Archaeologists unearth mass graves from Mongol invasion of Russia

Archaeologists unearth mass graves from Mongol invasion of Russia

Enlarge (credit: Institute
of Archaeology, Russian Academy of Sciences)

Archaeologists excavated part of the old city center of
Yaroslavl, Russia, between 2005 and 2010 as part of an effort to
restore its cathedral. During the digs, they discovered nine
medieval mass graves holding the remains of at least 300 people,
dating from the sack of the city by Mongols. It took another
several years for their bones, the ancient DNA preserved within
them, and some centuries-old blowfly larvae, to reveal a family
tragedy set against the wider backdrop of Mongol expansion.

Fire and bodies lying in the snow

In the first half of the 1200s, Mongol leader Batu Khan (the
grandson of Genghis Khan) conquered parts of modern-day Russia,
Eastern Europe, and the Caucasus, adding them to what became known
as the Golden Horde. He swept westward with an army of 130,000
soldiers, and for the cities in his path, the only options were
surrender or slaughter. Smolensk opted to surrender and pay tribute
to the Khanate, but 18 other cities—including Moscow and the
capital of the principality that, at the time, ruled
Yaroslavl—fell to fire and the sword.

The Mongol army reached Yaroslavl in February 1238. Many of the
people buried in the mass graves afterward had clearly died
violently; their bones carried the marks of stabbing, cutting, and
blunt trauma. Some of the bones also showed signs of having been
burned, probably in the fire that accompanied the attack, according
to historical documents and archaeological evidence. Several of the
graves had been the basements of houses and outbuildings; after the
buildings burned down in the fire, the survivors or the conquerors
found the exposed basements convenient places to dispose of the

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
Archaeologists unearth mass graves from Mongol invasion of Russia