Gold Artifacts Tell Tale of Drug-Fueled Rituals and “Bastard Wars”

They ruled the vast grasslands of Eurasia for a thousand years, striking fear into the hearts of the ancient Greeks and Persians. But they left no cities or settlements behind, only massive grave mounds, called kurgans, dotting the steppes from Mongolia to the Black Sea.

Now one of those kurgans, located in the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia, has yielded an intriguing discovery: golden artifacts that are shedding light on the shadowy world of the Scythians, fierce nomads whose exploits—and drug-fueled rituals—were chronicled by the Greek historian Herodotus.

"It’s a once-in-a-century discovery," says Anton Gass, an archaeologist at the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in Berlin. "These are among the finest objects we know from the region."

The find—kept secret until now to protect it from looters—first came to light in the summer of 2013, when Stavropol-based archaeologist Andrei Belinski began excavating the kurgan, called Sengileevskoe-2, to clear the way for a power-line project.

– Read the entire article at National Geographic.