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The Incorporation of Monumental Pagan Barrows Into Medieval Russian Christian Culture

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image of Russian History

Sopki, a group of monumental barrows located exclusively in northwestern Russia, are the most impressive and well-preserved man-made structures of pre-Christian East Slavic culture [Fig. 1]. The sopki range in height from three to twelve meters, have steep slopes [Fig. 2] and are encircled by stone settings at the mound's base, which are often discernible in the turf. Of the sopki that have been excavated, the overwhelming majority contain calcined bones near the mound's top and are dated to the ninth and tenth centuries. Usually, there are no more than two or three graves per mound. The sopki differ from other mortuary constructions of the region in their large size, which suggests their likely interpretation as the funeral sites of tribal noblemen.1 Additionally, the sopki mounds are grouped around settlements, reflecting the Slavic migration patterns throughout northwestern Russia, suggesting their interpretation as Slavic funeral constructions.

Affiliations: 1: (St. Petersburg State University, St. Peersburg, Russia


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