Children’s Burials of the Middle Sarmatian Period in the North Pontic Region

Keywords: children, socialization, Sarmatians, age, gender, adolescents


The purpose of the paper is to investigate children’s burials of the Middle Sarmatian period on the territory of the Northern Black Sea region. Try to determine the gender of the buried children on the basis of the burial inventory in comparison with the adults of the respective burial grounds. Supplement archaeological materials with the help of ethnographic information.

Scientific novelty. The article reconstructs the life of children of Middle Sarmatian society based on archaeological, ethnographic and anthropological data. The study of children’s burials on the materials of grave sites from the Northern Black Sea region has not been conducted yet.

Conclusions. Peculiarities of children’s society are considered depending on their age and gender. Babies did not have their own individual property they were buried only in burials together with adult women. At the age of 1-3 years, little Sarmatians stopped feeding with mother’s milk. Sarmatians perceived children of this age as separate individuals and buried them in separate burials. Children already have their personal belongings, including weapons. However, it was not possible to trace any gender orientation of these things, according to the available sources, at the moment. Sarmatians already divided children between the ages of 4 and 7 by gender. Judging by the peaks of mortality, it was at this age that Sarmatian children were most at risk. In this group, it was possible to determine that most of the dead children were female. Evidence of children’s participation in domestic work was also found. At the age of 8-12, the education of Sarmatian boys was completely transferred to the hands of male society. Meanwhile, girls were actively taught housekeeping, preparing for future marriage. At the age of 12 to 16, Sarmatian teenagers entered adulthood as full-fledged members of both male and female society. Girls from wealthy families, at this age, could have a dowry, with which, in the event of their death, they were buried.

Funding. The research was implemented thanks to funding from project Documenting, Recording and Saving Ukrainian Archaeological Heritage by German Archaeological Institute (Deutschen Archäologischen Institut).


Balabanova, M. (2017). Morfologiya detskikh zakhoroneniy rannikh kochevnikov Nizhnego Povolzhya (po materialam mogilnikov rannesarmatskogo vremeni) [Morphology of children’s burials of early nomads of the Lower Volga region (based on materials from burial grounds of the early Sarmatian period)]. Nizhnevolzhskij arheologicheskij vestnik, 16 (1), 62-82 [in Russian].

Balabanova, M., Klepikov, V., Korobkova, E., Krivosheev, M., Pererva, E. & Skripkin, A. (2015). Polovozrostnaya struktura sarmatskogo naseleniya Nizhnego Povolzhya: pogrebalnaya obryadnost i antropologiya [Sex and age structure of the Sarmatian population of the Lower Volga region: funeral rituals and anthropology]. Volgograd [in Russian].

Beausang, E. (2000). Childbirth in Prehistory: An Introduction. European Journal of Archaeology, 3 (1), 69-87. DOI: 10.1179/eja.2000.3.1.69 [in English].

Bello, S.M., Thomann, A., Signoli, M., Dutour, O. & Andrews, P. (2006). Age and Sex Bias in the Reconstruction of Past Population Structures. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 129 (1), 24-38. DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.20243 [in English].

Berlizov, N. (2011) Otrazhenie vozrastnoi stratifikatsii savromato-sarmatskikh plemen epokhi rannego zheleza v pogrebalnoi obryadnosti [Reflection of the age stratification of the Sauromatian-Sarmatian tribes of the Early Iron Age in funeral rituals]. Teoriya i praktika obshestvennogo razvitiya, 2, 255-258 [in Russian].

Berseneva, N. (2023). K rekonstruktsii sotsialnoi struktury rannikh kochevnikov Yuzhnogo Urala (6-3 vv. do n.e.): detskie pogrebeniya [Toward the reconstruction of the social structure of the early nomads of the Southern Urals (6th – 3rd centuries BC): children’s burials]. Nizhnevolzhskiy arheologicheskiy vestnik, 22 (1), 85-99. DOI: 10.15688/nav.jvolsu.2023.1.6 [in Russian].

Berseneva, N. & Gilmitdinova, A. (2013). Detskie pogrebeniya rannikh kochevnikov Yuzhnogo Urala (4-2 vv. do n.e.) [Children’s burials of early nomads of the Southern Urals (4th-2nd centuries BC)]. Vestnik arkheologii, antropologii i etnografii, 2 (21), 36-44 [in Russian].

Bickle, P. & Fibiger, L. (2014). Ageing, Childhood and Social Identity in the Early Neolithic of Central Europe. European Journal of Archaeology, 17 (2), 208-228. DOI: 10.1179/1461957114Y.0000000052 [in English].

