The nomadic horse worshippers of Kazakhstan

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2,500 years ago the Steppes of Kazakhstan were the home to nomadic tribes, but one part of nomadic their lives were a little more permanent - where they were buried. Theses burial mounds, or 'kurgans' were anything up to 35 metres in diameter. Because the Steppes were subject to permafrost, the kurgans perfectly preserved all that was buried within them, although this later proved problematic when excavating and removing artefacts. Now an exhibition has been mounted at the Smithsonian in Washington DC (USA) to display some of the artefacts which have been uncovered in the past few decades.

Because of their nomadic nature the tribes obviously revered the horse, which was vital to their lifestyle, and in one very interesting find an obviously wealthy and important man had been interred with 13 sacrificial horses. The horses were decorated in death, as in life, as extravagantly as their owner, with golden ornaments and expensive textiles. But even with these rich pickings very little is still known about their way of life and religion.

The curator of the exhibition, archaeologist Alexander Nagel, is quoted as saying "Scholars are just beginning to learn more about the rituals practiced by these nomadic tribes. We do know that, later on, shamanism was practised and that it continued into the modern 19th. Century".

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