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Origin of the Alans
Found: the Ritual Center of the Arimaspi.

I have tracked Chinese and Japanese archaeological interests in the Sandauhaizi Complex back to the 1980s, but no European research has been published. The only American to mention this impressive site was Joshua Wright (Asian Perspectives, 2014) but his perspective was flawed.

Sandauhaizi may have been discovered in the 1960s by Wang Bo while he searched for deer stones in Xinjiang Province. In 1996, Wang Linshan and Wang Bo mentioned the site for the first time in an academic paper. In October 2001, Hatakeyama Tei visited Sandaohaizi, writing about it during the following year. That same year, the site was listed by the Chinese as one of five key heritage preservation units. The ritual site contains the largest stone mound in Eurasia along with 51 deer stones around its periphery.

   
The Sandaohaizi ritual center as it stands today.

Located next to Flower Lake in the southern Altai, Sandauhaizi in only a few miles from the Mongolian border and sits at an altitude of 2700 meters. It is possibly (or better still, probably) the most important archaeological discovery within the past half century. The c. 800 BC ritual site is connected to Arzhan 1, the Aldy-Bel culture and the Bai-dag cemetary in Tuva. We are looking at a virtual Steppe "empire" in existance 600 years before the Xiong-nu empirical polity. The Chinese hypothesis needs review and feedback. I think they are amazingly correct.

   
Sandaohaizi deer stone showing the oldest known depiction of saddled horses.

I have posted 15 photos of this impressive ritual complex on the Facebook group, Steppe Archaeology-Eurasian Nomads. (If you click on a photo, it will enlarge in a separate window.) Please review this archaeological site carefully and let me know what you think. Thank you. The link is here:

http://facebook.com/groups/945254875586148/?multi_permalinks=1302423746535924¬if_t=like¬if_id=15

Big Grin
Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
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Hi Alan
 Interesting point about the Pazyryk horses being dehydrated and looking like “race horses”. Even though there is not much Akhal Teke DNA I think that steppe breeders would have introduced the wiry desert horse into their breeding at some stage and Daphne Goodall in her book A History of Horse Breeding is convinced that somewhere in time the European Forest horse “Equus Robustus” was introduced into Central Asia and the Altai, probably via Caucasus and north of Caspian Sea and were bred with the Asiatic wild horse or Mongolian horse to create the larger sized horse like the Welsh Cob or your Morgan horse Misty. We find the European Forest horse in quite a few modern horses like the Klepper or Estonian horse, the Cob, these horses being about 14.2hh like your horse  and the Dales Pony originating in Roman times from around Ribchester area indicating the possibility of a connection to the Iazyges who although not Alans maybe did some horse trading with their eastern neighbours via the Roxolani when not fighting them, the Dales Pony ranged from 13hh to 14hh.


When we look at horse breeding we must ask, what qualities were ancient steppe breeders looking for in their horses? Ancestry, line breeding, temperament, action, conformation, colour, size, endurance? According to Carolyne Willekes in her book The Horse in the Ancient World, basic Steppe breeding required a horse that was required to fulfill a whole retinue of tasks, ranging from long distance travel, herding, hunting, milking, racing and war. The herds were kept large on open grassland so only the best males were left entire. Only the toughest would have survived the harsh winters. 

 As you mentioned hooves and legs were important in the days before horse shoes. The general belief is that light-coloured hooves are softer than dark ones and thus more prone to ailments. Goodall goes on to say that the horse reared on cool, moist, soft pastures, has large, spreading hoofs to help them move on soft ground and is usually a lymphatic animal, unsuited to any but slow work; the horse raised in a dry climate and whose feet are small with dense and tenacious hooves designed to withstand abrasive conditions and prevent the development of chips and cracks, is usually a compact wiry, and vigorous animal. Change their relative habitat and in a few generations the shape and sizes of their hoofs would be entirely reversed to meet new conditions of nature. So there must have been a lot of experimenting to try and produce horses with strong legs.

The following conditions breed certain types of horses.

Desert/grass steppe produces a light wiry animal with stamina.

Mountain/lush valley produces a short-backed, short-legged, sure footed hardy animal.

Chalk/Lucerne grass areas produce a larger, possibly heavier, well-bred animal. Ferghana had good chalky soil so it is no surprise that Ferghana was renowned for its large quality horses. I wonder if steppe breeders sent their young horses there for a while for agistment on the hilly pastures for strong bone growth.

