History and culture of the early Türkic period: A review of archaeological monuments in the Russian Altai from the 4th–6th century AD

Nikita Konstantinov*, Vasilii Soenov, Synaru Trifanova, Svetlana Svyatko

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
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Establishing the lower limit of the Türkic period in the Altai region and the earliest archaeological monuments characteristic of this period presents a complex task for archaeological research. Radiocarbon dates obtained from Bulan-Koby and Kok-Pash type burials dating to the pre-Türkic period suggest an upper limit of around the middle of the 6th century AD. Around this time, or perhaps a little earlier, in the late 5th – early 6th centuries, square stone enclosures appear in the same region. The greatest difference in the grave goods of these different types of monument is that stirrups are found in stone enclosures, whereas none are recorded in Bulan-Koby type monuments. The next stage in the development of the material culture of the Türkic period from the second half of the 6th century, is marked by the distribution of ornaments made in heraldic style. Likewise, after the middle of the 6th century, Kudyrge type burials appear, which are similar to the Bulan-Koby type monuments inasmuch as the inventory of finds includes both stirrups and artistic heraldic ornaments. We know from Chinese chronicles that some historical events can be extrapolated to archaeological sites. In this case, it is important to mention the resettlement of ‘500 Ashina families’ to the Altai in 460 CE, where they formed the core of the Türkic community. We suggest that the use of stelae at square stone enclosures uncharacteristic of the preceding period are associated with this group. After the formation of the Türkic Khaganate, the practice of erecting enclosures with stelae, and human burials with horses in them became widespread throughout the Eurasian steppe testifying to the significance of the Altai population in the formation of the wider Türkic community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-115
JournalArchaeological Research in Asia
Early online date29 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2018


  • Altai
  • Burial with horse
  • Early middle ages
  • Enclosures
  • Turks
  • Türks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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