Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bone Armor from Siberia

Archaeologists working along the Irtysh River near Omsk have uncovered this amazing suit of bone armor. It has not yet been dated, but based on where it was found it was probably made in the Bronze Age, perhaps as old as 3500 to 3900 years ago.

The armor does not seem to be local; it more closely resembles objects from the Samus-Seyminskaya culture of the Altai Mountains, about 1,000 km to the south east. So it may have been a gift, or spoils of war. It was found in isolation, not in a grave, so it may have been buried or thrown into the river as a sacrifice. The bone seems to be deer or elk.

Reconstruction. I have never seen anything like this, and when I did a search for "bone armor", the only things that came up were video games and this Siberian find.


G. Verloren said...

The concept of an actual find of bone armor has always fascinated me. I'm hugely excited about this news!

Logically, bone armor makes just as much sense - and was probably comparably as common as - leather, wood, and cloth armors. We know humans have used bone as components for weapons, so why not for armor? Even in cultures with metalworking, metal was historically rare and expensive - particularly in qualities high enough to make suitable weapons and armor. Consequently the vast majority of weaponry and armor in all of history, even including metalworking cultures, has been non-metallic - it just simply hasn't survived into the modern day, being so much less durable.

I've long hoped for a find like this, but I've always suspected it would have to come from the northern parts of the world (as it would have to be preserved by cold and ice) and either from Asia or North America (as it would most likely be the product of regularly warring non-metalworking cultures - although by no means exclusively so).

This is just fascinating. I hope they find more fragments - their conjecture on the reconstruction is nice, but I hate basing such things on so little material evidence. It's still irrefutably bone lamellar, though, so that's quite a find already!

G. Verloren said...

As an aside, it's surreal and oddly hilarious (and a bit creepy) to read through the comments on the linked article and pick out the obvious Russian whitewashing, astroturfing, and propaganda postings - like the comment by "Patrick Travers" of "Perth, Australia" spouting completely non-sequiter tourism hooks, highlighting the supposed attractions of the region.