Arkaim is a mysterious site located in Russia. Experts believe the citadel, not necessarily the oldest feature of the site, was built between the 17th and 16th century BC. But there are several reasons why Arkaim stands apart from other Bronze Age settlements in the area, leading to the idea it was built by a separate group. There is controversy on exactly who the builders were and what they made the site for and that uncertainty has led to some fascinating, if unorthodox, claims.
Reconstruction of the citadel of Arkaim, Russia. ( Reydekish)
The Inhabitants of Arkaim
Although it is unknown who built Arkaim, archaeological evidence found at the site suggests that it was inhabited by people of the Aryan race. Specifically, it has been suggested that Arkaim’s residents once consisted of members of the Sintashta culture, Indo-Iranian people of the ancient Eurasian Steppe.
The principal evidence for Aryans having lived at Arkaim is the discovery of horse burials following their style. This practice is described in ancient Indian texts and says that horses were buried with their masters. Being nomads, many Indo-European peoples had a strong connection to their horses and it’s not surprising for them to think that the deep connection would continue into the afterlife. Evidence of ritual horse sacrifices has been found in stone necropolises unearthed in the Arkaim Valley.
Aryans sacrificed their horses and were buried together. (ancient-wisdom)
Apart from its creators, another mystery is why the site was suddenly abandoned. There is some evidence of a fire, however that may not have been the cause of desertion. Because the site was fortified, some people believe it was abandoned when the inhabitants lost a war. Skeletons have been found at Arkaim and in the expansive necropolises of the valley, but the human remains do not generally suggest death in battle.
A burial found in the Arkaim Valley in August 2017. ( Аркаим)
A particularly interesting find of human remains was made at Arkaim in 2013 – an individual with an elongated skull. The person may have belonged to the Sarmati tribe. Researchers believe that the alteration was intentional; it was, after all, a common practice amongst some groups who lived in the South Ural (it is also found worldwide). Nonetheless, the reasons behind this ritual deformation are unknown; leading some to see stronger ties between the curious site of Arkaim and extraterrestrials.
Reconstruction of the head of the Sarmati woman with an elongated skull. ( Аркаим)
To date, archaeologists have found no jewelry, art, or obvious treasures at Arkaim. Broken ceramics, bones and teeth of domestic and wild animals and humans, and a few stone and bronze tools make up the range of artifacts. Thus, Arkaim holds a different value for archaeologists – the ruins and the curious nature of their layout.
Arkaim’s artifacts consist of broken ceramics, stone and bronze tools, and bones and teeth. (Аркаим)
Architecture and Layout of Arkaim
As with the mystery of its builders, there is also much confusion on Arkaim’s original purpose. Legends suggest it was a holy city for rituals and ceremonies. However, it is evident that over time the location was also used as a fort. As with many ancient sites, it is likely that Arkaim served more than one need and the main purpose probably changed over time; this is supported by the archaeological findings which suggest that it was used over the course of millennia. Today, Arkaim is sometimes called the “Land of Towns” due to its central location in relation to other nearby prehistoric sites and monuments.
Excavating a necropolis near Arkaim in 2015. (Аркаим)
Arkaim has a complicated and prearranged plan. It is obvious that the society which built it was organized with a social structure and authority figure(s). Its ruins show thick walls built in concentric circles. These circles were built around a main square, probably a ceremonial space, which contained about 60 dwellings. Each house had a hearth, well, cellar, and an oven which was used to fire pottery and smelt bronze. Although there is evidence of a fire damaging Arkaim, the ruins show a fireproof substance was also included in the construction of some of the structures.
Reconstruction of a prehistoric house in Arkaim. (Kudrjashov Andrey/ CC BY SA 3.0 )
Arkaim’s streets were made of wood and had ditches below which collected any runoff and sewage and drained it from the town. The defensive walls were made of clay and adobe blocks on a wooden frame. Enemies would have had a difficult time reaching the center.
Some researchers liken Arkaim’s layout to a swastika and/or mandala. The large circles surrounding an internal square bring the image of a mandala to mind – a square inside a circle is a sacred symbol for Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. The center of a mandala, and of Arkaim, is generally seen as the most important space – the location to focus thoughts, or, in Arkaim’s case, to hold rituals. Did the original builders understand the nature of the universe in that way and build their city to reflect that knowledge?
Arkaim aerial view. ( Аркаим)
Arkaim’s Astronomical Observatories
Perhaps. Consider that Arkaim is often compared to Stonehenge due to similarities in the sites’ latitude, date (although Arkaim is somewhat older), size, and use as an astronomical observatory and calendar.
Yet it seems Arkaim’s inhabitants had an even more sophisticated knowledge of astronomy than Stonehenge’s builders. Experts believe the spiral-shaped buildings were made in association with sun worship at the site or perhaps as a representation of the universe (maybe furthering the mandala proposal?)
Comparison of Stonehenge and Arkaim. ( Reydekish)
Doors were placed in alignment with the rise and set of the sun and moon so that the original builders could observe at least 18 astronomical events – making Arkaim both more ancient and accurate than Stonehenge. The preciseness of Arkaim’s spiral buildings strongly suggest their use as astronomical observatories and calendars.
Reconstruction of Arkaim Citadel. ( ancient-wisdom)
Russian archaeologist K.K. Bystrushkin, who made the comparison between the two famous sites in 2003, said Stonehenge offers an observational accuracy of 10-arc minutes to a degree, but Arkaim surpasses it with an accuracy of one-arc minute.
“Stonehenge allowed for, and possibly may still allow for observations of 10 astronomical phenomena using 22 elements, whereas some archaeoastronomers claim that Arkaim allows for observations of 18 phenomena using 30 elements. This essentially means that certain events in the sky could be observed and tracked by using the site in particular ways and from different positions, and that Arkaim offered more observable events than Stonehenge.” (Mysterious Universe)
Note that the buildings at Arkaim also pre-date similar formations used by ancient Egyptians and Greeks, suggesting an early in-depth understanding of the earth in relationship to the rest of the universe.
Arkaim, Russia. ( Chelyabinsk Region Governor )
The amazing knowledge of astronomy which is evident in its ruins, as well as the mystery behind its builders and abandonment, have led several scholars to say an advanced civilization once lived at Arkaim. There is even speculation that the forgotten ancient people may have had spacecrafts.
A popular legend claims a god landed at Arkaim and some people have even suggested that the center served as a launch pad for spaceships and rockets. But this is unlikely unless the pilots of the crafts had an unknown propulsion system which would not damage the buildings or people nearby.
Obviously Arkaim had a very sophisticated prehistoric culture. But was it a center for a civilization which had advanced technology? That is a difficult question. But it is still regarded as a sacred site for many people.
Ritual spirals of stones made by Rodnovers in the areas around Arkaim. (Kudrjashov Andrey/ CC BY 3.0 )
It has also been called a hot-spot for paranormal phenomena. Reports of UFOs in the form of light flashes, moving circles, and fog circles are prevalent. Visitors have claimed to hear strange voices, become disoriented, or see ghosts. Magnetic anomalies have also been noted. No known scientific investigations have been made looking into the claims and there is a lack of proof for these strange events, but they continue to draw in visitors and interest.
Top Image: Reconstruction of Arkaim archaeological site in Russia. Source: Reydekish