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Historical and archaeological reserve

NEAPOLIS SCYTHIAN

History of researches

The Scythian Neapolis – is the biggest and the best investigated barbarian settlement of the North Pontic region. It is situated in the centre of the Crimea, in the modern city of Simferopol. From the middle to the second half of the 2nd century BC. it was a residence of the Scythian kings Argot, Skilur and Palak. It played also a role of the administrative and, possibly, religious centre of a big territory – so-called Small Scythia.

The history of Neapolis Scythian is now positively known from the 2 quater – middle of the 2 century BC. At this time the place of a late fortress was occupied by the group of fortified farmsteads. Then here a rarefide settlement appeared. There were one-room buildings of elongated proportions in its structure.

After the midst of the 2 century BC this place was surrounded by defensive walls. So it was created a fortress. At the time of construction of defences there a Palace complex was built.

The main building of the palace was the megaron (Fig. 3). In front of the megaron there was situated a closed courtyard surriunded by big houses of Greek type and by fences. Also westwards of the megaron there was a ritual pool. It was made of well-shaped stones. Its floor was painted with signs or simbols made of red color. The south, parade facade of the Palace was designed in Greek style. It was decorated with Doric collumns and marble statues of Zeus, Athena, Achilles and other Greek deities.

In fourties of twentyth century the place was investigated by the Soviet archaeologist Schultz. And immediately it was supplemented by the openning of the Mausoleum with a tomb of some king. This mausoleum was situated straight away behind defensive walls.

According to the modern, in some ways repeated investigations the mausoleum could be reconstructed in following way.

It was a great tomb of stone, which consisted of royal stone grave, three horse burials, and some luxurious throne-bed situated nearby. The dead was found in seated posture. Around his lower parts there were found a great deal of gold ornaments of different kinds (plaques, buckles, broochs etc).

Near feets of the dead a set of armour was situated. Among them should be mentioned an iron helmet of Attique type, a sword of Celtic type, heads of arrows and spears.

After the royal grave there were buried more then seventy persons – obviously nobles of royal kins. These persons were supplemented with rich burial goods – gold ornaments, armaments, beads and amulets, Hellenistic pottery. You can see them on the slides.

We could ask – who was the person buried in the main grave of the mausoleum? The history of the mausoleum should be framed by several dates. It was erected in times of the general reconstruction of the Palace in one hundred twenties BC. It is seen by stratigraphy. On the other hand the destruction of Palace and the robbery of mausoleum could be dated to the one hundred eleventh-tenth BC, id est to the times of invasion by the troops of Diophantus – the general of Mitridatus Eupator. For this time in this territory it could be only one king, mentioned by the written sources. We have to suggest that in the stone grave of the mausoleum was buried the famous king Skiluros, a body of whom was matter of a great importance for the state and society.

Materials of Neapolis Scythian and other Crimean monuments demonstrate a superposition by the potentially more active culture with clear nomadic traits on the indigenous Tauro-Scuthian cultural base. It took place according to the chronology of Neapolis Scythian in fourties-thirties of the second century BC. This time a new aristocracy had actually formed a distinctive ideology and a phenomena of the South Palace of Neapolis – a sacral centre of official royal cult and a residence of Skiluros.

The royal clan of Skiluros with his nobles and warlike troops were nomads by birth. Most likely their appearance in Crimea was a consequence of a great impulse from the East of the first half – middst of the second century BC.

The reign of Skiluros can be framed by the middle of the thirties – tens of the second century BC. At this time under his rule were likely undertaken such steppes as a creation of the state, a protectorate of Olbia, a capture of the Chersonesus chora, and the dynastic consolidation with Bosporus.

However, in the North Pontic Steppes of this period a paucity of the ordinary Sarmatian graves are known. And there are none burials of nobles. So-called votive depositions – sets of parade arms, hourse harness and precious vessels – present themselves independent complexes, which are not connected with burials of people. These complexes are very close to that of silver hoards found in Dacia.

Thus, following such a reconstruction, king Skiluros seems to be a governor of the barbarian Steppe from the Danube to the Azov regions inclludiing several areas of settled way of life on the edges of this territory. As a rule such zones of sedentary people were situated in regions of the Lower Dnieper, Azov, Kuban and pre-mountain Crimea.

Just that very case was the North Pontic Steppes in the period of existing of the Crimean khanate of Medieval times. These times on those vast territories only small archaeologically unknown societies of the Nogai roamed from place to place.

The second century BC was the most bright and and heroic period in the history of Crimean Barbarians. After Skiluros death, which took place during the first Mithridatus war, the Barbarians of the North Pontic region had failed. In later times – in first centuries AD – Neapolis still was a big settlement but never in the status of a main royal residence. At the beginning of the third century AD Neapolis Scythian was distroyed completely by mixed barbarian troops.

(In the review were used the materials from Yu. Zaytsev’s articles)