Reconsidering the Issue of Eastern Migrations in Connection with the Artificial Cranial Deformation Practices among the Late Sarmatians

Author: Maria A. Balabanova
Journal: Social Evolution & History. Volume 18, Number 2 / September 2019


The article is devoted to the custom of artificial deformation of skull which was practiced by the early nomads of the late Sarmatian time in the steppe zone of Eastern Europe. The issues of spread, origin and functional load of this custom are being resolved on the basis of the mass paleoanthropological materials from the burial mounds in the Southern Urals, the Lower Volga and the Lower Don region. The data show that the proportion of deformed skulls varies from 50 per cent to 100 per cent while the dating of the complex, where the materials with deformation marks come from, has shown that no gradual penetration occurred in the late Sarmatian society. Due to the fact that the late Sarmatian society had some peculiar features (e.g., children were not buried under the mounds and only part of women had this kind of privilege and also the high injury level of the skeletons caused by hostilities) it is possible to consider that the custom of the artificial deformation was a constant symbol of intra-group solidarity and inter-group cultural differences. One can hardle define the connection between the practice of deformation and such phenomena as fashion and esthetics, since along with the late Sarmatians a large number of settled and nomadic tribes practiced this custom.

Maria A. Balabanova, Volgograd State University more