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31.05.2021

Thor bronze idol from Chernaya Mogila, Ukraine

The Black Grave is the largest burial mound in Chernihiv, Ukraine. It is part of the National Sanctuary of Ancient Chernihiv and is an Archaeological Monument of national importance. Comparable to the barrows of Gnyozdovo near Smolensk, the Black Grave has a height of over 10 metres and a circumference of 170 metres. During excavations undertaken in 1872–73, Dmitry Samokvasov uncovered two cremated bodies of Norse warriors , surrounded by slaves, sacrificial animals, arms, armour, and decorations. Samokvasov dated the burial to the late 10th century, when Vladimir I was the ruler of Kievan Rus. It is likely that the buried warriors were two princes of Chernihiv, although no local potentate is attested in the Slavonic chronicles before Vladimir's son, Mstislav of Chernihiv. After the bodies were cremated, they were put upon a 7-metre-high mound, where a funeral feast took place. Arranged near the bodies were two helmets and knee-length chain mail , probably extracted from the pyre, as well as a cauldron with ram bones, two sacerdotal knives, two golden Byzantine coins, an imported sabre, a miniature dark-red bronze idol of Thor, and two silver-bound aurochs horns decorated with floral motifs, fabulous animals, and figures of a man and a woman shooting at a bird. When the barrow was completed, a stele was placed at the top. All these items are now displayed at the State Historical Museum in Moscow. At the present time the site of the burial mound along with other 34 buildings are included in the Chernihiv National Architecture-Historical Sanctuary Ancient Chernihiv. The Black Grave along with the rest of the reserve is the major tourist attraction in the Chernihiv Oblast of Ukraine.

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