian settlement, until the complete disappearance of the Scythians from the face of the earth.

The ancient settlement began its second life. Among its subsequent inhabitants in the II—III centuries A. D. were our ancestors, the early Slavs. From them a burial-ground of seven burials remained: male, female and one child's. The burial ground was on the steep bank of the Konka river above the «plavni», where the transit landing-stage is now situated. Next to the protoslavs the normads of the X—XII centuries left 83 burials. During the Tataro-Turkish sway in the Crimea and Northern Tavria, the Zaporozhe Sech, the defender of its native borders, chose the island of Chertomlyk in the Nikopol «plavni», in two or three gun-shots from the Kamenka Zaton crossing for their permanent stay. Peter I built a fortress here, which was of great strategic significance during the Russo-Turkish war...

During the two thousand and odd centuries innumerable people were at this ancient settlement. Everybody picked up something, or took something or other away with them: either some ancient coin, or some bronze arrow-head, or a nice bead. Stones from the Scythian ruins were used to erect a fortress. And still, when the first immigrants and founders of Kamenka and Znamenka came to the left bank of the Dnieper in 1786 after the Union of the Crimea with Russia, there was still something to be seen. The defence rampart still looked redoubtable. According io stories recorded from old residents at one time, «seven persons had to stand in the moat shoulder on shoulder so that the head of the top one could appear above the crest of the rampart».

Everybody who came to this ancient settlement and wrote about it, was amazed at the soil being so glutted with ancient domestic waste. There is no scientific paper or travel note which does not mention that on the «Kuchuguri» heaps of broken crockery were seen, the whole area «is scattered with fragments of amphorae*, ^literally heaped up»... The local inhabitants have found even intact amphorae. In 1914 an amphorae with a hoard of coins from Olvia and Pantikapei was washed out on the Konka bank. In the 1950Ts an amphora, found in a precipice on the bank after a stormy night, was seen from a floating crane. At present it is exhibited at the Kamenka-Dnieprovskaya Museum.

Recollecting about the treasures from the burial mounds, somebody may ask, «was gold also found on the ancient settlement?» Yes, it was! In 1845 some Kamenka boys, who went out to the «Kuchuguri» for arrows, returned home with unheard of finds. The whole company returned with rings and bracelets on their hands, and a heap of plates in their shirts. There were women's faces, lions, sea-shells... depicted on the plates. Kamenka gasped with surprise: all these things were of pure gold! But as they fell into the hands of second-hand dealers, the ancient golden articles were remelted, only a few things became the property of the Odessa museum.

Only after the triumph of the Great October did a systematic study of this ancient settlement begin: the scientific workers of the Nikopol museum of local lore systematically collected material, carried on some excavation work, and in 1938 B. N. Grakov began archeological excavation work on the ancient settlement. Till that time he had carried on investigations at the Nikopol burial-mound fields, still earlier he had been involved in studying the Sarmatian relics in the Volga and near-Urals regions.

The excavations of the ancient settlement were interrupted by the temporary occupation of Kamenka by the German fascist invaders, but soon after its liberation they were resumed. It was 1944, the country was exerting all its efforts for victory over the enemy, nevertheless, the state budget also allocated means «on the Scythians*. The scope of investigation expanded. A field Scythian expedition of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR by B. N. Grakov began its work. Archeologists N. N. Pogrebova (deputy chief), P. D. Liberov, N. G. Yelagina, A. T. Melyukova, V. A. Ilyinskaya, A. P. Smirnov and others were on the staff.

The Kamenka ancient settlement, as the first capital of the Scythians, is treated in academic publications, encyclopaedias, text books, in the guide-books, of the Hermitage and Moscow history museum, where a number of unique finds from the ancient settlement are exhibited. They are acknowledged as archeological relics of Union significance. It is not necessary to go to the capital to get acquainted with them. Many interesting exhibits are to be found in the museums of Nikopol and Ordzhonikidze. A «meeting with the Scythians» is awaiting you also in the centre of Kamenka, where the museum of local lore is situated in an old shady park.

Quite a number of finds from the ancient settlement are to be found in the Scythian section of the Museum — from beads and arrow-heads to red-clay amphorae a metre high. Tools and articles of the «Kuchuguri» metallurgists are also represented here. There is a sickle and a grain-grater, spinning and weaving implements. There are also amphora handles with the names of the craftsmen on them. Though the pottery hall-mark is not the Khersones inscription in honour of Dop-hantus, so to say, but it is in Hellenic script. In another park, bearing the name of the 50th anniversary of the Great October, you can see the remains of the earthen rampart...

We have concluded our brief acquaintance with the unique archeological relic. You have found out how after two thousand years of oblivion the Scythian capital again appeared in scientific everyday speech under the title of the Kamenka ancient settlement on the Dnieper. If you desire to see the Scythian antiquities exhibited in the show-cases of the museum, or just pick up crock which the hands of a Scythian once touched, well, — you are welcome!

A lay-out of the Kamenka ancient settlement and famous Scythian burial-mounds
A lay-out of the Kamenka ancient settlement and famous Scythian burial-mounds.

A breast decoration — a golden pectoral from the Tolstaya burial-mound
A breast decoration — a golden pectoral from the Tolstaya burial-mound.

The golden comb from the Solokha burial-mound.
The golden comb from the Solokha burial-mound.

Wushing away the banks the waves quite often lay bare Scythian antiquities
Wushing away the banks the waves quite often lay bare Scythian antiquities.

In the halls of the Kamenka-Dnieprovskaya people's museum of local lore.
In the halls of the Kamenka-Dnieprovskaya people's museum of local lore.

A gilded silver bowl from the Solokha burial-mound
A gilded silver bowl from the Solokha burial-mound.

Such coins were minted in the time of King Atei
Such coins were minted in the time of King Atei.

Wood-processing implements of the Scythians
Wood-processing implements of the Scythians.


Ornaments from the Kamenka «Kuchuguri»: earrings, bronze rings, a pastel head of a man.

A silver vase from the Chertomlytsky burial-mound
A silver vase from the Chertomlytsky burial-mound.

Scythians cutting shirts. A fragment of the golden pectoral from the Tolstaya burial-mound.
Scythians cutting shirts. A fragment of the golden pectoral from the Tolstaya burial-mound.

Greek amphorae for wine found on the Kamenka ancient settlement.
Greek amphorae for wine found on the Kamenka ancient settlement.

A bronze cauldron from the burial-mound near the town of Dnieprorudny.
A bronze cauldron from the burial-mound near the town of Dnieprorudny.

A clay jug from the Kamenka ancient settlement.
A clay jug from the Kamenka ancient settlement.

The image of a warrior on the golden comb from the Solokha burial-mound.
The image of a warrior on the golden comb from the Solokha burial-mound.