the Ringing cedars of Russia
Vladimir Megre English translation by John Woodsworth

Book 8, part 2. The Rites of Love (2006)

What is the message of Sungir?


And now I should like to bring to your attention some even more sensational news, eclipsing that of even the pyramids of Egypt or the ruins of Ancient Rome.

This information is also needed, as Anastasia’s grandfather said, in order to better understand the phenomena and knowledge of the Universe prevalent in our ancient forebears’ time. And for that we have to delve as deeply as possible into history

The Siberian recluse said, furthermore:

“If your thought can dig down to three thousand years ago, you will begin to gradually feel the knowledge of three millennia. If it can go as deep as five thousand years, then five millennia, though not everything you discover will be comprehensible to you. You actually need a minimum of nineteen thousand years.”

This attempt to dig into our country’s historical past seemed to me utterly unfeasible. I was already prepared to go off to India or Tibet where, it is said, one can learn more about our ancestors than here at home. But, as it turned out, there was no need to go anywhere. Everything was available right here, and now I invite everyone reading these lines to cast his thought about our forebears more than nineteen thousand years back in time.

The archaeological finds I am about to describe were made (by mere chance) on the outskirts of the city ofVladimir, which, according to official sources, is approximately 1,015 years old.

In 1955, while excavating a clay pit mine for the Vladimir Ceramics Factory, Alexander F. Nacharov discovered in one of the buckets the bones of some very large animal, which had been resting at a depth of three metres. Archaeologists were informed about the discovery.

The first excavations thereafter simply astounded the scientists. Buried on the site were the remains of people, jewellery, clothing ornamentation and everyday objects, all testifying to some kind of ancient culture. Further investigation confirmed that our ancestors had arrived on the banks of the Klyazma River  as early as the Old Stone Age, approximately 25,000 years ago.

Now somebody could be wondering whether they might have run about on all fours, dressed in home-made skins and carrying clubs! Not at all. The scientists were amazed by another finding.

On the skeletons themselves or close by were a whole lot of jewellery and ornaments which aided in reconstructing the ap-pearance ofthe clothing worn by these ancient people — some-thing similar to either overalls or a perfectly civilised dress.

The finding is such that if we are not going to relegate these remains to the category of buried extra-terrestrials, then we shall have to completely revise our whole historical outlook on the world.

In one of its halls the Vladimir State Museum of History and Ethnography mounted a special exhibition dedicated to these unique findings. It put out a booklet stating that the Sungir site is the most interesting archaeological monument in Russia, and is known to archaeologists the world over. It has hosted a number of international scientific conferences.

Sungir represents one of the northernmost settlements of Ancient Man in the Vladimir Region on the Great Russian Plain. In terms of richness of both objects and state of preservation of such ancient remains, it has no compeer anywhere in the world.

Thanks to the collaborative efforts of archaeologists, geologists, paleontologists and paleobotanists, we have a fairly clear picture of how people lived back then, in this incredibly distant time-period.

Here, on the edge of a glacier, was where the tundra used to begin, dotted here and there with islands of fir, pine, birch and alder groves. The animal world was quite diversified.

According to the booklet, “ancient Sungirians hunted the reindeer, wild horse, Arctic fox, wolverine, bison, brown bear, wolf, Arctic hare; they also went after the black grouse, junglefowl and herring gull. And of course, they hunted the mammoth — a huge animal, now extinct, almost four metres tall and weighing six tonnes. This represented for them a much sought-after trophy: meat, skins (indispensable in constructing dwellings) and tusks (a solid and superb material for the preparation of both weapons and ornaments.”

The inventory of objects made from bone and horn is most interesting: shaft adjusters, hoes, spearheads, arrowheads and beads from mammoth tusks, jewellery made from the fangs of the Arctic fox. A small silhouetted figure of a large-headed horse came to be recognised as a rare example of primitive art. This famous Sungir horse was decorated with tiny dotted ornaments and red ochre. The number of dots on the figure — a multiple of five — testifies to the use of a quinary counting system among inhabitants of the site. A seven-based system points to the knowledge possessed by people living 25,000 years ago. But it is the unique burial sites of these ancient people that have brought global fame to Sungir.

In 1964, in a heavy layer of ochre-coloured rock, was found the skull of a woman; lower still were the remains of an elderly man. On his chest was a pendant made from a pebble, while on his arms were twenty-five plate bracelets made from mammoth tusks. In addition, on the skull, all along the arms, legs and torso almost 3,500 beads were arranged in rows. The pattern of their arrangement on the skeleton allowed scientists to reconstruct the embroidered costume of this ancient Sungirian. It was reminiscent of the far clothing worn by Arctic peoples today. At the bottom of the shallow grave they discovered a knife and some kind of scraper made of flint.

