Arkaim, the most enigmatic archaeological site within the territory of Russia

In 1935 aerial photography led to the recognition of several unusual circles in the Southern Urals steppe. It was obvious that those circles were made by humans. At that time no one could explain the origin of these circles, it was a mystery. Twenty of the spiral-shaped settlements, believed to be the original home of the Aryan people, have been identified, and there are about 50 more suspected sites. They all lie buried in a region more than 640km long near Russia’s border with Kazakhstan.
The ancient Ural fortress Arkaim located in the Chelyabinsk region is often called the “Russian Stonehenge.” In addition to streets and buildings scientists have found remnants of a water system, metallurgic furnaces, and mines. It is also said to be one of the strongest ‘anomaly zones’ in Russia.

The remains have been dated to c. 2000-1600 B.C. (Gening, Zdanovich 1993, Zdanovich 1995, 1997)


(Map with Location)

The first official sighting of Arkaim was in 1935… ‘Using information derived from military aerial photography, the geologist, Batenina, identified a number of these fortresses during the 1960s. A complex of 17 fortresses was discovered in the southern Urals in the region of Magnitogorsk, Troizk, and Orenburg. Excavations have been undertaken at the settlements of Sintashta, Arkaim, Ustje, Kujsak, and others’.(Genning et al 1992: fig. 1; Zdanovich 1995; Vinogradov 1995; Malutina et al 1995). The first research on the Prehistory of Arkaim came in the same year: Batenina, T. M. 1935. Distentsionnye metody pri-ercheologicheskich issledovaniyan v sapovednike Arkaim, pp. 105–6 in Kultura drevnih narodov stepnoi Evrasii i fenomen protogorodskoi civilizacii yuzshnogo Urala 1. Chelyabinsk (“Distant methods of archaeological investigations in the Arkaim.” Culture of the ancient peoples of the Eurasian steppe and the phenomenon of proto-city civilization).

In 1987, Arkaim valley in the Southern Urals was going to be flooded and turned into an artificial lake. But before that would happened archaeologists were given a year to find out about the mysterious circles. When archaeologists begun to work they found out that those circles were Arkaim’s settlements! It was a sensation!  Arkaim is not only a settlement, but it is also a temple and an astronomic observatory! It was round and was 160 meters in diameter. It was surrounded by a ditch that was filled with water. An outside wall was very massive, the height was 5.5 meters and width was 5 meters. The wall had four gates. The largest gate was south-west gate. All the buildings were shaped in half rounds and were connected to the outside wall. Each building had exit to the main street in the city.

Arkaim was built with four entrances to the city strictly oriented at cardinal points. It was built according to a previously designed plan, with a high level of precision. All circumferences have one centre where all radial feeders meet together.  The residential area of the fortress boasted advanced amenities considering the time it was built in. The pavement made of thick logs hid a sewage system. Two round one-storey houses positioned along the perimeter between the two fortified walls comprised separate apartments, a hundred or more square meters each. In addition to several rooms, each apartment had a hearth and a well. In the very centre of the city-fortress was a square where religious rites were performed.

The first city, known as Arkaim, was rediscovered in 1989, soon after the soviet authorities allowed non-military aerial photography for the first time. The full extent of the remains is only now becoming apparent. Items that have so far been dug up include many pieces of pottery covered in swastikas, which were widely used ancient symbols of the sun and eternal life.

The shape of each of the cities, which are mainly in the Chelyabinsk district, are circular, divided into segments with a uniform street plan. The settlements, which would each have housed about 2000 people are all surrounded by a ditch and have a square in the middle. (3) Schematically we can see Mandala  – a square inside of a round. According to ancient scripts round is a symbol of Universe and square is a symbol of Earth


Reconstruction of Arkaim Citadel The city was destroyed completely by fire. Among the archaeological finds there are no human remains or bones of domestic animals. No valuables, no jewellery, no religious objects.

Tradition and Folklore in the Arkaim Region:

Arkaim is interesting not only as a historic monument. It is reported to be one of the strongest ‘anomaly’ zones in Russia.

