Funeral Assemblages at the Krutik Settlement in the Lake Beloye Region

In 2006 the Onega-Sukhonskoye expedition resumed archaeological explorations at the Krutik Settlement in the Kirillov District of the Vologda Region. This site of the 9th–10th centuries is one of the few in the Lake Beloye Region associated with the initial stage of the medieval colonization of the Rus northern periphery.

The first systemic excavations at Krutik were conducted in 1974–1978 and 1980–1981 by L.A. Golubeva who described the site as an early urban trade and craft settlement, a reference site of the Lake Beloye area, which had not yet absorbed a Slav influence. New approaches and research methods provided absolutely new information that greatly added to our understanding of the site and changed drastically previous concepts.

Funeral assemblages found near Krutik were a major discovery of the new exploration cycle. Despite persistent search such assemblages had not been found before. Thorough surveys of 2008 discovered the Kladovka I necropolis, and the second necropolis known as Kladovka II was found in 2009.

The cemeteries with no external traces visible on the surface are located on the opposite bank of the Konka River. Kladovka I occupying 2,250 m2 takes up a small stretch of a long narrow moraine ridge. The area of Kladovka II, located on a hilly surface, is substantially smaller; it is 600 m2. The excavations exposed the area of 174 and 49 m2, respectively.

The burial rite was based on cremation of the dead without using a grave, with subsequent scattering of burned funeral offerings and a small portion of cremated remains across large sections of the cemetery. The largest part of the cemetery material was lying right beneath the topsoil. The earliest part of the necropolis was unearthed at Kladovka I where some graves date to the end of the 9th – first half of the 10th centuries. Remains of not less than 15 individuals, i.e. 11 adult males and females and 4 children, were discovered.

The most numerous items in the collection of funeral offerings are bronze jewelry pieces and glass beads; the collection comprises a great number of belt set parts and single-sided composite combs. Implements and iron-made goods are rare.

A substantial difference in the size of the sites and the number of finds implies that Kladovka I was the main Krutik necropolis. Though the burial rites of both cemeteries share stylistic similarities, some differences in details, especially the sets of funeral offerings, are noted. Fragments of jingling jewelry pieces made by casting with the use of a multi-piece pattern typical for the Finns make most of the bronze items at Kladovka I. Glass items are represented mostly by lemon-shaped beads made of drawn tubes and cut seed beads of various colors and gold and silver glass beads. The second necropolis yielded few jingling jewelry pieces; however it contained nine small lunar pendants with wide horns cast in bivalve molds as well as a slate spindle whorl, which had never been found at these sites before. Glass beads from this necropolis are represented by wound beads of blue glass.

The differences in funeral offerings from the two cemeteries clearly indicate that the cemeteries were left behind by cultural entities with different ethnocultural traits. Artifacts from Kladovka II imply that a group of newcomers connected with the Slav world appeared at Krutik at the end of the 10th century, which is consistent with the latest results of the excavations at the settlement conducted between 2010 and 2013 indicating that the settlement was still occupied in the first half of the 11th century.

Scattering of the cremated remains across the surface is a key factor that makes the Krutik cemeteries stand apart from most necropoleis dating to the end of the 1st millennium, where this method of handling and disposal of the dead persons has been documented as a great rarity. Presently these are the most fully and carefully documented burial sites of this type in contrast to other sites recorded in other areas in the forest belt of the European Russia, which are poorly studied and heavily ruined.

S.D. Zakharov ,

S.V. Mesnyankina,
E.A. Kleshchenko

Digital Version of the Booklet