Recent and ancient tragedies of Baikal: archaeological discoveries

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To the north of the unique and wonderful Bay Peschanaya there is almost sheer wooded mountain with a commemorative on its slope. This is the Krasnyi Yar Cape, and the commemorative was set up in memory of one of the largest tragedies of the last decades – the wreck of the Akademic Shokalskyi. The ship and its crew which included 7 people (6 men and a woman among them) mysteriously disappeared in the abyss of the Sacred Lake. It happened on August 2, 1983, right on St. Ilya's Day in early hours in the face of several people who could do nothing to help the drawing people. That day the wind gusted and squalled, changing its directions every now and then. The strongest squalls and waterspouts brought heavy waves and columns of water splashes with them which obviously played their fatal role. The storm made the ship turn over. After that the latter remained afloat for some time and soon… disappeared forever. Except the two life belts and several floating objects that were found soon after the tragedy no other remains, either of the ship or of its crew have not been found for more than twenty years of search. That tragedy reminded me of another case that happened in the lake in 1956. That time a tugboat driving raftwoods was caught by a storm and the captain of it failed to cut off the rope. The heavy rigging of the tugboat turned over the vessel and made it sink. And again nobody knows the burial place of the vessel and the people… All this leads strengthen the belief of local people that the Baikal is taking its sacrifice. It is even more so if we take into account the ancient tragedies that we are going to mention further on.

Buguldeika Settlement is one of the biggest settlements of the north-western coast of Lake Baikal. There is Cape Golyi (“Naked”) in about ten kilometers from Buguldeika. The distance between this cape and Cape Srednii (“Middle”) that is situated in the mouth of River Selenga is equal to the narrowest place of Lake Baikal and amounts to about a 25 meter distance.

One of the up-to-date sensations about the ancient life around the Baikal is connected with the excavations that started in 1994 in the Olkhon Region close to Buguldeika and was held by scientists from Irkutsk. Anjei Weber, an archaeologist from Canada, who was collaborating with the archaeologists from Irkutsk, gave an interview to the Italian newspaper La Stampa saying that about 5000 years ago there was an apocalypse in the Baikal Region, and all the aborigines of that time died – all of them, hunters and fishers. After that during one thousand and a half years there were not any inhabitants near the Baikal for no burial places of that time have been found. But the scientists from Irkutsk, in particular N. Saveljev, a specialist in the field of Late Stone Age, hold that there was no such time when the Baikal was unpopulated: some tribes were going away, and after them other ones were coming. So the culture was changing, different religious and ecological views were formed but there was not any absence of people.

Nevertheless, all archaeologists recognize the fact that at those times (4, 5 – 5 thousand years ago) some Kitoi culture representatives living in some regions near Baikal and River Angara disappeared all in all. And their sojourn there is full of hypotheses. For example, during the excavations of the Kitoi graves bones without sculls were found there (the remains of this kind were found on the other side of the Baikal by the village of Fofonovo. See below). At the same time there were many ancient graves that for some reason were empty. There was every indication of graves: sepulchral objects, hunting or fishing tackle that the deceased man should have in the next world but there was no body of the man there. The scientists suppose that they were the graves of drowned people: the ceremony required that the funerals took place (“Irkutskij reporter”, 5.02.2010 г.).

Probably the ancient inhabitants of those times voluntary sacrificed to Baikal and its deities famous for their severe character in order to propitiate them and to assure protection not only for living people but also for their descendants. And the graves of such volunteers who perished compliantly giving up their lives to the Sacred Old Man stayed as a remembrance of their deeds. It may well be so that there was a peculiar rite of where and how such rituals were conducted, and who the right people for the rite were.

One of the proofs can be the fact that in the Kitoi graves there were no remains belonging to elderly people found: all the remains had to be of people under the age of 45. It’s quite possible that among those volunteers who perished in the abyss of Baikal there mostly were people of venerable age. And here’s one more hypothesis of mine. If the apocalypse happened at that time and the significant part of people was dead the rest living ones could have thought that the gods had turned away from the people and did not want to protect them anymore. Such an idea could be a heavy burden for those who survived and in most cases they followed their kinsmen. And the stressful situation following the events provoked them.

