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Archaeologists discover ancient wooden coffin with teenager’s skeleton in Crimea

Russian archaeologists have discovered a sarcophagus with juvenile remains, the oldest graves of which date back to the 4th century BC

SIMFEROPOL, July 13. /TASS/. Russian archaeologists have discovered a sarcophagus with juvenile remains while digging the Gospitalny burial mound in Crimea, the oldest graves of which date back to the 4th century BC, the golden age of the Bosporan Kingdom, the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences told TASS on Thursday.

"Two stone tombs covered by slabs were the oldest burials found under the mound. One grave had been robbed during ancient times, while the other one contained a wooden sarcophagus covered with gypsum ornaments holding a teenager’s skeleton inside. The wooden sarcophagus had been crushed and partly decayed and disintegrated," the report says.

Archaeologists found many sports-related items near the buried juvenile: 10 alabastrons - vessels for oil that was used for exercises and competitions, a strigil - a tool for cleansing the athlete’s body by scraping off oil, perspiration and dirt and massaging after competitions, as well as 150 astragali (knucklebones), the press service specified.

"A red-figure pelike - a ceramic vessel for wine - from the so-called Kerch style is especially notable," the institute added. "Judging by these finding, a twelve-year-old teenager, who did not have time to start a family or take part in war, but, perhaps, was promising in sports - was buried there in the second half of 4th century BC."

The excavation works on the Gospitalny burial mound are being carried out for the first time in 120 years. The mound is located in southeastern Kerch and owes its name to a former military hospital nearby. The Institute of Archaeology noted that the mound was within the construction zone for a highway leading to the future Kerch Bridge that will link Crimea to mainland Russia.

"Mounds of such size have not been excavated in Crimea for over 120 years. It is the first time it [the excavation] was conducted in an integrated manner and on a modern scientific level. Apart from archaeologists, anthropologists, paleo-zoologists, palynologists, restoration experts and others are also engaged in the excavation efforts. We discovered valuable information on the obsequies of the Bosporan nobles, Bosporan sepulchral architecture and its construction techniques, as well as the material culture of the Bosporan Kingdom," the press service quoted the institute’s research scientist at the Scythian-Sarmatic Archaeology Department Irina Rukavishnikova as saying.