Just as much a treasure was the next burial site, unearthed some five years later.

This grave contained the remains of an adult body, but without a skull. Beside it lay a necklace of mammoth-tusk beads, a ring and a pair of reindeer antlers. But farther back, at 65 cm below the upper grave, were found two skeletons of children.

A boy of twelve or thirteen and a girl between seven and nine had been placed in the grave in a stretched position, their heads pressed tightly against each other. Children on their way to ‘the next world’ were accompanied by hunting weapons made from mammoth tusks: eleven darts, 3 daggers and two spears made out of split and straightened tusks, one 2.5 metres and the other 1.5 metres long. The grave also yielded mammoth-tusk ‘rods’, very expressive figurines of a horse and a mammoth, carved discs of an apparently ceremonial nature and connected with the worship of the Sun and the Moon. The children’s clothing, too, was embroidered with thousands of little beads, and fastened across the chest with pins made of bones. The back of the costume had been outfitted with threads of beads in the shape of animal tails.

This finding testifies to the complex rite of burial and the developed religious beliefs of the ancient people of the Stone Age. One may confidently assume that they believed in the afterlife.

Multidisciplinary archaeological investigations have been going on at Sungir, with a few interruptions, ever since 1956. For almost twenty years the project was under the supervision of the famous archaeologist Dr Otto Nikolaevich Bader.11 Anthropologist M. M. Gerasimov,    along with his students

G. V Lebedinskaya  and T. S. Surnina succeeded in reconstructing the external appearance of the ancient Sungirians.

As is known, anthropologists are often able to reconstruct a person’s face with sufficient accuracy on the basis of the skull. This offered a rare opportunity indeed to gaze upon the faces of ancient people — an opportunity I decided to take advantage of. A wise, intelligent-looking face on the adult male. A slightly sad expression on the young girl’s face, a thoughtful one on the boy’s.

And yet the presumptions about hunting, and especially the mammoth, I believe, were not entirely accurate.

I brought Anastasia’s grandfather to this unique exhibition in the Vladimir museum. The old fellow slowly made his way around the displays, without stopping at any of them. Then he stood in the middle of the hall and bowed four times, each time shifting his position by ninety degrees. When I told him about the scientists’ conclusions, he began to refute a good deal of it, explaining:

“These people, Vladimir, never hunted mammoths. Mammoths were their household animals, and a very great help to families, also a way of transporting heavy loads. They performed a greater variety of tasks than elephants do today in India, which are controlled by mahouts, or drivers.

“Standing on a mammoth, the Sungirians could gather fruit from very tall trees and store them in woven bags and baskets, and then carry them to wherever they liked.

“In the domain glades, the mammoths cleared out young underbrush from the forest encroaching on the glades or, depending on the task assigned, would shake and then pull up trees so as to enlarge the glade. Whenever people had to move from one place to another, they would load their belongings, utensils and food supplies onto the mammoth.

“This was a very kind and industrious household animal. Even a small child could put his fingers around the end of its trunk and lead it about at will. Indeed, children often played with the mammoth, making it suck up water into its trunk and then give them a shower. The mammoth took great pleasure in watching how the youngsters jumped and squealed with joy.

“The mammoth was especially delighted, too, when his wool was combed out and removed by a special, rake-like instrument. A Man would wash the wool, dry it and then use it for his own purposes, for example, in making a bed.

“There was absolutely no need for these people to hunt the mammoth. This can be deduced just from the information available in the booklet, which contains quite a few contradictory statements.”

“Why contradictory?”

“Think about it. They list all sorts of wild game which could easily be caught in sufficient numbers with the aid of special traps. If a Man killed a mammoth, which weighs six tonnes, he could not possibly eat all its meat right off.”

“But what if there were a whole lot of people?”

“There couldn’t have been that many. Back in those times people didn’t live packed tight together the way they do now in cities or towns. Each family tribe had its own lands. Each family had their own territory, their own home. On an area of three square kilometres might be living fewer than a hundred people. Even collectively, they couldn’t eat a six-tonne mammoth in just a few days, even if they didn’t consume anything but meat during that time. The rotting meat would start to decompose and attract a huge number of insects. It could have started an epidemic.”

“But maybe they invited people from other territories to some kind of feast?”