Locals believe it to be a sacred place. Pilgrims come here all year round to get some healing water from the Bolshaya Karaganka River, and in the summer they coat themselves with clay. They say it helps treating skin diseases.

The mountains surrounding the fortress are also unusual. The most famous one is Shamanka (or Bold Mountain). People climb to its top to get some positive energy, pray or meditate. People in serious medical condition are brought there for healing. Visitors come to the top of Repentance Mountain to ask for forgiveness. Love Mountain is believed to bring personal luck. The nearby Male Forest is visited by women who have relationship problems. The rumour has it, a walk in this forest will make a woman popular with men. The growth near Grachinaya Mountain (also called Blessed) is infamous. Birch trunks there are abnormally crooked at the bottom. They say people cannot stay there for too long, otherwise they risk losing their mind.

Who were they:

It has been suggested from a series of horse burials, that this site has produced evidence that the cities could have been the home of the Aryans.

Several ancient Indian texts believed to have been written by Aryans recount similar rituals. “These ancient Indian texts and hymns describe sacrifices of horses and burials and the way the meat is cut off and the way the horse is buried with its master … If you match this with the way the skeletons and the graves are being dug up in Russia, they are a millimetre-perfect match.”


If archaeologists confirm the cities as Aryan, they could be the remnants of a civilisation that spread through Europe and much of Asia. Their language has been identified as the precursor of modern Indo-European tongues, including English. Words such as brother, guest and oxen have been traced back to this prototype.

“Potentially, this could rival ancient Greece in the age of the heroes,” said British historian Bettany Hughes, who spent much of the northern summer exploring the region for a BBC radio program, Tracking the Aryans.”We are all told that there is this kind of mother tongue, proto-Indo-European, from which all the languages we know emerge.


Sintashta-Arkaim Culture:

Several years ago archaeologists considered all sites of the second half of the 2nd millennium B.C. as belonging to the Andronovo culture. Within the last decade, two additional, and yet more ancient cultures were discovered in Eurasia that have several characteristics in common. These were named “Petrovka” and “Sintashta.” Located in the southern Ural region, they are dated to c. 2000-1600 B.C. (Gening, Zdanovich 1993, Zdanovich 1995, 1997) The former occupied the eastern region (Tobol -Ishim), and the latter the southern area. Previously, Sintashta settlements had been excavated but they had not been understood because of their difference from the classical Andronovo culture. Moreover, because the complexes contained some features belonging to the Abashevo culture, the original researchers had initially included them into the Abashevo sphere.

The most diagnostic feature of the Sintashta settlement site is its closed fortification that consisted of ramparts and ditches, enforced by a fence or wall built from unfired clay bricks and wooden frames. The site plan was based on either a round or rectangular form. The fortified area included from 6,000 to 30,000 sq. meters. Towers and other constructions protected the entrances and the accesses to water (Zdanovich 1995). The houses were 25-130 sq.meters, rectangular and had pit-storage, open fire hearths, wells. Some also included metallurgical furnaces.

Why had the individuality of Sintashta sites and their associated artifacts not been recognized earlier? And why are the sites still the subject of dispute? The crux of this matter is that frequently the more ancient deposits had been destroyed by subsequent layers of occupation. It was possible to understand the Sintashta settlement only after a another site had been investigated more recently.

The Sintashta sites have been referred to as “The Land of Towns ” (Gening, Zdanovich 1993, Zdanovich 1995). The cultue had occupied the territory along the eastern slopes of the Ural Mountains. The fortified settlement studied in most detail is Arkaim. Occupying 20,000 sq. meters, it was discovered in 1987 by the team headed by G. Zdanovich during salvage excavations before the construction of a dam. The excavation revealed that the settlement had been burned and, therefore, many details were preserved. The population, however, had vacated the city before the fire and took all their possession with them.

