Metanavigation

Russian Federation: Chicha

Investigations on one of the most important sites of the transitional period between Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age in the forest-steppe region of Western Siberia.

Chicha, Western Siberia: a fortified settlement of the Late Bronze Age / Early Iron Age in the forest-steppe zone

Location

Location

Germany
54° 44' 53.4876" N, 78° 36' 3.6648" E

Background

This is an interdisciplinary research project. Geomagnetic measurement was used for the prospection of the site. Since 2000 a group of Russian geophysicists is working on the development and testing of instruments and techniques. Archaeozoological and palaeobotanical analyses as well as some radiocarbon datings have been carried out in the laboratories for natural sciences of the DAI. Computer equipment and GIS are in use for documentation and elaboration. The functional analysis of house structures is aided by detailed phosphate mapping. Other participating methods with special issues are archaeometric measurements and analysis of organic and anorganic materials, for example remains of paint or food on ceramics, and stable isotope analysis of bone collagen in order to shed light on the dietary habits of the Chicha community.

Objectives

The settlement was existing during the transitional period from the final Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age. At about that time the inhabitants of the steppes are told to have changed their way of life from formerly farmers to nomadic people with a great importance of horses under the influence of climatical change. The situation of Chicha in the contact zone from northern (Taiga) non-nomadic with southern (steppe) nomadic people just at the edge of the Bronze Age to the Iron Age makes it a site of great scientific value for the investigation of that process. Interdisciplinary research with modern methods will do a great contribution to the understanding of the cultural development in Siberia.

History of Research

The inner part of the settlement is known since the late Seventies. In 1979 V.I. Molodin excavated in this area a so-called "Poluzemljanka" - a house with a half-sunken floor dating to the Late Irmen´ Culture (end of 2nd millennium B.C.). Since that time Chicha has been one of the major archaeological sites for the transitional period from the LBA to the EIA in the forest-steppe of Western Siberia.

Previous Activities

In preparation of the excavation campaigns, a geomagnetic survey was carried out in 1999 (by H. Becker and J. Faßbinder) during which a fortified proto-urban settlement with an area of 6 hectares was discovered. More than 100 houses are arranged in regular rows which clearly refer to a system of streets. Several ditches indicate a complex structuring of the settlement interiour. The site is subdivided into a specially fortified area in the wets - a kind of `citadel´ - and an outer settlement surrounding the citadel to the east. Between 2000 and 2003 excavations were carried out in several parts of the settlement area to investigate stratigraphy, chronology and settlement structure. Interlinked with these works were palaeobotanical, archaeozoological, pedological and other specialist studies. In 2001 we succeded to locate a burial ground belonging to the settlement, this was further investigated during the two following years.

Recent Activities

The field work on the site has been completed and the results are being assessed and analysed with special attention directed towards the coordination of the institutions and other scientific academic fields participating in the project. The excavation results have already been presented in several articles as well as in two monographic reports, first results of scientific analyses will be published in 2005.

Methodology

This is an interdisciplinary research project. Geomagnetic measurement was used for the prospection of the site. Since 2000 a group of Russian geophysicists is working on the development and testing of instruments and techniques. Archaeozoological and palaeobotanical analyses as well as some radiocarbon datings have been carried out in the laboratories for natural sciences of the DAI. Computer equipment and GIS are in use for documentation and elaboration. The functional analysis of house structures is aided by detailed phosphate mapping. Other participating methods with special issues are archaeometric measurements and analysis of organic and anorganic materials, for example remains of paint or food on ceramics, and stable isotope analysis of bone collagen in order to shed light on the dietary habits of the Chicha community.

Results

The settlement of Chicha can be subdivided into 3 main phases. The oldest horizon be-longs to the Late Bronze Age Irmen´ culture (c. 13th/12th century B.C.) and was limited to the `citadel´ area. The grave field probably dates mainly to this phase. At the be-ginning of the first millennium B.C. during the transitional period from Bronze to Iron Age, the settlement reached largest extension. The whole outer settlement belongs to this phase. The area of the `citadel´ was settled once again in the advanced Sargat culture (1st century B.C. - 1st century AD) - this is the last of the phases, all of which together have only been observed in this part of the site. The investigation of the building structures dating to the transitional period yielded the clearest results: the majority are large standardized half-sunken houses with one or two more rooms of more or less square ground plan although other types of buildings also existed. Interestingly, the finds retrieved from the `citadel´ differ clearly from those found in the outer settlement: the many examples of anthropo- and zoomorphic clay sculpture have been found only in the `citadel´. The pottery in the area mainly dates to the first phase (Irmen´ culture) while the ceramic finds from the outer settlement can be best compared to the Kraznoozero ware of the transitional period. Therefore, and unlike previously thought, the differences between `citadel´ and outer settlement must be explaned chronologically.

Cooperation / Cooperation partners

Cooperation partner is the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science in Novosibirsk. Thin section analysis of pottery is carried out at the Rathgen-Research-Laboratory of the State Museums of Berlin (Prof. Dr. J. Riederer). Archaeometric analysis of anorganic material are undertaken by a group of researchers at the CNRS in Paris (Dr. Ina Reiche). Palaeodietary research by isotopic analysis of bone collagen is being done by the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art at the University of Oxford (Dr. Karen Privat) in col-laboration with the Fossil Fuels and Environmental Geochemistry Postgraduate Institute of the university of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Dr. Oliver Craig).

Bibliography

(selection)

V.I. Molodin, H. Parzinger et al., Čiča - gorodishche perechodnogo ot bronzy k zhelezu vremeni v Barabinskoj lesostepi. Materialy po Archeologii Sibiri 1 (Novosibirsk 2001)

V.I. Molodin, H. Parzinger et al., Čiča - eine befestigte Ansiedlung der Übergangsperiode von der Spätbronze- zur Früheisenzeit in der Barabinsker Waldsteppe. Vorbericht der Kampagnen 1999-2001, In: Eurasia Antiqua 8, 2002, 185-236

V.I. Molodin, H. Parzinger et al., Cica - gorodishche perechodnogo ot bronzy k zhelezu vremeni v Barabinskoj lesostepi. Bd. 2. Materialy po Archeologii Sibiri 4 (Novosibirsk - Berlin 2004)

J. Schneeweiß, Die Siedlung Čiča in der westsibirischen Waldsteppe. I. Untersuchungen zur Keramik, Chronologie und kulturellen Stellung in der Spätbronzezeit und der Übergangsperiode zur frühen Eisenzeit. Archäologie in Eurasien 22 (Mainz) im Druck.

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