Archaeologists have unearthed a mammoth, 1,500-year-old stone complex near the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea in Kazakhstan that is reminiscent of Stonehenge, but on a far grander scale, .
The series of stone slabs covers an area of around 300 acres, which is roughly equivalent to 200 American football fields. Stones range from 13 feet tall to 79 feet tall, and many of them are elaborately decorated with carvings of weapons or creatures. Details of who built the massive structure and what it might have been used for remains a mystery, but there are some clues.
The site was first stumbled upon in 2010 when a man named F. Akhmadulin, from a town called Aktau, was using a metal detector. There, he found parts of a silver saddle and other curious artifacts, which he brought back to archaeologists. Andrey Astafiev of the Mangistaus State Historical and Cultural Reserve, and Evgeniï Bogdanov of the Russian Academy of Sciences Siberian Department’s Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, decided to investigate.
Some stone slabs were found protruding from the ground, hinting at a larger structure. “Most of the territory consists of sagebrush desert,” Astafiev and Bogdanov wrote. They had no idea at first just how extensive the site would end up being.
Artifacts found at the site suggest that it might have been built by a nomadic people, and the principal nomadic culture in the region during the time when it was constructed were the Huns. Whether the Huns were, in fact, the ones that constructed it is an open question at this point, but they are certainly the primary suspects.
“The advance of the Huns led various ethnic groups in the Eurasian steppes to move from their previous homelands,” wrote the researchers. So it’s also possible that the site was built by some other mysterious culture, and was only later appropriated by the conquesting Huns.
Skeletal remains found near one of the stones might indicate that the structure was some kind of burial site, but that’s also just speculation at this point. The site is so large that it will likely take several more years to sufficiently excavate.
It’s an exciting find, a true archaeological wonder, and it was found in a region where no one had previously suspected such a grandiose structure. It goes to show that sometimes all it takes is a metal detector and a curious mind to peel back the veil of the past, to coax history to reveal a few of her secrets.