Arkaim had two protective circular walls and two circles of standard dwellings separated by a street around a central square. The external wall, 160 m in diameter and 4 m wide, was built from specially selected soil that had been packed into timber frames before being faced with adobe bricks (Zdanovich 1997). On the interior, houses abutted the wall and were situated radially with their doors exiting to the circular internal street.

Many interpretations have been suggested in relation to this site – a military fort, proto-city, or a ceremonial and religious center. The latter hypothesis appears reasonable, if we bear in mind that the sets of artifacts excavated were not characteristic of everyday usage. More plausible are the nterpretation put forward by researchers who regard sites such as Arkaim as combination of administrative and ceremonial centers. Possibly this was a location where about 1,000 to 2,000 people­aristocracy (and craftsmen) gathered periodically to perform rituals.


The similarity of latitude, date, and size led some astronomers (Bystrushkin 2003) to compare Arkaim with Stonehengein England. According to their claims, the Neolithic observatory at Stonehenge allowed for observation of 15 astronomical phenomena using 22 elements, whereas the contemporaneous observatory at Arkaim allowed for observation of 18 astronomical phenomena using 30 elements. They include sunsets and sunrises on the days of equinox and solstice, as well as sunsets and sunrises during low and high Moon.

The precision of measurements in Stonehenge is estimated at 10 arc-minutes to a degree, that in Arkaim being put at 1 arc-minute.

Mandala Effect
The obvious complexity of the social order of a people who built such a structural and artistic miracle several millennia ago is not all that an expertХs eye would notice in observing the contours of this ancient proto-city. The geometry of the construction conceals in itself some riddles: Why is it a circle? Was it linked to symbolism relevant to the spiritual philosophy of the ancients? If yes, then what do these symbols express and to whom? What kind of message are they meant to relay? Following are some suggestions made by the first researchers of Arkaim, G.B. Zdanovich and I.M. Batanina.

They realized that its lay-out, the ground-plan of Arkaim, is related to the Mandala principle, a square inside a circle – one of the basic sacred symbols of Buddhist philosophy.

The word Mandala is translated as a circle or disk. In the ancient Rig-Veda writings, where it has been first described, the word has a set of values: a wheel, a ring, the country, space, society, gathering.

The symbolic meaning of a Mandala is understood all over the world as a model of the Universe, even of the entire cosmos, where the two most important principles present in our Universe are represented in the form of a circle and a square. Arkaim, with its dwellings, having adjoining rooms, might possibly represent the “wheel of time”, where every aspect is defined by the previous one and in turn, defines the next one.

Did these ancient sages, perfectly familiar with the structure of the Universe, see how harmoniously and naturally it is arranged and therefore, constructed their city as a mini-Universe? And the engineering genius of these ancient builders, which we already explored, is equally admirable.

And now, further into these explorations, come more far-reaching conclusions which can be taken as a key to the most important riddle of Arkaim: In the ‘Land of Cities’, its most amazing distinction is not any richness of artifacts, but its surprisingly high level of spiritual culture. It represents a special world that in many aspects is permeated with spirituality, from settlement and funeral architectural forms to sculptured images chiseled into stone.

An Ancient Celestial Observatory of Ultimate Accuracy
ArkaimХs constructions are both complicated and sophisticated, but their true purpose and functions are not very obvious. And only when its accurate geometry is discovered in the lay-out is it possible to comprehend the builders’ messages. By way of various essential elements of geometry and the dimensions of Arkaim, researchers are directed to precise correspondences with certain parameters of Great Britain’s ancient Stonehenge.

In all archaeological publications about Arkaim the diameter of the ring-shaped wall of the citadel is listed as eighty-five meters. In fact, this figure is slighty rounded-off. If it is measured with the accuracy needed for astronomical purposes it turns out for the imperfectly shaped ring to be having radiuses of 40 and 43.2 meters. The radius of the ТObri holesУ ring in Stonehenge is also 43.2 meters. Both ancient sites are located basically at the same latitude; both are in the middle of bowl-shaped valleys with hilly horizon views. And this is not all: The more accurately both sites are compared, the more details are found which are precisely concurring.

