The bodies of a young man and woman who died 4,000 years ago have been found buried face-to-face in a grave in Kazakhstan.
A Bronze Age cemetery was unearthed in Kazakhstan’s Karaganda region during an archeological dig, the regional government reported in a Kazakh-language statement. Remains of a male and female, believed to be of “young age”, were found buried with a variety of grave goods that includes gold and jewelry artifacts, knives, ceramic pots, and beads. The remains of horses were also found near the burial.
The couple were believed to be buried around 4,000 years ago, sometime in 2000 B.C. Their abundant and luxurious burial items suggest that the two were likely from a noble family, archaeologists said.
It remains unclear what killed the young couple. Their exact relationship to each other, including whether they were romantically involved, is also in question.
“Begazy-Dandybai was the most widespread culture in central Kazakhstan during the Bronze Age,” explained the lead archeologist Igor Kukushkin, an archaeology professor at Saryarka Archaeological Institute at Karaganda State University in Kazakhstan. “The region was inhabited by some very large tribes. It was a heroic age when raids and conflicts occurred frequently in the region.”
A Bronze Age culture that flourished around the 12th to 8th centuries B.C. in what is today Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, Begazy-Dandybai culture was first discovered in the 1930s to 1940s. The culture’s most iconic monument, a building complex consisting of 18 mausolea, is designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage.
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Karaganda has been the site of several previous archaeological discoveries. In 2016, archeologists discovered a 3,000-year-old stone pyramid.
The late Bronze Age mausoleum, according to archaeologist Victor Novozhenov from the Kazakh National University in an interview with Live Science, is about 6.6 feet (2 meters) high and about 49 by 46 feet (15 by 14 meters) long. It’s made from stone, earth and fortified by slabs in the outer side, to maintain a pyramidal shape.
The exact age of the structure is uncertain, but it likely was built during the late Bronze Age, more than 3,000 years ago, Novozhenov said. While it is old, it is still much younger than some of its Egyptian counterparts. The famous Djoser pyramid, for example, was built in the 26th century B.C., predating the Kazakhstan mausoleum by at least 1,000 years. It is certainly not “the world’s oldest pyramid” as some news reports claim.