Polish archaeologists discovered the bones of 5,000-year-old ‘big men’ covered in red dye in northern Serbia.
The men’s skeletons, which are substantially taller than previous finds, were most likely brought in from the steppes of southern Russia or Ukraine, according to experts.
The bones, which were adorned with weapons, jewelry, and painted vessels, belonged to males who stood over 1.8m tall, about 20 cm taller than earlier finds.
Two enormous mounds in the Akaka region of the autonomous district of Vojvodina on the lower Tisza – on the western edge of the Eurasian steppes – were the focus of the study.
There were two large wooden burial chambers in each of the mounds.
When the earliest people were buried around 3,000 BC, the bodies were significantly smaller. When the second grave was dug some 100-200 years later, their diameters and heights were substantially larger.
“The graves we discovered were not wonderfully outfitted,” Piotr Wodarczak of the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Archeology and Ethnology told PAP. “But the red color of the portion of the bones caught notice.”
“This was because ocher was used to sprinkle or color the bodies of the dead,” she said, adding that it was a “holy color” utilized in burial ceremonies.
“Both the use of ocher and the deceased’s above-average height – men in this part of Europe at the turn of the fourth and third millennia were typically around 1.6 m tall – show that the deceased were foreigners,” he continued.
“The Eastern European steppe societies are associated with the ritual of using ocher and putting individual burials in enormous mounds.”
At the turn of the 4th and 3rd millennia BC, a nomadic society traveled to Europe from the southern steppes of Russia and Ukraine, according to Wodarczak.
He went on to say that they came from the Jamnaya civilization and that they had a huge impact on European culture.
Archaeologists discovered a cultural shift in the third millennium BC when funeral rites and pottery-making methods changed. The immigrants also flooded into modern-day Poland.
“In the Bronze Age, proto-state centers began to appear, and the elites were segregated, as demonstrated, for example, by the massive burial mounds where the individuals were buried,” Wodarczak continued.
The excavation research took place between 2016 and 2018, but scientists have only recently completed specialist analyses. The National Science Centre provided funding for the investigation.