At Arkaim and associated ancient sites, the radiocarbon analysis was done not less than three times, using tens of probes. It turns out that in most cases Arkaim is of the same age as Stonehenge or even older.

The resemblance of these two ancient sites and their ages have much significance, particularly the implication that household articles of a civilized world migrated not from cultural Greece to wild Siberia, but very much the other way around. It also means that regarding the designs of both sites, one should search for one common denominator rather than dismiss the similarities, believing them to be mere coincidences.

There is of course, one complication: The stone monoliths of Stonehenge have passed through millennia practically damage-free, whereas the wooden elements of design of the Southern Ural proto-city are almost completely lost. They did not decay but were destroyed in a fire raging here almost five thousand years ago.

The fire that eliminated the ‘living’ history of Arkaim is among the most intriguing riddles of this ancient structure. It would be less strange if it was one of those natural disasters that even today, quite often, suddenly destroy whole settlements, taking inhabitants off-guard and burying belongings, along with anyone who couldnХt escape.

The singularity of ArkaimХs fire is that it was, apparently, not unexpected for inhabitants and it is quite possible that the inhabitants caused it themselves. Only this could explain the fact that in the ancient ashes there are no intact household items, only fragments and splinters and there are no human remains at all. They all left alive, and carried away everything valuable. Why? We can only guess now. Nevertheless there is an immutable fact; being built at once, as a one-time project, the proto-city Arkaim also ceased to exist overnight, was left by all inhabitants and, possibly, burnt down by them.

Comparisons of Arkaim with Stonehenge are not accidental. Careful research of Arkaim by archeologists and astronomers has determined that it is a celestial observatory of ultimate accuracy. Modern astronomers have been surprised by the fact that a project of such versatility, complexity and accuracy has been fulfilled, the more that no traces of earlier and simpler constructions were found.

Notable in the collection of confirmed patterns is the use of the Golden Section rule in the internal circle, consisting of 27 walls and 12-sectioned zodiac partitionings.

The internal circle has been devoted to the Sun, the external one to the Moon. The inclination of lunar orbit to the ecliptic plane (5ј 09 ‘) is defined very precisely.

In the erection of the ring-shaped internal wall they used a circle with a radius measuring 52.65 of ArkaimХs linear measures (one Arkaim linear measure equals 80.0 cm) that corresponds to 52° 39’ the latitude of Arkaim. The latitude of Arkaim, by the way, is close to the latitude of Altai barrow Arjan (52° 00 ‘) and Stonehenge (51° 17′), and it is possible that this strip on the EarthХs surface, as well as the 30th parallel, had significant meaning for ancient astronomers and priests.

Measurements confirmed that the ancients of the Southern Ural were aware of the phenomenon of the precision of the EarthХs axis expressed in ratios of the internal circle. The period of this phenomenon is enormous – 25,786 years, but ArkaimХs builders portrayed corresponding parameters perfectly and very precisely. Researchers specifically note that in order to create this sort of observatory they had to know that the Earth has the form of a sphere and together with other planets spins around the Sun… (On ArkaimХs ceramic ware, the sacred sign for the Тsun wheelУ, a swastika was found.) Another surprise is that the city itself, and mortuary facilities in its plan, represent the combination of a circle and a square.

On our planet, quite a few archeological finds confound modern science: the Egyptian and Mayan pyramids, the great figures of the Nasca desert, Stonehenge in England, Zorats-Kar in Armenia and, it seems, our Arkaim.

It is hard to explain how our ancestors managed to build these amazing constructions, or for what purpose, but it is impossible to ignore them. American researcher Jerald Hockings asserts that to erect Stonehenge required no less than one and a half million man-days, a vast, simply Immeasurable expenditure of power. For what? And then there is Arkaim – for what? The largest, and according to K.K. Bystrushkin, the most perfect celestial observatory, constructed by people we assumed were ТprimitiveУ and half-civilized, living almost five thousand years ago in the Southern Ural steppes?

