A beautifully preserved wooden saddle from Mongolia estimated to be nearly 1700 years old has provided researchers with valuable insights into the people who lived in the area all those years ago.
The saddle was among a trove of items found in the Urd Ulaan Uneet cave burial, which was first investigated in 2015.
The cave lies about 1327 metres above sea level, and is the only known cave burial in the region from this era.
Altai State University researcher Nikolai Seregin and his colleagues, writing in the Bulletin of Archeology, Anthropology and Ethnography, have described the items recovered from the important site.
The most important and informative finds were a wooden saddle, iron bits with horn cheekpieces, a compound bow, arrowheads, a leather quiver with an iron hook, and a wooden container.
After studying the items, the researchers came to several conclusions around the cultural origins of the objects and the time period involved.
The study team says the cave items came from the Rouran time in Mongolia.
“The monument can be confidently dated to the middle of the 4th to 5th century AD, with the possible extension of the upper chronological boundary to the beginning of the 6th century AD.”
This conclusion is generally supported by radiocarbon analysis.
An interesting characteristic of the cave site, not revealed during the excavations of other objects from the Rouran period in Mongolia, is the accompanying burial of a horse.
“Obviously, this feature of the funeral rite is explained by contacts with the population of the Bulan-Koby Culture,” they wrote.
They said the items found during the exploration of the cave burial reflect the very wide contacts of the population of Mongolia in various directions — the Altai-Sayan region, Trans-Baikal region, Manchuria, East Turkestan and Central Asia — in the middle of the 1st millennium AD.
The researchers described the wooden saddle as completely preserved. It comprises two curved shelves with “wings”, and recesses for attaching the front and rear bow.
They said the wider study of “hard” saddles used by the peoples of Eurasia is complicated primarily by the poor preservation of these products in archaeological sites dating from the middle of the 1st millennium AD.
“There is every reason to believe that the saddle from the Urd Ulaan Unaet complex belongs to the same tradition with the Yaloman and East Turkestan patterns.”
Probably, military confrontation played a decisive role in the development of these saddles, they said.
Cave burial of Urd Ulaan Uneet (Mongolian Altai): рotential of cultural-chronological interpretation
N.N. Seregin, S.S. Matrenin and T.-O. Iderkhangai.
Bulletin of Archeology, Anthropology and Ethnography, 2020;(2(49)):38-51 DOI 10.20874/2071-0437-2020-49-2-4