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​History of discovery

                       Arkaim: History of Discovery and Research 


Arkaim was discovered in June 1987, by the archeological expedition of Chelyabinsk State University led by G.B. Zdanovich (detachment of S.G. Botalov, V.S. Mosin), it was named after the nearby hill and tract. The monument was  located in the construction zone of the Karagan interfarm irrigation system in the south of the Chelyabinsk region and was supposed to be the bottom of an extensive shallow  lake.

Initially, a cycle of works related to the creation of topographic plans of the fortified settlement and adjacent territories was organized and performed (S.G. Botalov, V.S. Mosin, A.M. Fedorov, O.I. Martynyuk, A.I. Ganja, S.A. Grigoriev). I.M. Batanina did the work of interpreting aerial photographs. By the autumn of 1987, the excavations began, and simultaneously, the struggle to save Arkaim took place. The monument with its most complicated architecture and amazingly correct planning represented a principally new type of archaeological resource and demanded a thorough, innovative and long-term research.​

Since 1988, a number of specialists in natural history have been involved in the work on Arkaim, and the excavations covered the western part of the monument and were of a panoramic nature. S.A. Grigoriev, A.I. Gutkov, N.O. Ivanova, A.M. Kislenko, and V.S. Mosin were responsible for the archaeological excavations.Works on paleosoils and paleoclimate were carried out by I.V. Ivanov's group (Institute of Soil Science and Photosynthesis RAS), on paleozoology by P.A. Kosintsev (Institute of Animal and Plant Ecology UB RAS), L.L. Gaiduchenko (Kustanai University).  L.L. Gurevich (Leningrad Institute of Urban Planning and Reconstruction of Cities) carried out architectural supervision and architectural measurements at the monument.​

​​In 1989, the range of research was considerably expanded. The work on Quaternary geology (Yu.A. Lavrushin, Institute of Geology, Russian Academy of Sciences), paleobotany.


(E.A.Spiridonova, Institute of Archaeology, Russian Academy of Sciences), ancient metallurgy V.V. Zaikov, E.V. Zaikova, and A.M. Yuminov (Institute of Mineralogy, Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences). In 1990, the methodology of geophysical investigations was developed and continued until 1994. All this  led to the possibility and inevitability of vivid historical reconstructions (Zdanovich 1989). 


Additionally, in the process of research, dozens of archaeological monuments of other eras - from the Stone Age to the early 20th century - were discovered all over the territory of the Arkaim region. Since the early 1990s, an ethnographic detachment headed by Chelyabinsk State University graduates (A. A. Rybalko, O. V. Novikova, O. Yu. Maltseva) began to work within the expedition. In 1991 a special independent examination of the Urals Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, based on natural-science research, revealed the uniqueness of the Arkaim valley within the system of the South Urals Peninsula. At the same time in the southern areas of Chelyabinsk region a number of fortified settlements of the Arkaim type, which received the figurative name "Country of cities", were discovered by the method of deciphering aerial photographs (I.M. Batanina, N.V. Levit).​

It has become obvious that the preservation of the unique archaeological cultural heritage we have discovered is only possible with protective measures in the surrounding natural landscape in an undisturbed natural environment.​

The discovery of the Arkaim coincided with the society's search for new spiritual ideals and attempts to comprehend the ancient historical roots of Russian civilization. In April 1991 the Council of Ministers of the RSFSR made a decree to stop the construction of the reservoir and to transfer 3.7 thousand hectares of land in the Arkaim valley to the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences for the organization of an experimental branch of the Ilmensky State Reserve. The documents of the Council of Ministers of the RSFSR underlined that the  land was allocated "for the purpose of preserving and studying the unique monument of the early civilization of the Bronze Age - the settlement of Arkaim".​

Due to the initiative group of CSU scientists (rector V.D. Batukhtin) and support of Chelyabinsk regional administration (governor V.P. Solovyov) by 1994 another protected area, connected with the heritage of the "Land of Cities" of the Bronze Age of the South Urals, was formed. It was secured by the creation of the State Institution - "Specialized Natural Landscape and Historical and Archaeological Center "Arkaim" and served as the basis for a number of projects on the use of archaeological heritage in the system of public and state values (V.N. Fuchsman, A.I. Levit).

As a result, 8055 sq. m. of the cultural  layer, most of the northwestern half of the monument, have been studied by excavations at Arkaim. The full picture of the architectural complex is formed due to the geophysical research of its southeastern part. Panoramic excavations of Arkaim with the optimal complex of natural history works and the range of their conceptual possibilities can be considered as a kind of explosion or catalyst of a new level of problems in the archaeology of the Bronze Age of Eurasian steppes, which it reached by the beginning of the III millennium A.D.

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