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The ancient Scythians made shivers from human skin

The ancient Scythians made shivers from human skin

According to the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, the cruel Scythians were a fearsome and bloodthirsty people. It describes with incredible accuracy and detail the treatment of their defeated enemies by Scythian warriors: the many ways in which the bodies of the slain were used.

Mostly animal skins were used

According to Herodotus, the Scythians tanned human hides into hides so they could carry arrows in quivers made of them, and it was intended as a “final devastating insult.” It can be said that the question is at least somewhat accurate.

During the analysis of pieces of leather from Scythian burial sites in southern Ukraine, it was found that some samples from the quiver are indeed of human origin.

Scythian warrior on a Greek vaseSource: Wikipedia

Our results show that the Scythians mainly used domesticated animal species such as sheep, goats, cattle and horses to produce hides, while fur was made from wild animals such as foxes, squirrels and cats. Louise Ørsted Brandt, a group of archaeologists at the University of Copenhagen, said: Science Alert Online scientific portal.

The surprising discovery is the presence of two samples of human skin presented for the first time Direct evidence of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus’ claim that the Scythians used the skins of their dead enemies to make leather trophies.The Scythians are a somewhat mysterious people, but scholars have already learned a few things about them: they lived a nomadic, warlike lifestyle and ruled the Eurasian steppe between 700 and 300 BC. Although this lifestyle is not ideal for leaving cities built of stone, for example, there are archaeological records of its discoveries, especially of objects hidden in elaborate burial mounds.

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The skin was flayed

Accounts are also available from Herodotus, who lived in the 5th century BC, around the time when Scythian society was at its peak. The Greek historian devoted an entire book to documenting the history of the Scythians and their customs.

In one fascinating chapter, he wrote about how “Scythian warriors cut off the heads of their enemies to show the heads to their kings.”

However, after this was finished, the Scythian warrior peeled off the skin from the head and used the skin as a handkerchief, which he then hung on the bridle of his horse. The more handkerchiefs a warrior has, the higher his rank.

The famous Scythian golden deer was found on Attila HillSource: Wikimedia Commons

Many Scythians even made clothing from these scalps and sewed them together like leather jackets – writes Herodotus. – Many people also peel the skin off the right hand of their dead enemies along with the nails, and then make a blanket for their bags out of it.

He adds: “It turns out that human skin is thick and shiny, the brightest and whitest skin there is; Many people also peel the skin from the whole body and carry it with them on horseback, stretched on a wooden frame.

This does seem like a “ghastly rumour” that could have been invented to exaggerate the barbarity, but the elaborate burial mound proves another apparently exaggerated account of Herodotus’ burial of a Scythian king.

Proteins found in the skin were analyzed

Ørsted Brandt and his team conducted their study on forty-five pieces of skin excavated from fourteen burial sites, which… One plus Published in a scientific journal. In recent years, they have been relying on analysis of skin veins, where DNA is destroyed during tanning of the skin.

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However, scientists have recently developed techniques to analyze proteins found in the skin and use this information to identify related species.

Some of the skin fragments analyzed in the studySource: Ørsted Brandt et al., PLOS One, 2023

In this way, experts were able to determine which species “gave” the largest number of pieces of skin, most of which were from animals, but human skin was found on scabbards and arrow holders, especially on the upper part of them.
The Scythians were, of course, more than just a violent people. According to researchers, they occupied the area between the settled societies of Europe and Asia, and They played an important role in transferring languages, goods, technologies, ideologies, and even diseases between the two separate worlds. There is also evidence that some Scythians lived an agricultural lifestyle.

The hides they made can reveal the type of animals they raised and used, as well as the techniques used. According to scientists, human skin is interesting in this approach, as is animal skin.

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