The weapon complex of the Northern Altai population in the Xianbei period (on materials from the necropolis of Karban-I) 

Seregin N.N., Demin M.A., Matrenin S.S.




              page 6880




The paper is aimed at introducing into the scientific discourse and complex interpretation of the weapon items discovered during excavations of the sites of the Bulan-Koby archaeological culture of the Karban-I necropolis. This site, which comprises a series of burial mounds of the Great Migration Period, was partially investigated by the expedition of Barnaul State Pedagogical Institute in 19891990. The complex is located on the left bank of the Katun River, 1.7 km north-west of Kuyus village, in Chemalsky District of the Altai Republic. Weapons were found in five undisturbed male burials of the Xianbei period (mounds 9, 11, 14, 33, 39). The finds analyzed include long-range and close-range weapons: five compound bows; 14 iron arrowheads; four iron combat knives; and one dagger. Morphological analysis and classification of the objects, as well as their comparison with known artefacts of the last quarter of the 1st mil. BC the first half of the 1st mil. AD from the sites of Central, Inner, and North Asia became the basis for conclusions concerning the determination of the dating of the products. It has been found that the complex of weapons of the nomads who built the necropolis of the Bulan-Koby Culture at the mouth of the Karban River, was aimed at efficient countering of a lightly protected enemy and was appropriate for light cavalry and infantry. It includes both the already well-known (Xiungny) and new (local) modifications of the offensive weapons. In terms of its diversity and level of development, this set of weaponry was significantly inferior to the military arsenals of the Xiongnu and Xianbei periods, as well as that of the population of the Bulan-Koby Culture of the late 3rd 5th c. AD. The body of the conclusions made permits it to assume that the considered corpus of weapons reflects the initial stage of the evolution of the armament of the Altai population in the first half of the 1st mil. AD. The published materials expand the source base for the study of warfare of the population of Northern Altai in the Xianbei period. The obtained results of the chronological interpretation of different categories of weapons can be used to refine the periodization of the sites of the Belo-Bom stage (2nd 1st half of the 4th c. AD) of the Bulan-Koby Culture.

Keywords: Altai, Xianbei time, weapons, Bulan-Koby culture, bow, arrowheads, combat knife, dagger, chronology.


Funding. The analysis and interpretation of the weapons complex was carried out with the financial support of the Russian Science Foundation (project No. 20-78-10037). Processing materials of the Karban-I necropolis was carried out in the framework of Priority-2030 Program by the Altai State University.


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Accepted: 05.09.2022

Article is published: 15.03.2023


Seregin N.N., Altai State University, prosp. Lenina, 61, Barnaul, 656049, Russian Federation, E-mail:,


Demin M.A., Altai State Pedagogical University, Molodezhnaya st., 55, Barnaul, 656031, Russian Federation, E-mail:,


Matrenin S.S., Altai State University, prosp. Lenina, 61, Barnaul, 656049, Russian Federation, E-mail:,