“What sense would there be in travelling several kilometres just to eat meat which there was enough of at home?” “But if you say the mammoth’s decomposing carcass could run the risk of provoking an epidemic, the very same threat could be posed by a household mammoth when it died.” “Vladimir, a mammoth would never die in the family surroundings. When it got old and felt death approaching, it would walk a little ways from the house and trumpet three times, before heading off to a cemetery for mammoths, where it died. You should have known that yourself, as that is what wild elephants do in India today. Before they die they trumpet and then leave the herd.”

“So that means we have a very distorted understanding of how the ancient people fed themselves?”

“Yes, that’s right. Perhaps it’s an attempt to justify your current barbarity in regard to the treatment of animals. The farther you go back into history, the fewer people you’ll encounter eating meat. They had a sufficient supply of growing things to sustain themselves. As for animals, they took from them only what the animals themselves gave to Man — milk and eggs, for example. Meat could have been harmful to the stomachs of the first people.

‘Another argument in favour of the premise that hunting was not a basic source of food for primitive people is its illogicality by comparison with other ways of obtaining food.” “What other ways?”

“From tamed, domesticated animals. Picture to yourself a Man whose household includes a female mammoth, a cow and a goat, all of which can be milked, yielding a daily supply of top-quality fresh produce. This Man’s household also includes domesticated fowl: a goose, a duck, a chicken, all of which provide eggs with little effort on his part. He has the opportunity of gathering honey and pollen from bees, and a great many root vegetables and edible herbs are also at hand.

“Then all of a sudden it appears as though the Man is going out of his mind. He kills all his domestic animals — which, apart from everything else, have also been guarding him when he is asleep — eats them and begins hunting for wild game, thereby putting himself in danger without guaranteeing himself and his family a regular supply of fresh produce.

“In place of friendly surroundings and the love expressed to him by his household animals, he ends up with nothing but an aggressive environment in which it is virtually impossible, one might say, for his household to survive.”

“But did the first people really begin right off to domesticate and train their animals? Maybe that came along at a later period?”

“There would have been no later period for Man if he had taken an aggressive stance from the start. You must be acquainted, after all, Vladimir, with situations where an infant alone in the forest may be fed even by carnivorous wolves — the very same forest where a pack of wolves could tear an adult to pieces. What would account for the discrepancy in their attitude toward Man?”

“I really can’t say”

“Because in the first instance the infant Man has no aggression, while in the second we have aggression and fear which create unease in the surrounding environment.

“The first people had no sense of fear or aggression. It was love that was dominant in them, along with a genuine interest in the world around them. Consequently, it was no effort to domesticate or train animals and birds. Their primary concern was to determine the purpose of every creature they encountered on the Earth. This they did. As far as the animals go, you already know that they find their own highest benefit in Man’s feelings of love and care for them.

“Meat was first consumed by a less-than-complete Man, one drained of the energy of Love. It seems that he either went out of his mind or was infected with the most terrible disease — a disease which has come down to the present day”

“But what connection can there be between love and Man’s first consumption of meat?”

“There is a direct connection. A Man living in love is incapable of killing.”

“Possibly. But can you determine why these children died 25,000 years ago? Why were they buried in such an unusual manner, head to head like that?”

“I could tell you, of course, but it would be a very long story Besides, it is not important for you to know why they were overcome by death, hut for what purpose.”

“For what purpose?”

“There you go again, Vladimir, constantly asking questions. Too lazy to think for yourself. Only don’t blame me for speaking like this, the way you did back in the taiga when you let resentment take over. Think, instead, on the whole point of my telling you things. What I say will bring you more harm than good if you don’t begin to think for yourself.

“I speak, and you listen, and instead of working out your own conclusions in your thought, you are merely taking note of mine. You have set yourself up a goal of finding conditions in the past under which love could remain with people forever, and then reintroducing them in this present day. That’s fine, the path is correct, and the goal is the most important of all.

“You are trying to determine how many ages ago love began to dwell with people. Look: here is a date right before your eyes. Think about it. Right in front of you lie two child skeletons. Their death at such a young age is meaningless unless people can realise what important information is concealed in their burial.

“Their death will acquire meaning if you retrieve this infor-mation right now.”

I didn’t resent the old fellow for his remark on my laziness of mind. I had long realised that he was using some kind of methods of his own, trying again and again to teach me how to control my thoughts by alternative means. But I, after all, did not go through the same school as they, training their thought from childhood. I went to an ordinary school, which quite possibly serves to do just the opposite — to switch thought off.