Here we are talking about complicated sites such as Stonehenge and Arkaim and yet, we do not even understand the much more simple and humble Dolmen structures. But even they certainly have astronomically significant orientations and they are, in fact, the most ancient calendars of mankind, not to mention their other important functions.

Maybe we have yet to make an objective assessment of mankind’s distant past? With the chauvinistic attitude modern science brings to these discoveries, what if we have grossly misrepresented our ancestors’ level of “primitiveness”?

Suppose that our ancestors were no more primitive than we are and just lived differently, according to principles and values unknown to us? What if K.K. Bystrushkin is correct in asserting that Arkaim is more sophisticated than we are, and if we wish to understand it we would have to grow up in order to match its heights?

Although the settlement was burned and abandoned, much detail is preserved. Arkaim is similar in form but much better preserved than neighboring Sintashta, where the earliest chariot was unearthed. The site was protected by two circular walls. There was a central square, surrounded by two circles of dwellings separated by a street. The settlement covered ca. 20,000 m2 (220,000 sq ft). The diameter of the enclosing wall was 160 m (520 ft). It was built from earth packed into timber frames, and reinforced with unburned clay brick, with a thickness of 4Р5 m (13Р16 ft). and a height of 5.5 m (18 ft). The settlement was surrounded with a 2 m (6 ft 7 in)-deep moat.

There are four entrances into the settlement through the outer and inner wall with the main entrance to the west. The dwellings were between 110Р180 m2 (1,200Р1,900 sq ft) in area. The outer ring of dwellings number 39 or 40, with entrances to a circular street in the middle of the settlement. The inner ring of dwellings number 27, arranged along the inner wall, with doors to the central square of 25 by 27 m (82 by 89 ft). The central street was drained by a covered channel. Zdanovich estimates that approximately 1500 to 2500 people could have lived in the settlement.

Surrounding Arkaim’s walls, were arable fields, 130Р140 m by 45 m (430Р460 ft by 150 ft), irrigated by a system of canals and ditches. Remains of millet and barley seeds were found.

The 17th century date suggests that the settlement was about co-eval to, or just post-dating, the Indo-Aryan migration into South Asia and Mesopotamia (the Gandhara grave culture appearing in the Northern Pakistan from ca. 1600 BC, the Indo-European Mitanni rulers reached Anatolia before 1500 BC, both roughly 3,000 kilometres (1,900 mi) removed from the Sintashta-Petrovka area), and that it was either an early Iranian culture, or an unknown branch of Indo-Iranian that did not survive into historical times.

Pseudoarchaeology and National Mysticism
Since its discovery, Arkaim has attracted public and media attention in Russia, from a broad range of the population, including esoteric, New Age and pseudoscientific organizations. It is said to be the most enigmatic archaeological site within the territory of Russia, and as with many archaeological discoveries, many conflicting interpretations have been put forward.

Swastika City
In order to gain publicity, the early investigators described Arkaim as “Swastika City”, “Mandala City”, and “the ancient capital of early Aryan civilization, as described in the Avesta and Vedas”. The swastika description refers to the floor plan of the site, which (with some imagination) may appear similar to the swastika symbol, albeit with rounded arms (similar to the lauburu) attached to a central ring instead of a cross.

The similarity of latitude, date, and size led some archaeoastronomists (Bystrushkin 2003) to compare Arkaim with Stonehenge in England. According to their claims, the Neolithic observatory at Stonehenge allowed for observation of 15 astronomical phenomena using 22 elements, whereas the contemporaneous observatory at Arkaim allowed for observation of 18 astronomical phenomena using 30 elements.

The precision of measurements in Stonehenge is estimated at 10 arc-minutes to a degree, that in Arkaim being put at 1 arc-minute. Such a precision of astronomical observations was not repeated until the compilation of Almagest about 2 millennia later. The interpretation as an observatory for either Stonehenge or Arkaim is not universally accepted.

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