Interdisciplinary Archaeological Science and Knowledge Transfer in Siberia

The Tunnug 1 project is excavating, documenting, and analyzing the earliest princely tomb of Scythian material culture in Tuva Republic, Russia. The size, dating, and preservation conditions make the monumental burial mound (kurgan) an archaeological archive of primary importance for the understanding of the prehistory of the Eurasian steppes and human adaptation to this harsh environment. The transition from the late Bronze Age to the early Iron Age in Tuva marks the beginning of the appearance of fully mobile pastoralist groups, a steeply hierarchical society with an elite of warriors fighting from horseback, together with a material culture which is defined through the so-called “Scythian triad,” consisting of an assemblage of horse gear, weapons, and items decorated in animal style. Two large excavation campaigns have already been conducted leading to the discovery of well-preserved wooden architecture. The construction was dated to the 9th century BCE. Only one other large tomb of this cultural horizon is known and information on this formative period thus remains very scarce. The site provides the unique opportunity to change notions and generate knowledge about the rise of the horseback warrior nomads and their essential role for idea transfer between East and West within a pan-Eurasian network as well as for understanding past human adaptation to a changing environment. The project's aim is to investigate and contextualize the Tunnug 1 site in an interdisciplinary manner including but not limited to stratigraphic and typological analyses, palynology, physical anthropology, aDNA, proteomics, and isotope analyses makes it ideal as a basis for knowledge transfer between Switzerland and Russia. The workshop and excavation on site will bring young researchers together who will work on a highly interdisciplinary project. The formed connections will allow for a strengthened international collaboration between young Russian and Swiss researchers in the field of archaeological research. The direct discussion and face-to-face communication will speed up the idea generation and ultimately the publication process as well as provide new ideas and perspectives for additional research questions and innovations. Young researchers involved in the project will participate in the discussions and derive ideas on how to strengthen interdisciplinary aspects of their own research projects and establish lasting international connections. Additionally, we will bring Russian researchers to Bern and Swiss researchers and students to St. Petersburg in order to exchange knowledge and conduct research based on the materials excavated in Tuva Republic. These contacts in diverse research environments will allow for a number of academic articles being written. Young talents from both countries will develop their international network hence furthering their careers and planting seeds for project extension and long-term innovation.

Participants :

University of Bern

  • Dr. Gino Caspari

Institute for the History of Material Culture

  • Dr. Natalisa Solovivea
  • Mr. Timur Sadykov
  • Mr Jegor Biochin

Institute for Archaeological Sciences

  • Prof. Dr. Mirko Novak