The 6,600-year-old Ekaterinovskia Mys tomb of a young man, in the Volga region of Russia, was buried with an elk horn, three stone mace heads, and the skeleton of a young goat.

March 29, 2024

It has already been said that the number of copper items at the Khvalynsk burial grounds is the largest among the Eneolithic monuments of the steppe (373 items) . Basically, these are jewelry – various beads, rings, bracelets. There are also four pieces of copper, which are probably some kind of ingots, which may indicate local metalworking. There is a difference between the two burial grounds. For example, copper products in Khvalynsk I are about a tenth of the copper in Khvalynsk II. At the same time, in the first cemetery, copper items were found in 9% of those buried, and in the second, in 30%. On average, this is 14% of all those buried in the two burial grounds.
These people are characterized by the presence of from 1 to 4 copper objects, but burial 12 stands out, where a man 20-30 years old was buried with 297 copper objects , most of which were simple copper beads. This person has 80% copper from two burial grounds, but even if we exclude this burial, the difference between Khvalynsk II and Khvalynsk I will still remain.
Genetic studies found seven of his close male relatives, who made up one of the clans of Khvalynsk ( the “yellow family” , as the researchers designated it). No women were buried with them. Probably, this line was somehow connected with long-distance expeditions that delivered Balkan copper to the Volga, and man 12 occupied a central position in this clan.
But apparently, such expeditions were not always effective. Apparently, the presence of copper on the Volga at that time ranged from abundance to absence. For example, no copper items were found at the Khlopkov Bugor burial ground, despite the fact that several generations and blood relatives separate it from Khvalynsk II.  The copper trade probably began suddenly and abundantly c. 4500 BC, when the Khvalynsky burial ground began to operate.
Thin tubes made of bird bones were also found among people buried with copper items. It is speculated that this may be some sort of whistle, but the exact function is still unclear. This item is associated with male graves that included copper. (approx. I saw such an object, although it was designated as a “tool for milking mares”).  However, there is an exception – this is grave 4 from Khvalynsk II. A man was buried in it without copper items, but with the same pipe. Genetic research showed that he was a representative of the “yellow family”, and the most ancient one.
Khvalynsk copper is obtained from Balkan sources. And this is surprising, since there are 2000 kilometers between the source and the consumer. Some of the products were brought ready-made, some were processed more roughly – already on site. Another part is on the Dnieper rapids.
The authors systematized sources on animal sacrifices at the Khvalynsk burial grounds and came to the conclusion that a total of 151 animals were sacrificed . These are mammals, mainly of three taxa. Small cattle are represented by sheep and goats – 106 pieces ( 70% ), cattle – 29 individuals ( 19% ) and horses, the status of domestication is debatable – 16 pieces ( 11 %).
It is worth noting that the sacrifices did not include obviously wild species, although their bones were used to make tools, and elk, wild boar, horses, beavers and fish themselves played an important role in feeding the Chalcolithic settlements of the region.
Sacrifice meant burying not the whole animal, but part of it. For example, for a horse this is usually the phalanx of a limb, and for cattle, small or large, it is represented by parts of the head or lower leg. The position of the head and hooves is a fairly stable ritual that can be traced in the steppes for a very long time, almost until the modern era.
About two-thirds of the finds of animal sacrifices are associated with human burials; another third were buried separately. As has already been said, sacrifices usually involved obvious domestic animals, but there are exceptions in the form of elk bones. The status of the horse here is unclear, but may indicate the beginning of its domestication. And it is no coincidence that the horse is more widely reflected in the art and artifacts of the Khvalyns. The authors believe that significant changes around the image of the horse are associated more with symbolic status than with changes in zoological status. This is also supported by recent genetic studies showing that the modern domesticated horse arose later, although in approximately the same region. Thus, the Khvalynsk time was most likely the very beginning of experiments with domestication, when the horse became interested in humans as a pet.
The percentage of people buried with animal parts is the same in both burial grounds – 14% . These are men, women, and children. The largest animal victim is associated with a triple grave, where two adult men and a woman were buried. With them were the first phalanx of a horse and the skulls of eight cows. Taking into account the mass of Neolithic domesticated animals, the total weight of meat from them is estimated at approximately 1400 kg, which means that there were hundreds of people commemorated at the funeral .
Taking into account ethnographic data, it is assumed that ritual feasts were held at the Khvalyn burial grounds, including demonstrations of elite status (copper and maces). Competitions that were more likely of a peaceful, integrative nature were supposed to play a certain role here. Guests could taste unusual, sacred food from domesticated animals and horses, which differed from the usual diet of fish and wild animals. If the interpretations of the Khvalyn culture as Indo-European are correct, then the Chalcolithic was the time when the idea of ​​the beginning of the world and the story of the sacrificed cow appeared.
In general, four groups can be distinguished in the Khvalynsk burial grounds, based on the grave goods buried with them. These are
1) people with copper,
2) people with animal sacrifices,
3) people with stone maces,
4) people (most) without these items.
14% were buried with copper, but at the same time, 14% were also buried with animals. Moreover, these two groups almost do not overlap . The authors believe that the group with copper was associated with long-distance travel, and the group with animals with local cults. It is tempting to interpret the former as traders and warriors, and the latter as shamans.
Apparently, the holders of the maces were the leaders who united these two groups under their conditional authority. Of the 201 buried people found in the Khvalynsk burial grounds, only three possessed maces (I:57, I:108, II:24).
The first of these, from burial 57 in Khvalynsk I, was an adult male, the only one of 158 people at this burial ground to be buried simultaneously with copper objects and an animal sacrifice. The second owner of the mace is also an adult man from Khvalynsk II, (burial 24) buried with numerous grave goods, including copper items and sacrifices. And he was also the only person in the burial ground who owned both copper and part of an animal.
Burial Khvalynsk II: 24. Buried – brother and sister
The third person, burial 108 from the first Khvalynsky burial ground, deviates from this scheme. There was no copper or animal bones in his grave, but he possessed two clubs at once – one whole and one broken. His tomb also contained three children, who were accompanied by copper objects and animal sacrifices. All together this gives a combination of an adult man, copper and animal.
Unfortunately, not all bones from these burials have survived. Ultimately, we can talk about a (partial) genetic analysis of only one of these graves. This is the “leader” from burial 24 in the second Khvalynsky burial ground. He was buried with three children. One was a girl of 8-9 years old, who was his sister; the other two children were not analyzed. The man’s haplogroup was Q1a1b, Siberian, northern haplogroup. And this is in contrast to most of the other men at the burial grounds.
It is likely that the owners of the maces had a high status, recognized by the rest of the Khvalyns, and contributed to the integration and unification of the other two groups.
Burial Khvalynsk I:57, where the “leader” with a mace is buried


