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Imported and Native Remedies for a Wounded “Prince”: Grave Goods from the Chungul Kurgan in the Black Sea Steppe of the Thirteenth Century

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Abstract A burial of a Turkic (Qıpčaq/Cuman/Polovtsian) prince excavated in the grasslands of southern Ukraine is witness to an exchange in objects and products throughout the Black Sea/Mediterranean littoral, the Middle East, and central and northwest Europe in the Middle Ages. The grave goods, arms and costumes, which are of unprecedented richness for a medieval Turkic burial, are datable to the first three decades of the thirteenth century. They were likely accumulated through trading and raiding or through diplomatic and marriage gifts of this Qıpčaq leader, and his tribal confederation, with the neighboring Rus’, Georgian, Armenian, Hungarian, Byzantine, Crusader and Islamic polities. Among the grave goods excavated in the tumulus/ kurgan are a variety of containers such as two complete and reused amphorae, glazed ceramic albarello and bottle and a gilded silver covered cup. The albarello and bottle could be associated with the Mediterranean pharmacological practice of shipping valuable substances in specialized containers. Other vessels, such as the covered ceremonial cup from northwest Europe, were reused likely in a complex ritual utilizing plants native to these grasslands. This paper will consider the circumstances under which these substances would have been deposited and discuss the origins and uses of the containers.


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