Chibirov, L. (1984). Drevneishie plasty dukhovnoi kultury osetin [The most ancient layers of Ossetian spiritual culture]. Tskhinvali: Iryston [in Russian].

Cohen, M.N., Wood, J.W. & Milner, G.R. (1994). The Osteological Paradox Reconsidered. Current Anthropology, 35 (5), 629-637 [in English].

Fedorov, G. (1956). K voprosu o sarmatskoi kulture v Moldavii [On the issue of Sarmatian culture in Moldova]. Izvestia Moldavskogo filiala AN SSSR, 4 (31), 49-67 [in Russian].

Flinn, M. (1981). The European Demographic System, 1500-1820. Brighton: Harvest Press [in English].

Gagloeva, Z. (1974). Kult mertvykh u osetin [Cult of the dead among Ossetians]. Izvestiya Yugo-Osetinskogo NII, 18, 52-78 [in Russian].

Gordon, C. & Buikstra, J. (1981). Soil pH, Bone Preservation, and Sampling Bias at Mortuary Sites. American Antiquity, 46 (3), 566-571 [in English].

Grosu, V. (1988). Sarmatskie pamiatniki Srednego Poprutia [Sarmatian Monument of the Middle Prut Region]. In Arkheologicheskie issledovaniia v Moldavii 1983 g. Kishinev: Shtiintsa, 79-91 [in Russian].

Gudkova, A. (1984). Zemledeltsy i kochevniki v nizovyakh Dunaya 1-4 vv. n.e. [Farmers and nomads in the lower reaches of the Danube 1-4 centuries]. Kiev: Naukova dumka [in Russian].

Guy, H., Masset, C. & Baud, Ch.-A. (1997). Infant Taphonomy. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 7, 221-229 [in English].

Halcrow, S. & Stacey, W. (2017). Bioarchaeology of Childhood. In Montgomery, H. (Ed.). Oxford Bibliographies in Childhood studies. New York: Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199791231-0178 [in English].

Halcrow, S. & Tayles, N. (2008). The Bioarchaeological Investigation of Children and Childhood: Problems and Prospects. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 15, 190-215 [in English].

Halcrow, S. & Tayles, N. (2011). The Bioarchaeological Investigation of Children and Childhood. In Agarwal, S.C. & Glencross, B.A. (Eds.). Social Bioarchaeology. Chichester: Wily-Blackwell Publishing Ltd, pp. 333-360. DOI: 10.1002/9781444390537.ch12 [in English].

Heywood, C. (2001). A History of Childhood. Children and Childhood in the West from Medieval to Modern Times. Cambridge [in English].

Hladíková, K. (2013). Perception of children in Villanovan period in southern Etruria. In Romanowicz, P. (Ed.). Child and Childhood in the Light of Archaeology. Wroclaw: Chronicon, 41-73 [in English].

Joyce Rosemary, A. (2000). Gender and Power in Prehispanic Mesoamerica. Austin: University of Texas Press [in English].

Kaloev, B. (1964). Obryad posvyasheniya konya u osetin [Ossetian horse initiation ceremony]. Trudy 7 Mezhdunarodnogo kongressa antropologicheskih i etnograficheskih nauk. Moskva: Nauka, 33-37 [in Russian].

Kaloev, B. (1999). Osetinskie istoriko-etnograficheskie etiudy [Ossetian historical and ethnographic sketches]. Moskva: Nauka [in Russian].

Kamp, K. (2001). Where Have All the Children Gone? The Archaeology of Childhood. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 8, 1-34 [in English].

Khadikova, A. (2003). Traditsionnyi etiket osetin [Traditional Ossetian etiquette]. Sankt-Peterburg: Izdatelstvo SPbGU [in Russian].

Klear, D. (2014). Towards an Archaeology of Childhoods. Retrieved from [in English].

Kokoeva, A. (1980). Iz istorii pogrebalnykh obryadov u osetin [From the history of funeral rites among Ossetians]. Izvestiya Yugo-Osetinskogo NII, 14, 28-41 [in Russian].

Kostenko, V. (1993). Sarmaty v Nizhnem Podneprovie: po materialam Ust-Kamenskogo mogilnika [Sarmatians in the Lower Dnieper region: based on materials from the Ust-Kamensky burial ground]. Dnepropetrovsk [in Russian].

Lally, M. (2008). Bodies of difference in Iron Age Southern England. Changing Perspectives on the First Millennium BC. Oxford: Oxbow, 119-138 [in English].

