The purpose of the research is to prove that dolmens of Russia are unique and worthy of protection of UNESCO.
Tasks: 1.To compare dolmens of Russia with dolmens of other countries and find signs of their uniqueness.
- To study the criterions and find which are suitable for dolmens of Russia.
Relevance of the research: The dolmens of the Western Caucasus of Russia are unique structures. Many of them were destroyed by vandals and landslides, other are in great disrepair. And they will be completely lost if they are not protected from vandals and general neglect. 39 sessions of UNESCO in 2015 discussed the importance of dolmens of Sochy. And they can get into the list with the name “Megaliths of the Western Caucasus”. Dolmens need to be recognized officially, this has been discussed for a long time. But the issue of recognition of dolmens of Russia as a world natural and cultural heritage has not yet been resolved.
Location. The Western Caucasus is located 50 km North-East of the Black Sea. There are hundreds of megalithic monuments built many years ago. They cover the Western Caucasus on both sides of the mountain ridge, in an area of approximately 12.000 square kilometers of Russia and Abkhazia. We call them dolmens which means “portal tomb”. They are not far from the cities Tzelentzchik, Touapse, Novorossiysk and Sochy. Archaeologists do not know who built them, where the stones came from, or what their true purpose was.
Approximately 3,000 of these megalithic monuments are known in the Western Caucasus, but more are constantly being found, while more and more are also being destroyed. Today many are in great disrepair. The dolmens of Russia show strong similarities with monuments from different parts of Europe and Asia, like the Iberian Peninsula, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Israel and India. But scientists can't explain these similarities and the building of megaliths on the whole.
Criterion 1 of UNESCO: Dolmens of Russia demonstrate outstanding creative and technological achievements in prehistoric times.
There are thousands of known dolmens throughout the world, particularly throughout Europe. But the Caucasian dolmens represent a unique type of prehistoric architecture.
- Unique design of Russian dolmens.
- Most of the Caucasian dolmens contain an almost perfectly formed circle at the front. Аll of them had portal in the centre of the facade. Round holes are the most common, but there were sometimes square ones.
-Stone plugs have been found at almost every tomb, and were used to block the portal at the front.
-They were built with precisely dressed stone blocks, shaped into 90-degree angles, to be used as corners. The huge stone plates join each other precisely with specially made grooves. The joint places are so close in places that it is impossible to even slide a knife blade between the plates. In 2007, it was decided to reconstruct a dolmen from the stones plates of destroyed structures in Gelendzhik. Despite the help of modern technology, the builders were unable to achieve the same level of precision as the Bronze Age builders.
- Unique courts of dolmens.
In front of the facade is a court that usually extends out, creating an area where rituals are believed to have taken place. The court is usually outlined by large stone walls, sometimes over a meter high.
It is in this area that Bronze and Iron Age pottery has been found, along with human remains, bronze tools, and ornaments made from silver, gold, or precious stones.
Some unusual items associated with dolmens are big round stone balls, double balls and animal sculptures.
- Unique decoration of dolmens.
The variety of decoration for these tombs is not great. The most common motifs are vertical and horizontal zigzags, hanging triangles and concentric circles, lintel held up by two columns. Members of Sochi geographical Society claimed discovery of ancient writings on Dolmens located in Sochi area. During their expedition scientists saw images on some of the stones and noticed that they closely resemble Asian petroglyphs. They also believe that these petroglyphs are not just pictures, but have a meaning.
Criterion 2 of UNESCO: Dolmens provides an outstanding illustration of the evolution of monument construction and of the continual use and shaping of the landscape over more than 1000 years of the Bronze Age. The monuments and landscape have had an unwavering influence on historians and archaeologists, and still retain a huge potential for future research.
In the opinion of Vladimir Markovin, all forms of the Caucasus dolmens can be categorised into four main types:
-Plate Dolmens: These dolmens are essentially stone boxes, formed with 5 complete plates of stone. It has been established that 92% of the Caucasus dolmens were built in this fashion. They are also considered to be some of the oldest, being dated at 2,700 BC.
“At the heart of the development of West Caucasian monuments is a plate dolmen built in the form of a simple ‘house of cards’. In all variants of dolmen construction (compound, trough-shaped, monolith) with their complicated forms and constructions one can see their relation with plate monuments”. “The period of flourishing of dolmen culture fall on the 3rd and second half of the 2nd [millennium] B.C. At that time there is a wide spread of plate constructions”.
-Compound Dolmens: These dolmens were built partially into rock, but also have walls built of smaller plates or stone blocks.
-Trough-shaped Dolmens: The late period of dolmen culture falls on the middle of the 2nd [millennium] B.C. Plate dolmens lose clearness of their proportions, trough-shaped dolmens appear. These structures were hollowed out from the rock, then covered with removable plates.
-Monolithic Dolmens. By the end of the period, dolmen-monoliths appear. Approximately by 1,400 BC, many of the dolmens begin to be used as burials or as bone depository. By that time they stopped building them. These structures were carved to simulate the appearance of dolmens, they were entirely hollowed out in large stones or rocks.
Criterion 3 of UNESCO: Dolmens provide an exceptional insight into the funerary and ceremonial practices in the Bronze Age. Together with their settings and associated sites, they form landscapes without parallel.
Archaeologists have put forward two main hypotheses regarding the purpose of the dolmens. The first is that they were places of tribal worship. The second is that they were burial places. During the excavation, many of them contained burial sites of people who had lived during different historical periods, and next to them were various items that indicate belief in an afterlife. However, many researchers argue that the burials constitute secondary use and were not the original reason for their construction.
So, who were these people who achieved such precision in construction? According to the Vladimir Markovin, an archaeologist who has devoted much of his life to studying the Caucasian dolmens, the people of the time lived in mud huts, had no knowledge of iron or the pottery wheel, and cultivated land with hoes. Yet they still had constructions, whose design is impressive, even by modern standards.
Dolmens of the Western Caucasus are also called houses of the soul, houses of dwarfs, houses of giants.
Many locals will tell you the legend of the dwarves who once settled in the area. They were so tiny that they used hares for riding. And, just like in fairy tales, they lived alongside giants who built stone houses for this dwarves so that they could take shelter in bad weather. However, the giants were not repaid for their kindness. In order to tame the giants, the little people blinded them and began to give them different herbs. The giants began to lose their minds and conflict with each other. Once the giants freed themselves from charms a war began, resulting in everyone’s death with just the stone houses remaining’.
- В.И. Марковин. Дольмены Западного Кавказа. — М.: Наука,1978.
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3.Критерии включения объектов в список всемирного наследия. — Формат доступа: http://www.nhpfund.ru/world-heritage/criteria.html
- Сочинские дольмены могут признать природным наследием ЮНЕСКО. — Формат доступа: http://maks-portal.ru/kultura-sochi
5.West Caucasian Dolmens Project Page. Web.archive.org. 25 February 2007. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
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