(G.Caspari/University of Bern)
An isolated swamp and layer of permafrost are guarding what could be the largest and oldest undisturbed tomb of a Scythian Prince in the "Siberian Valley of the Kings." The tomb, or kurgan as it's known, is truly a frozen time capsule, dating back about 3,000 years. Measuring almost 500 feet in diameter, the prince's tomb is part of a collection of burial mounds built by ancient nomadic Scythians who roamed the area in the ninth century, during the Bronze and Iron Ages. Swiss archaeologist Gino Caspari of the University of Bern, along with his team, are credited with discovering the tomb last summer while looking at high-resolution satellite images of southern Siberia's Uyuk River Valley in the Russian republic of Tuva. Caspari says it's rare to find a burial mound that hasn't been looted of its treasures or destroyed by natural elements. In an email to Newsweek, Caspari reported that he was hopeful about their latest dig at the site. He says, "If it really turns out to be a permafrost tomb, we can hope for an exceptional preservation of objects that are usually not part of the archaeological record." Caspari adds, "Anything organic like wood carvings, felt items, clothing...would result in a much more vibrant look into the past than is usually possible." Caspari, with researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences and the State Hermitage Museum, joined forces on the initial dig in 2017 to uncover the first glimpse of the frozen time capsule. Caspari says it will take about four years to carefully excavate the tomb, but warns that due to climate changes and looters, time is of the essence to move forward to preserve what, or who, is inside the sprawling burial site.