Lawrence Angel, J. (1969). The bases of paleodemography. American journal of biological anthropology, 30 (3), 427-437 [in English].

Lesick, K. (1997). Re-engendering gender: some theoretical and methodological concerns on a burgeoning archaeological pursuit. In Moore, J. & Scott, E. (Eds.). Invisible People and Processes: Writing Gender and Childhood into European Archaeology. Leicester: Leicester University Press, 31-41 [in English].

Lewis, M. (2000). Non – adult Palaeopathology: Current Status and Future Potential. In Cox, M. & Mays, S. (Eds.). Human Osteology in Archaeology and Forensic Science. Cambridge: Greenwich Medical Media, 39-57 [in English].

Lewis, M. (2006). The Bioarchaeology of Children: Perspectives from Biological and Forensic Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [in English].

Lovejoy, C., Meindl, R., Pryzbeck, T., Barton, T., Hemple, K. & Knotting, D. (1977). Paleodemography of the Libben Site, Ottawa County, Ohio. Science, 198, 291-293. DOI: 10.1126/science.198.4314.291 [in English].

Magometov, A. (1974). Obshestvennyi stroi i byt osetin (17-19 vv.) [Social system and life of Ossetians (17th – 19th centuries)]. Ordzhonikidze: Izdatelstvo “Ir” [in Russian].

Magometov, A. (2011). Kultura i byt osetinskogo naroda: istoriko-etnograficheskoe issledovanie [Culture and life of the Ossetian people: historical and ethnographic research]. Vladikavkaz [in Russian].

Parker Pearson, M. (1999). The Archaeology of Death and Burial. Phoenix Mill: Sutton Publishing [in English].

Pererva, E. (2016). Paleopatologicheskie osobennosti nepolovozrelogo i podrostkovogo naseleniia srednesarmatskogo vremeni pogrebennogo v mogilnikakh Nizhnego Povolzhia. Genesis: Istoricheskie issledovaniia, 6, 206-220. DOI: 10.7256/2409-868X.2016.6.21304 [in Russian].

Pokrovskaya, Ye.F. & Kolontaeva, N.T. (1959). Raskopki okolo sel Kalantaeva i Stetsovki na Tyasmine v 1956 godu [Excavations near the villages of Kalantaeva and Stetsovka on Tyasmin in 1956]. Kratkie soobshcheniya Instituta arkheologii Ukrainskoi SSR, 8, 30-36 [in Russian].

Pokrovska, Ye.F. & Kompanenko, H.T. (1961). Mohylnyk bilia s. Kalantaievo. Arkheolohiia, 12, 129-142 [in Ukrainian].

Polishchuk, T. (1999). Osobennosti detskogo pogrebalnogo obryada v pamyatnikakh gunno-sarmatskogo vremeni na Srednem Enisee [Peculiarities of children’s funeral rites in the monuments of the Hunno-Sarmatian period in the Middle Yenisei]. In Mitko, O.A. (Ed.). Evraziya: kulturnoe nasledie drevnikh tsivilizatsiy, Vol. 2, Novosibirsk: NGU, 66-75 [in Russian].

Rebay-Salisbury, K. (2018). Personal relationships between co-buried individuals in the Central European Early Bronze Age. In Lillehammer, G. & Murphy, E. (Eds.). Across the Generations: The Old and the Young in Past Societies (Childhood in the Past Monograph Series: Vol. 8). Stavanger: Museum of Archaeology/University of Stavanger, 35-48 [in English].

Rebay-Salisbury, K., Pany-Kucera, D., Spannagl-Steiner, M., Kanz, F., Galeta, P., Teschler-Nicola, M. & Salisbury, R. (2018). Motherhood at Early Bronze Age Unterhautzenthal, Lower Austria. Archaeologia Austriaca, 102, 71-134. DOI: 10.1553/archaeologia102s71 [in English].

Saveliev, N. (2019). Detskie pogrebeniya kochevnikov Yuzhnogo Urala serediny I tys. do n.e. [Children’s burials of nomads of the Southern Urals in the middle of the 1st millennium BC]. Uralskiy istoricheskiy vestnik, 1 (62), 55-62 [in Russian].

Shevchenko, O. (2022). Dytiachi pokhovannia z mogylnyka Novyi seredniosarmatskoho chasu (ranniy period) [Children’s burials from the Novy cemetery of the Middle Sarmatian period (early period)]. Skhodoznavstvo, 89, 107-138. DOI: 10.15407/skhodoznavstvo2022.89.107 [in Ukrainian].