Islands produce smallish animals after the pattern of the first introductions. I am time poor at the moment and can get more details later about Tuvan horses but glad the thread is still going.  Smile
Regards 
Michael Kerr
Michael Kerr
"You can conquer an empire from the back of a horse but you can't rule it from one"
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I am quite surprised to not find Sandaohaizi in Jacobson-Tepfer's 2015 book. (in the Index at least)
Is it perhaps known by any other names?
Having that many deerstones, I would've expected it to be there.
Jan Pospisil - fantasy/historical/archaeology illustration
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Arimaspi Ritual Centers and the 13-Month Calendar

Hello, Michael and Jan

I believe Jacobson-Tepfer worked through Mongolian authorities, and she never carried out "landscape" studies in China. "Sandauhaizi," has also been written as "Huahaizi" but the specific site is referred to as "Shibal-kul khirigsuur 1" by Chinese archaeologists. Therefore, I was wrong in saying that stone ritual complexes (without human burials) were not khirigsuurs.

I'm also a little pressed for time, but would like to mention a paper by Liu Wensuo, "Archaeological Remains of Sacrificial Rituals in the Eastern Altay Mountains," undated PDF but after 2011. Liu discusses the huge khirigsuur at Shibal-kul in Qinghe County, plus a secondary structure 700m south-southwest, also the Khara-sayel khirigsuur in Fayun County, and the Tubshin Nuur example in Bayan-Olgiy Aimeg, Mongolia. All of these ritual khirigsuurs are accompanied by deer stones, and Liu believes these stones are the earliest of the Sayan-Altai style. He also mentions that each of these structures is located at the headwaters of rivers.

   
Shibal-kul khirigsuur 1 at Flower Lake, headwaters of the Qinghe River.

   
Khara-sayel khirigsuur at the origin of the River Irtysh.

   
Tubshin Nuur khirigsuur at the headwaters of the Bulgan River, a tributary of the Ulun-gol's upper reaches. This khirigsuur has a series of 13 stone walls radiating from the center. Perhaps conjecture, but to me the layout appears to function as a 13-month calendar. Theoretically the Arimaspi calendar would have each week at 7 days, each month at 28 days, with the year having a final "celebration" day to equal 365 days. It's so barbaric it's pure genius! (Like the Celtic version.)

Liu Wensuo also mentions smaller ritual khirigsuurs and accompanying deer stones in areas just north of the Tianshan, plus circular ritual "platforms" (with perhaps the same function) in the Illi River Valley that date between the Warring States and Han periods. The southeastern Altai khirigsuurs seem to hail the arrival of the Scytho-Siberian culture of the Arimaspi/Pazyryks. Those khirigsuurs just north of the Tianshan may designate the southern extent of Arimaspi territories-- in other words, the broad pastures of eastern Dzungaria. The stone circular platforms in the Illi Valley are later than those in the Altai and western Mongolia, and they either correspond with the occupation of the Yuezhi or the Wusun. These geographical locations are worth thinking about, as they may pinpoint the actual (and extensive) ritual sites and homeland of the Maiemir-Pazyryk-Berel people. 

Liu adds this, "In the author's opinion, according to the geographical environment, the entire area of Sandao Haizi is not suitable as pasture even in the summer... In conclusion, the remains of the large-scale khirigsuurs of concentrated distribution and with numerous deer stones in the eastern Altay Mountains, especially in the Shibal-kul area, closely correspond to the geographical conditions of the area characterized by the sources of rivers with rich deposits of copper and iron, abundant water, and opportunities for traffic [ie. trade]. This demonstrates that the area was an important center for religious activities in ancient times. The inhabitants of the north and northeastern Altay Mountains probably came to the center of the eastern Altay to perform sacrificial rites on important occasions."

I'll end this post with another photo of a Sandauhaisi deer stone. Wink
   
Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
Reply
An Arimaspi Ritual Khirigsuur in the Tianshan

In 1996, archaeologists discovered a "sun altar" in the Bayanbulak Grasslands, an alpine valley in the Tianshan and just above the Tarim Basin. The structure has a central rock mound encompassed by three stone rings at 50, 71, and 100 meters. Four radial rock walls extend from the center to the outer ring.

   
The Bayanbulak khirigsuur from a drone photo.

   
Photo showing the four radials of the 300-foot wide structure.

The Bayanbulak khirigsuur is very similar to Shibal-kul Khirigsuurs 1 and 2 at Flower Lake, Quinghe County in the southeastern Altai (as described in the previous posts above). However, the number of deer stones found in the Tianshan are limited in number, as compared to the plethora found in Quinghe and Fayan Counties.

   
Bayanbulak in relation to the Tarim Basin.

   
The Shibal-kul styled khirigsuur found in the Bayanbulak Grassland may have significance as the southern periphery of the Arimaspi culture. Trade with the Tocharians in the Tarim area would account for the bell-shaped earrings and stirrup-shaped horse bits (both common in the Arzhan, Tuva, region) found in Tarim burials.
Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
Reply


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