Skull of 1,000 year old Arctic chieftain’s infant heir found encased in Persian bronze bowl

The skull pieces were discovered by archeologists above the Arctic Circle on the remote permafrost Gydan peninsula close to the Kara Sea in Yamalo-Nenets autonomous region.

Scientists last year announced the find of the turquoise-coloured bronze bowl fragment – originally from Persia, some 6,000 kilometres to the south – but now say that this unique discovery in the extreme north of Russia was part of an elaborate burial of a child from an elite family, aged no older than three when he or she died. Earlier the bowl was identified as a cup.

Archeologist Andrey Gusev, researcher at the Arctic Research Centre, Salekhard, suggested the child was born to a medieval polar potentate.

‘We can definitely say that this child was not ordinary,’ he said. ‘He or she was from some wealthy family, judging by the things laid in the grave. The parents could afford quite expensive things, especially the bowl – it was imported.’

Fragments of fur clothes or animal skins along with a ceramic vessel were also preserved in the grave which was not found in a burial ground. The blade of a knife in the tundra grave does not survive, but its handle and sheath are elaborately decorated in a zoomorphic pattern.

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