The burials at Pazryk
Aside from being difficult to pronounce, the burials found at the Pazryk Valley, Altai mountains, Siberia are something of an archaeological wonder. Dating to the Iron Age, the burials there are found within barrows and are called Scythian-type kurgans, being a mound containing a wooden chamber covered over by rocks and boulders. The ones we’re interested in date from between 6-3rd centuries BC, and are special because the finds from them are in remarkable states of preservation. In fact, the site is so remarkable that it has been named the type site for the Altai culture. This means that the things found here are in such a good state of preservation, that they have become the base marker by which all other finds from that culture are referenced.
The most prominent of these is now known as the Chieftain, a powerfully built man covered in tattoos, who died at around age 50. Here are his tattoos, created using the skin-pricking method. The chief was elaborately decorated with an interlocking series of striking designs representing a variety of fantastic beasts. The best preserved tattoos were images of a donkey, a mountain ram, two highly stylized deer with long antlers and an imaginary carnivore on the right arm. Two monsters resembling griffins decorate the chest, and on the left arm are three partially obliterated images which seem to represent two deer and a mountain goat. On the front of the right leg a fish extends from the foot to the knee. A monster crawls over the right foot, and on the inside of the shin is a series of four running rams which touch each other to form a single design. The left leg also bears tattoos, but these designs could not be clearly distinguished. In addition, the chief’s back is tattooed with a series of small circles in line with the vertebral column. This tattooing was probably done for therapeutic reasons. Contemporary Siberian tribesmen still practice tattooing of this kind to relieve back pain. Other examples of which can be found such as Otzi, the Ice Man.