Sotnikova S. V. Children's burials with sets of astragales as the reflection of gender-age stratification in the bronze age societies of eurasian steppes (the example of the Sintashta-Petrovsky, Potapovsky, and Pokrovsky types of monuments) (.pdf)


The paper deals with children's burials with sets of astragales found in the Bronze Age monuments of the Eurasian steppes. The burials were divided in two age groups: 1 – from infancy to 5-6 years, 2 – from 6-7 to 13-15 years. The author uses ethnographic material to substantiate the division. The paper analyzes the second group of burials by providing an overview of archaeological material and its interpretation. The author states that male children from 6-7 to 13-15 years were a particular age group of the Sintashta-Petrovsky, Potapovsky and Pokrovsky population, and game with astragales was a distinguishing feature of that group. The game could get some sacral associations with the cult of fertility during important calendar holidays. Probably in the Bronze Age, astragales were placed in the graves of those children and adolescents who were lucky in that game. It was believed that such children have been marked with a special sign of heaven. Since the objects of ritualistic nature are presented in such burials, we may suggest that the society assigned the duties of diviners for such children when they had grown up. The presence of decorations in some of the burials was not necessarily an indication of female gender. Apparently, it is necessary to take into account the fact that the game with astragales was associated with the cult of fertility, but the patron of fertility, as a rule, was an androgynous deity. Probably, in ancient times, it was believed that in order to divine future events correctly, a person could understand cosmos in its entirety only by uniting both genders in oneself.


Key words: the Bronze Age, Eurasian steppes, burial, astragals, gender-age stratification.


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