Stone maces were not a Khvalyn invention. They are found both in the Dnieper region and in the Caucasus. The question of their origin is debatable. There are opinions that the roots of the appearance of these objects should be sought in the west, in the agricultural societies of the Carpatho-Balkan region, while another opinion suggests their Eastern European steppe origin. The second version seems more reasoned according to the authors of the article about the Khvalyn burial grounds.
If we consider them on a regional scale, then the Khvalyn maces are not the most ancient. The most ancient ones in the Volga region are at the Ekaterinovsky Cape burial ground. I mentioned him once. I also wrote about the rather remarkable burial of a leader who was buried with a domesticated kid, but the man ate fish. In addition, this leader was accompanied by the limbs of other people, probably war trophies, as well as as many as three booleans, varied in shape and material. It is worth noting that there is no copper at Cape Catherine, as well as very few animal sacrifices. And this despite the fact that there are more than a hundred burials at this burial ground.
The mace at this burial ground and the Khvalynsky ones should be understood not only as an aesthetically pleasing thing, but also as a weapon, because such an object does not have an applied non-combat function, unlike a knife or an ax. It is designed to break skulls and crush bones. Not necessarily human. These could be the skulls of sacrificial mammals or fish. Large Volga catfish reached 300 kg. However, the Catherine Cape man’s grave contained the limbs of other people, and it is worth understanding that interpersonal violence also occurred.