Russia’s Most Bizarre Artifacts

Russia's High Arctic has unveiled some incredible secrets over the last ten years, one of which is known as the Ice Maiden.

Russia’s High Arctic has unveiled some incredible secrets over the last ten years, one of which is known as the Ice Maiden.

Whilst there are plenty of weird modern-day things that we love about Russia, there are also some unusual artifacts from Russia’s past that deserve a mention. All of these fascinating findings have thankfully been unearthed. They’ve brought with them some remarkable insights into Russia’s past. How ancient civilizations used to live, what they wore, the games they played, a whole new lifestyle to discover. These are the most bizarre of them all.

Russia’s First Casino?

Alquerque is much like an ancient form of chequers, but that's not the only game that Russia had an input in.

Alquerque is much like an ancient form of chequers, but that’s not the only game that Russia had an input in.

Around 385 miles West of Moscow, in 2009, a peculiar bench was unearthed. This bench would tell us a great deal about the lengths that 17th century Russians would go to in order to play their favourite games. The bench was carved with an intricate alquerque board; an ancient game that is thought to be the precursor to chequers. Players could meet at the bench to play and when an official was seen, one of the players could simply sit on the board. This blocked the game from view and meant they would be allowed to play uninterrupted.

Beyond this unusual bench, Russia is often credited with the invention of another popular casino game. Thanks to cult classic writer George Surdez, who coined the name ‘Russian Roulette’ in one of his fictional works, many Americans believe that Russians not only invented Russian Roulette, but casino favourite roulette as well. Strangely enough, Russia was behind the invention of neither. Russian Roulette is believed to have actually started in Romania, whilst roulette itself was invented by the French. It looks like Russia will have to be content with inventing alquerque and a brilliant bench to play it on!

A Selection of Intricate Figurines

Back in 2017 in Novosibirsk an unusual discovery was made. The site is thought to have first been disturbed some 4000 years ago by a tsunami, but the most recent disturbance was caused by a potato farmer. Whilst preparing the ground for crops, the discovery of a selection of ancient figurines was made. These figures are thought to be approximately 5000 years old and feature a remarkable selection of carvings.

The most unusual of the figurines depicts a person wearing a feathered headdress which was likely carved from bone. The remainder of the figures depict a moose, a bird, and several other figures that feature both human and animal qualities. The materials vary from sandstone to birch wood, as well as one that is believed to be made from the tusk of a wooly mammoth! These figures provide an insight into the lives of the truly ancient civilization that once called the banks of the Ob River its home.

The Ice Maiden

A more famous, but equally fascinating discovery was made in the Russian High Arctic. At a medieval necropolis, the mummified remains of a woman have been found. She has now been dubbed the Ice Maiden. It is thought that she lived around 800 years ago and that her body remains in such perfect condition due in part to the optimum conditions of the arctic ice. Perhaps the most remarkably well-preserved part of the mummy is her face. One of the researchers explains that a copper plate had been made to cover her face, which reacted with its conditions, slowing down the decomposition remarkably. It’s actually possible to see singular eyelashes on her face.

The site where she was discovered is known as Zeleny Yar. This particular site has already unearthed a dozen other bodies, though all of them until this point were male. Researchers at the center initially believed that the site was a burial ground only for men, but the Ice Maiden has changed everything. She is such a perfect example of a mummified body that researchers are sure this site will uncover more female remains. Even more unusually, the items she was buried with have been traced back to Persia, some 4000 miles away. This tells us that this civilization must have engaged in long-distance trading, likely exchanging the pelts of native animals for exotic goods.

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