Researchers examined a 2,400-year-old hide in Ukraine and discovered it was made of human skin

Researchers examined a 2,400-year-old hide in Ukraine and discovered it was made of human skin

Researchers from Denmark, among other countries, have analyzed pieces of skin found in burial mounds in Ukraine.

The origins of leather pieces go back to the Scythians, nomads who migrated to southern Russia and today's Ukraine in the seventh century BC.

The Scythians were feared and admired for their skills in warfare. They were good at riding horses, According to Britannica.

She was Horse tamers They shot with bow and arrow from horseback.

They were culturally advanced. Graves of high-status individuals have been found with gold objects, precious stones, decorated horse equipment, and other valuables.

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus wrote a book about the Scythians. According to him, they must also have some horrific customs. He wrote that they drank enemy blood, used scalps as trophies, and made quivers (arrow holders) from human skin.

Now it turns out that at least one claim is true.

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In the new study, the researchers examined the teachings of the Scythians. Then they got a surprise.

Two pieces of skin did not come from pets or wild animals, but from humans.

Illustration of a Scythian archer. (Image: 8Sammy33/Shutterstock/NTB)

Steppe people

The culture flourished from the 7th century BC. By 300 AD, the Scythian lands extended across the steppe landscape from the Black Sea in the west to Mongolia in the east.

They raised herds of cattle and were divided into tribes ruled by leaders. According to the Encyclopedia of World History.

It is said that people had bullock carts that served as homes. When these things were collected in one place, it should have looked like a city, according to the site. Some of them were permanent residents.

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They had a reputation for drinking heavily, often had tattoos and were skilled with metal. Among the things they made from it were gold, copper, and iron jewelry. According to the British Museum.

The Scythians had a sense of decency.  Here is part of the belt.  (Photo: Yurek Minashvili, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED)

The Scythians had a sense of decency. Here is part of the belt. (Photo: Yurek Minashvili, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED)

Pets, predators – and humans

In the new study, researchers examined 45 pieces of skin from 18 burial mounds.

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They will look at what type of animal was used.

Some of the leather probably comes from clothing, but most of it comes from quivers and containers for storing your entire bow and arrows. Researchers refer to these objects as Scythian iconography.

Most of the hides came from livestock, mostly sheep or goats. Some were livestock and wild predators. Two specimens were horses.

The skin on two of the shivers stood out. The analysis revealed that the origin of some of the teachings was from humans.

A Scythian container for both bow and arrow, called goritos.  Here it is made of gold.  (Image: VoidWanderer/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED)

A Scythian container for both bow and arrow, called goritos. Here it is made of gold. (Image: VoidWanderer/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED)

Drunk blood, according to the historian

The Greek Herodotus wrote a book about the history and customs of the Scythians. He is referred to as the father of history, and he lived in the fourth century BC. On his travels he spent some time with the Scythians on the Black Sea.

Among other things, he wrote that the Scythian drank the blood of the first man he killed. He brings the head of everyone he kills in battle to the king. Only then would he be allowed to share in the profits of the war.

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He wrote that a warrior takes scalps from slain enemies, and whoever has the most is considered the best man. Sweaters are said to have been knitted from this.

Furthermore, they are said to have taken the skin from dead enemies and used it on their sleeve.

And so the researchers behind the new study found evidence of the latter.

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Good knowledge of leather work

Some other Scythian customs described by Herodotus are also supported by archaeological finds, the researchers wrote.

Illustration of a Scythian warrior.  (Photo: Janmad/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0 DEED)

Illustration of a Scythian warrior. (Photo: Janmad/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0 DEED)

In one of the largest royal tombs, the remains of people were found who were apparently sacrificed in connection with the burial. Fingers were also found indicating that someone cut them off as an expression of grief over the leader's death.

The gears examined in the study were made from the skins of different animals, without any pattern in which the different qualities were used. This suggests that each archer made his own quiver using available materials, the researchers wrote.

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Different animal skins require different processing methods. The findings suggest that the Scythians had sophisticated knowledge of working with hides, the researchers wrote.

reference:

Louise Ørsted Brandt, Megan McKee, Marina Daragan, and Matthew J. Collins, and Margareta Gleba: « Human and animal skin identified by ancient proteins in Scythian leather objects from Ukraine», PLOS ONE, December 13, 2023.

(This article It was first published in Forskning.no).

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Jabori Obasanjo

Jabori Obasanjo

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