Botai Culture

The predecessors of the Botai were nomadic hunters of the steppe who took a variety of animals as their prey, including red deer, moose, aurochs (wild cattle), saiga antelope, and the horse. Their sites consist of shallow campsites with pottery sherds and stone tools and occasionally one or two small houses. This implies that they traveled in small bands and did not stay in one location for very long intervals.

Beginning sometime between 3700-3100 BCE, the Copper Age Botai Culture radically changed their lifestyle and settled in large, permanent villages. They also focused most of their economy on the horse, with more than 90% of the animal bones at their sites attributed to this species. Botai stone tools also changed dramatically, although the pottery was very similar to that of their ancestors.

The Botai lived in north-central Kazakhstan, within the drainage of the Ishim River, one of the major sources of water in this region. Only four Botai settlements have been identified: the largest one, Botai, for which the culture is named, Roshchinskoe, Krasnyi Yar, and Vasilkovka IV. They date to between 3700-3100 BCE, based on numerous AMS radiocarbon dates. Research team has investigated Botai as well as the two smaller villages of Krasnyi Yar and Vasilkovka IV, which are just 14 km apart.

In the 1980s and 1990s, teams of archaeologists from the Petropavlovsk Pedagogical Institute (now Petropavlovsk University) excavated around 70 houses at Botai, and one house each at Krasnyi Yar and Vasilkovka IV. Only surveys have been conducted at Roshchinskoe. Their work demonstrated that these sites were roughly contemporaneous and derived from the same culture, the Botai. Work at Botai began in 1993 and continued until 1998. She co-directed excavations there in 1994-1995, excavating one house and a large bone midden.

There were found more than 60 000 thousands of articles made from bones and stones: stone axes, arrowheads and spearheads, stone knives, bone needles, fragments of earthen wares and etc.

The Botai dwelling, made from the stone, wood and earthenware, has a round shape. With a smoke flap on a ceiling it reminds the shape of Kazakh yurt.

The miniature of the yurt, made from materials that Botai people used, was constructed on the bank of the Shalkar lake. Today it is a museum-historical complex. The Botai culture has an important value in ancient history research of the steppe. The monument is protected with UNESKO.

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