The giant boulders moved here by some earthquake shocks and found in the water of Baikal in these regions are another evidence of the catastrophe that happened in those ancient times near Buguldeika. Some of Irkutsk geologists affirm that in the past the water of the Baikal used to flow out not through the Angara River but through the Buguldeika River and then through the Manzurka River and the Lena, but the tragedy changed it all. By the way tragedies reminding that one often happen near the mouth of the Selenga on the other coast of Baikal that is not that far from there. Ancient legends of far coast prove the fact of calamities on this one (see below).

In proceeding with the theme we should mention the following. One can speak of the areas along Baikal near Olkhon Island especially their south western part as of an original “archaeological” reservation. In 1914 – 1916 B.E. Petry, a specialist in archaeology from East Siberia excavated a multilayer settlement in the little bay Ulan Khad that is situated on the sharp cape Ulan cut into the Maloye Sea. This fact encouraged the era of numerous archaeological discoveries in the Baikal region. In 1959 several archaeological expeditions afraid of the coastline and some historical monuments to be flooded made excavations under the guidance of M.P. Gryaznov. That place now is called a “Golden Eldorado” of the Baikal archaeology. On the shores of Kurkutskii and Mukhorskii Bays, in Ityrkhey and Ulankhad Bays, at Shibete, Ulan and Ulyarba Capes they found lots of burial places in stone, annular laying (Bronze Age graves), tiled graves, defensive stone walls and watchtowers.

Still the discoverer of archeological monuments is considered to be Jakov Lindenau, a Swedish scientist, a member of the second Kamchat expedition. Jakov Lindenau was travelling to North-East of Russia to make up an ethnographic description of Siberian people. In September of 1745 on his way back he was going from Okhotsk and Yakutsk up River Lena through the village of Kachug, and then to Irkutsk by the Baikal shore; and there, in the Maloye Sea area he came across an old fortification that looked like the one he had seen near Kachug on the right side of the Lena. In his opinion, the settlement on the Baikal indicated that the ancestors of the Yakut used to live there before moving to the middle part of the Lena.

Behind Buguldeika and Cape Krestovskii there is one of the most unique places of the Baikal – a mountain, cape and bay that all are called Aya, in Evenk it means “beautiful”. The nature here is really beautiful but this is not the only reason why it considered unique. First, not far from the bay in Tazheranskiy Massif there is Cave Mechta where one can find lots of passages, halls and grottos. In 250 meters of such natural formations one can find fanciful forms of stalactites, stalagmites, sinter formations of calcites, etc. Far into the “continent” there are wonderful pine forests where one can find nests of the imperial eagle that was written down into the Red Book of the Russian Federation. Second, on the northern side of Aya Bay there remained ancient rock paintings that are at least 2500 years old; they are the illustrations of human figures, deer, bulls, fish and sheep. The Buryat people believe that these paintings were social ongons (objects of worship) in the era of great social life development and when battues were common; they even say that those images presented “Satin Gods”, special kind creatures or human beings with the divine origin.

In the vicinity of these places, by the mouth of the Anga there is Mountain Ekhe Erdo which is an original creation of nature. This mountain has a form of equilateral dome-hill and it rises above the wide valley of the Angara. Its height is a little more than 33 meters; its diameter is about 80 meters. The cone of the mountain is well seen both from the bottomland and from the neighboring mountains. Even in ancient times the peoples of the Baikal danced round it and played games by this mountain. These games, i.e. “Erdyn games” were restored by the Buryat at the beginning of the ХХ century. In time they developed into an original folk sports holiday.

To the North of the Baikal capes of Ulan Nur and Orso, not far from the south-western part of the Maloe Sea, i.e., Bay Mukhur (or Mukhor) there is the settlement of Shara-Togot (in Buryat it means “the color of yellow cups”). It is also known as Chernorud. 

See also


  1. A.D. Karnyshev "The Many Faces of Multilingual and Mysterious Baikal"© BSU Publishing House, 2011

Выходные данные материала:

Жанр материала: English | Автор(ы): Karnyshev A.D. | Источник(и): The Many Faces of Multilingual and Mysterious Baikal. Ulan-Ude. 2012 | Дата публикации оригинала (хрестоматии): 2011 | Дата последней редакции в Иркипедии: 30 марта 2015

Примечание: "Авторский коллектив" означает совокупность всех сотрудников и нештатных авторов Иркипедии, которые создавали статью и вносили в неё правки и дополнения по мере необходимости.

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