Often compared to Stonehenge in Britain, Kamyana Mohyla (meaning Stone Grave or Stone Barrow in Ukrainian) has been an unsolved mystery located amid vast Ukrainian steppes. 35-feet tall boulders are scattered around the mound compassing an area of 3000 square meters. How did they get here and what was there purpose?
There are a lot of ancient legends about Kamyana Mohyla origin. One of the most popular legends tells a story about ancient Baghaturs being involved in a rock fight. When the area had fallen under Islam, a Muslim legend appeared telling the different story. In this legend Baghatur hero named Bogur had sinned against Allah, as a punishment he was ordered to tear rocks from a nearby mountain and built a stone mountain where one could see the steppe in all directions from the top. To finish more quickly, Bogur cheated and piled the rocks in such a manner that there were many holes and cavities in his structure. Allah discovered this trick and caused Bogur to trip and fall into one of the holes where he became stuck and died of hunger. Allah then covered the stone mountain with sand and that’s how the Stone Grave appeared.
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Scientists these days believe that the mound must have been used by prehistoric people as a shrine, and in later times, as late as the tenth-twelfth centuries AD, it was still regularly visited. However, the exact age of this historical landmark on the territory of Ukrainian steppes remains uncertain. As a matter of fact, Kamyana Mohyla is not the only barrow in the steppes of that area but surely it is the largest and the most interesting one.
Ukrainians’ ancestors must have found Kamyana Mohyla to be a nice shelter against the inclemency of weather, and a good place to hide from predators. They liked the place so much that they decorated it with petroglyphs — carvings or line drawings on rock. The first written mentioning of Kamyana Mohyla dates back to 1778, but surely local people and travelers must have come across the mound much earlier and wondered what it might be. In the early nineteenth century scholars began showing some interest in it but this interest took a shape of an archeological expedition only in the late 1930s. One of the archeological expeditions, led by O. Bader, found literally thousands of petroglyphs and pictures on the rock walls of the grottos and caves that were discovered inside the mound. Through the upcoming decades archeologists were discovering more and more new caves under the sandy mound. Modern archeologists agree that thousands of petroglyphs and pictures in Kamyana Mohyla must have been created over a very long stretch of time — the earliest date back to the twenty-second millennium BC, and the latest ones back to twelfth century AD.
Modern day Kamyana Mohyla (Stone Grave) Historical Reserve in Ukraine welcomes its visitors with the Early Art of Kamyana Mohyla permanent exhibition at the local museum located on the northern side of the historical reserve. This exhibition showcases the art and artifacts discovered in Kamyana Mohyla during numerous archeological expeditions; it also traces its history from the earliest times to the early Middle Ages. Among the artifacts you can find all kinds of implements and weapons used by the prehistoric people, earthenware and petroglyphs. Reconstructions and models recreate the scenes of everyday life of those who inhabited Kamyana Mohyla thousands years ago.
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Kamyana Mohyla evidently deserves to be investigated and studied more thoroughly. Kamyana Mohyla (Stone Grave) Historical Reserve in Ukraine is located only 20 km north of Melitopol (Zaporizhya Region) on the picturesque banks of the Molochna River, near the village Myrne. The Museum at the Reserve works daily from 9 AM to 5 PM; English language tours are available on prior reservation.
Photo source: Anna Visjtak, shutterstock.com, ua.stonegrave.org (National Kamyana Mohyla Historical Reserve and Museum web-page)