Simonenko, A. (1993). Sarmaty Tavrii [Sarmatians of Tavria]. Kiev: Naukova dumka [in Russian].

Simonenko, A. (1999). Sarmaty Severnogo Prichernomorya. Khronologiya, periodizatsiya i etnopoliticheskaya istoriya [Sarmatians of the Northern Black Sea region. Chronology, periodization and ethnopolitical history]. (Doctor’s thesis). Kiev [in Russian].

Simonenko, A. (2011). Zametki o pogrebalnom obryade pozdnikh sarmatov Severnogo Prichernomorya [Notes on the funeral rite of the late Sarmatians of the Northern Black Sea region]. Nizhnevolzhskiy arkheologicheskiy vestnik, 12, 169-182 [in Russian].

Skripkin, A. (2014). Sarmaty (problemy proishozhdeniya, rasseleniya i politicheskoi organizatsii) [Sarmatians (problems of origin, settlement and political organization)]. Nizhnevolzhskiy arkheologicheskiy vestnik, 14, 7-20 [in Russian].

Sofaer, J. (2006). The Body as Material Culture: A Theoretical Osteoarchaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [in English].

Specker, B., Brazerol, W., Tsang, R., Levin, R., Searcy, J. & Steichen, J. (1987). Bone Mineral Content in Children 1 to 6 Years of Age. American Journal of Disease in Children, 141 (3), 343-344. DOI: 10.1001/archpedi.1987.04460030121041 [in English].

Stoyanova, A. (2012). Detskie pogrebeniya iz mogilnika Opushki (po rezultatam raskopok 2003-2009 gg.) [Children’s burials from the Opushki burial ground (based on the results of excavations in 2003-2009)]. Simferopol [in Russian].

Takoeva, N. (1957). Pogrebalnye i pominalnye obryady osetin v 19 v. [Funeral and memorial rites of Ossetians in the 19th century]. Sovetskaya etnografiya, 1, 146-151 [in Russian].

Tarasenko, N. & Khanutina, Z. (2021). Amulety-pronizi v vide skarabeya iz detskikh pogrebeniy 1-2 vekov n.e. nekropolya na Iluratskom plato (Vostochnyi Krym) [Amulets-pierced in the form of a scarab from children’s burials of the 1st – 2nd centuries AD necropolis on the Ilurat plateau (Eastern Crimea)]. Arkheologiya, etnografiya i antropologiya Evrazii, 49 (3), 51-59. DOI: 10.17746/1563-0102.2021.49.3.051-059 [in Russian].

Vdovchenkov, E. (2011). Istoriografiya sotsialnykh issledovaniy sarmatov [Historiography of social research of the Sarmatians]. Obshestvennye nauki, 5, 47-52 [in Russian].

Velikanova, M. (2019). O sozdanii odnoy paleoantropologicheskoy kollektsii (sokrashchennyy variant rukopisi «Moldavskiye vospominaniya») [On the Creation of One Paleoanthropological Collection (Abridged version of the manuscript «Moldovan Memories»)]. Vestnik antropologii, 3 (47), 90-106. DOI: 10.33876/2311-0546/2019-47-3/90-106 [in Russian].

Vyazmitina, M. (1986). Sarmatskoe vremya [Sarmatian time]. In Arkheologiya Ukrainskoy SSR. Vol. 2. Kiev: Naukova dumka, 184-223 [in Russian].

Weiss, K. (1973). Demographic Models for Anthropology. American Antiquity, 38 (2), 1-88 [in English].

Yarovoy, E. (1984). Pogrebalnyi obryad nekotorykh skotovodcheskikh plemen Srednego Pruta (po materialam raskopok kurganov u s. Korpach) [The funeral rite of some cattle-breeding tribes of the Middle Prut (based on the materials of the excavations of the barrows in the village of Korpach)]. Kurgany v zonah novostroek Moldavii. Kishinev, 37-76 [in Russian].

Yatsenko, S. (2013). Ograblenie sarmatskikh kurganov v drevnosti: metody i tseli [Looting Sarmatian Kurgans in Ancient Times: Methods and Purposes]. Nizhnevolzhskiy arkheologicheskiy vestnik, 13, 78-90 [in Russian].

How to Cite
Shevchenko, O. (2024). Children’s Burials of the Middle Sarmatian Period in the North Pontic Region. Eminak: Scientific Quarterly Journal, (1(45), 99-129.
Ancient History