The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
LONDON, (CAIS) -- An autopsy on the body of an ancient Scythian cavalier found in the Altai Mountains shows he had a degenerative bone disease for several years before he died, German scientists said Friday. The 2006 find of the preserved body and the man's rich possessions on the Mongolian side of the mountains was a scientific sensation. The Scythians were a nation of horsemen in central Asia.
The man, who died about 2,300 years ago at the age of 50 or 60, would have been incapable of any demanding physical work for several years before his death, Michael Schultz, a palaeopathologist or scientist who studies diseases in ancient remains.
Schultz said the cause of the "bone-decaying process" was unclear and an explanation would not be suggested until the end of this year.
The 1.67-metre man would have belonged to the upper middle class of his society. The condition of his teeth showed he mainly ate meat.
"The teeth were barely worn. That's typical for nomads," said Schultz. The man's upper body was poorly preserved, only allowing the team of scientists to study a few ribs and vertebrae.
The study established the man had serious arthritis in the hands and hips and had chronic inflammation of the sinuses. At some point in his life, he had also broken his arm in a fall and suffered a middle-ear infection.
The remains of two horses, a fur coat and weapons were among the possessions which were found in the mound and are under conservation treatment in Novosibirsk, Russia, said Hermann Parzinger, the lead archaeologist on the excavation.
The burial chamber inside the manmade mound had very dry air, thanks to a lump of permanent ice beneath a wooden "floor". Parzinger said the remains had been more or less "freeze-dried" because of this.
The mummy, which was brought to Goettingen, northern Germany in December 2006, will be shipped to Ulan-Bator, Mongolia next month.
The Scythians played a very important part in the Ancient World. They were expert horsemen, and were one of the earliest peoples to master the art of riding and using horse-drawn covered wagons. Scholars generally classify their language as a member of the Eastern Iranian languages, and the themselves as a branch of the ancient Iranian peoples expanding into the steppe regions north of Greater Iran from around 1000 BCE.
Like other Iranians, these nomads probably called themselves by the generic term "Airya"; this is testified inter alia by the native name of their descendants in the present day Europe; it seems, however, that they, or at least some of their powerful clans, also called themselves "SAKA" in the East, and SKUDA, or SKUDRA in the West. SKUDA is believed to be related to the German word "SACHS", meaning a type of throwing-dagger which the eponymic Saxons used to carry and shoot with; indeed, it is possible that like the historical Saxons, the Skuda derived their name from their ability to shoot.
Their first appearance in recorded history is again in the Assyrian annals, where they chase the Cimmerians, their own kinsmen, first out of Europe, then out of Asia Minor into the Median territory; in the 7th century B.C. they allied themselves with the Assyrians, and attacked the combined forces of the invading rebellious Median vassal king, Khshathrita (Phraortes) and his Cimmerians allies; the Assyrians repelled the Medes, killing Phraortes, and routed the Cimmerians; the real victors, however, were the Scythians; for the next 28 years, now allied with their erstwhile enemy, the Cimmerians, they ravaged most of the Ancient Near East, including Media; later they allied themselves with Khshathrita's son, the Median emperor, Hvakhshathara II (Cyaxares), and the Babylonian king, Nabopolassar, taking Nineveh in 612 BCE and destroying once and for all the mighty Assyrian Empire.
The Scythians were known by the Achaemenians, as SAKA and SKUDRA, by the Greeks, SKYTHIA, by the Romans, SCYTHIAE, which has given us the English word SCYTHIAN; they lived in a wide area stretching from the south and west of the River Danube to the eastern and northeastern edges of the Taklamakan Desert in China; this vast territory includes now parts of Central Europe, the eastern half of the Balkans, the Ukraine, northern Caucasus, southern Russia, southern Siberia, Central Asia and western China.
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