So here I am standing in front of these child skeletons, straining myself mentally, without being able to grasp how I can look on them and learn at least something about the love that existed 25,000 years ago — if it existed at all at that time.

“It did exist,” the old fellow suddenly said.

“What made you decide that? There’s not a word about love on the museum signs.”

“Not a word, but so what? Look carefully Judging by the skeletons, these are children. The boy is twelve and a half. The girl, she’s eight.

“On their skeletons are hundreds of bone beads. On the basis of their arrangement your scientists have determined what kind of clothing the children were wearing. But is that all the bone beads can tell us?”

“What else can they tell us?”

“That their parents, Vladimir, loved these children very much. They loved their children and they loved each other. Only loving parents could get involved in such time-consuming ornamentation of their children’s clothing. We can also tell that they had more than enough free time for artistic pursuits and for designing and then making fine clothing.

“Note that the objects found in the grave include absolutely no weapons capable of killing.”

“What about the darts? Aren’t those weapons?”

“Of course not. And they’re not even harpoons for catching fish, since there are no barbs on the ends. The end of the object they’ve called a ‘dart’ is not even sharp. A thin, lightweight dart like that could hardly kill or even wound any creature.” “Then what was this object used for?”

“For training and controlling animals. See how it resembles a stick animal trainers use today? Elephant drivers, for example, use sticks like that to control their charges.”

“But why did they need to make them out of bone? They could have also taken a real stick and not wasted time straightening out the bone and putting ornaments onto it.”

‘A wooden stick couldn’t last very long. Animals, on the other hand, get accustomed to a single object — its shape and even the smell it acquires from contact with the master’s hand.”

“Right, then — everything you say sounds rather convincing, but there are other objects which resemble arrowheads. And arrows were meant for killing.”

“In the case of these specific people, who were not of the very earliest period of human life on the Earth, arrows were intended for scaring away carnivorous beasts when they attacked.

“There are also some objects that look like hoes. These, indeed, were instruments for planting seeds and digging up roots.”

“But the jewellery? Look, this necklace is made from the fangs of an Arctic fox. And scientists assume that the clothing was made from leather. So, they killed animals after all!” “Your scientists are right about their clothing being made of leather, but there was absolutely no need to kill any animals for this purpose. There were reptiles which shed their old skin on a regular basis. Reptiles might die for some reason, and then ants would eat out their insides, leaving the skin untouched, which turned out to be very useful for making clothing. Given such circumstances, it would be silly to waste time on killing an animal, cutting up the carcass, processing and drying the skin or softening it. What for? Since it was possible to acquire a ready-made skin in an ideal condition. In the Divine Nature all Man’s needs have been provided for in advance. As for the necklace from a fox’s fangs, it was a lot simpler to take them from a skeleton already worked over and dried by Nature.”

At this point I’m going to interrupt, for a moment, Anastasia’s grandfather’s account about the archaeologists’ unique findings.

In the booklet put out by the Vladimir State Museum there are drawings showing two exhibit halls — the Sungir Architectural Park and the Sungir Museum Complex. It mentions that international conferences have been organised around these unique findings.

However, I would not advise any great haste to visit the excavation site of this ancient civilisation. There are no actual pavilions on the site — only the remains of unfinished construction. And the archaeological work is not proceeding at any intensive pace. The State has no funds for such important projects. They are going ahead, one might say, thanks to the level of enthusiasm both of the scientists involved and of the local authorities.

I arrived at this unique place on a weekend. In one of the pits I saw two men taking soil samples from the side of the pit and carefully placing them into plastic bags. They turned out to be workers from the State Archaeological Institute. They confirmed that Sungir is considered the richest archaeological site for the study of Ancient Man anywhere in the world.

The Vladimir Museum exhibition is the only one of its kind in Russia. They said that tourists sometimes visited the Sungir excavation site, but mainly tourists from Japan, since there is an even fuller exhibition on Sungir at the Tokyo National Archaeological Museum.

It seemed pretty strange that the people in the Land of the Rising Sun show more respect to our ancient forebears living on our country’s territory than we do ourselves. Thankyou Japanese friends, for protecting the culture of our joint forebears.

We talk about Russia’s lofty mission, about spirituality and the need to support the national image, but what support can we talk about if foreign tourists see our relationship to history through their own eyes?

Well, the only thing we can do is hope that possibly our more civilised descendants will learn what secrets still remain to be discovered in Sungir.

I managed to find out that 25,000 years ago our forebears were civilised people, who knew how to love passionately and preserve love forever.

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