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A Case for Papyri from the Necropolis at Ust'-Al'ma in the South-western Crimea

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image of Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia

In 1996 an area containing élite burials dating from the AD 1st century was discovered within a Late Scythian necropolis. Tomb 620 occupied a prominent place among the rich burials. Among the numerous and diverse finds one of particular interest was an object which was described in the first publication to appear as "a wooden pyxis cylindrical in shape and with a silver plaque attached". Subsequent examinations of this find have made it possible to draw the conclusion that it is a scrinium (capsa, cista, κιστη, τευχoζ) – a special case in which to store papyrus texts. The fine whittled sticks found together with the case are none other than oμαλoι or umbilici – small sticks, attached to the ends of scrolls. This find from Ust'-Al'ma is an extremely rare one providing archaeological confirmation of the fact that objects of "high culture", such as Roman items used for writing and for storing and transporting texts, had made their way into the barbarian world of the North Pontic region.

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