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Scythian arrowheads and Bronze Age dwelling uncovered in Ukraine

Photo of an archaeological site in Ukraine that dates to the Scythian period; the outline of a structure can be seen in stone with several indentations in the floor
An archaeological site in Ukraine dates to the late sixth century and early fifth century B.C., during the Scythian period. (Image credit: Ukrinform)

Archaeologists in Ukraine recently uncovered a glut of arrowheads, spinning wheels and ceramic fragments that date to the late sixth century and early fifth century B.C., a time when Scythian nomads, renowned for their skill as mounted archers, occupied the area. 

The Scythians were a culturally related group of nomadic tribes that occupied large regions of grassland between China and the northern coast of the Black Sea from about 800 B.C. to 300 A.D. The fifth-century B.C. Greek historian Herodotus claimed that all Scythians descended from the hero Heracles and a creature that was half-woman and half-snake, with whom Heracles had a son named Scythes. However, modern archaeological and genetic analyses suggest that the Scythians actually emerged from various Siberian, East Asian and Yamnaya Eurasian groups, and that the tribes were ethnically diverse.

Remnants of Scythian culture can be found at the Bilsk Historical and Cultural Reserve near the village of Bilsk in the Poltava province of central Ukraine. There, between the rivers Vorskla and Sukha Hrunia, lay the remains of a 12,300-acre (5,000 hectare) settlement from which a wealth of artifacts have been excavated in recent decades, according to Ukraїner (opens in new tab), a media project aimed at sharing cultural stories of Ukraine. 

Human-made earthen ramparts can still be found at the fortified settlement, which many scholars associate with the ancient city of Gelonus, an important trading hub that Herodotus described in his writings.

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This newfound artifact is a spindle whorl, a disc used to weight spindles when hand-spinning yarn. (Image credit: Ukrinform)

In the current excavations, archaeologists exploring the reserve discovered 40 objects that date to the Scythian period, including fragments of locally-made Scythian ceramics and Greek tableware likely made in ancient Attica and Olbia, according to an Aug. 21 statement by Ukrinform (opens in new tab), Ukraine's state information and news agency. The team also uncovered grain and garbage pits, as well as evidence of "various economic buildings," the statement notes.

The team has not uncovered any ancient dwellings in the area, as "probably, they were destroyed during the development of a quarry that operated in this area in the past years," Ihor Korost, director of the Bilsk Historical and Cultural Reserve, told Ukrinform. 

However, the archaeologists did discover the remains of a Late Bronze Age dwelling that measured about 76 square yards (64 square meters) at a nearby site; this dwelling predates the Scythian artifacts and buildings. 

"Just imagine, it is more than 3,300 years old!" Korost told Ukrinform of the dwelling. "Further research of the site will make it possible to determine its exact age, establish the stages of development, and features of settlement."

Originally published on Live Science. 

Nicoletta Lanese
Staff Writer

Nicoletta Lanese is a staff writer for Live Science covering health and medicine, along with an assortment of biology, animal, environment and climate stories. She holds degrees in neuroscience and dance from the University of Florida and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her work has appeared in The Scientist Magazine, Science News, The San Jose Mercury News and Mongabay, among other outlets.