Mythic Russia

Heroic roleplaying in a mythical medieval Russia

Sunduki: the 16,000-year-old Siberian observatory — April 30, 2013

Sunduki: the 16,000-year-old Siberian observatory


Here’s another magical–in every sense–mystery, the eight sandstone mounds of Sunduki (“Boxes”) in Siberia, which appear to be the world’s oldest observatory. Sunduki is near the Bely Iyus river in the Abakan River Basin in Khakassia, south-central Siberia (not the town of the same region in Tver region). According to a piece in the Siberian Times,

In all, Sunduki comprises eight fantastical sandstone mounts rising incongruously from a flood plain on the bank of the Bely Iyus. Parallel to each other, almost equal in size, they are crowned with strange rock hats looking like giant boxes or chests.

The word ‘Sunduk’ in Russian means ‘chest’ or ‘trunk’ which explains how the place got its modern name.

‘For many years I tried to unravel these mystery ‘chests’, said Professor Vitaly Larichev, of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Determined to decode some of the mysteries of Sunduki, he admits he became an ‘astro-archeologist’.

‘We don’t dig in the ground – we study what ancient people knew about astronomy’, he said.

‘What I discovered was a surprise even to myself. Comparing maps accumulated over many years of astronomical observations, I came to understand that here in Sunduki, we can see the oldest astronomical observatory certainly in Asia. Its age is about 16,000 years old. The ancient inhabitants of this valley daily observed the sunset, the sunrise and the moon’.

The mounds and strategic rocks and clefts can be used to predict the solstice and even tell the time:

High on one cliff wall is a rock engraving showing dragon heads in one direction, and snake heads in the other.

‘If the sun were shining, we could tell the time,’ he said. ‘In the morning the shadow moves along the snake’s body from his head to his tail, and in the afternoon it comes from the other direction along the dragon.

‘From the same observation point you can determine true north and south by sighting along the mountains’.



Still today showing petroglyphs of every kind, the mounds of Sunduki were seemingly natural formations, to which shamans added stones and perhaps carved clefts to make them into these observatories. Obviously a powerful magical place, deeply imbued with the spirits, maybe even having its own Shape. Most likely, though, it could instead connect one versed in right right mysteries, knowing the songs to sing, the steps to dance and the herbs to chew, directly to that glorious, godly, glaring Shape: the Sun. Or perhaps leaping through the cleft at the Solstice might bring one directly into the spirit realm of the Sun, or else into another Solstice, years in the past…


Lake Monsters of Old Russia — April 1, 2013

Lake Monsters of Old Russia


russian nessie 3Never mind Loch Ness, Russia claims not one but six legendary lake monsters, and Russians are no more eager than the Scots to give up on these tales (which, incidentally, are great cameos for Mythic Russia games). Indeed, Russia Beyond The Headlines recently reported on the way that a deep dive into Siberia’s Lake Labynkyr promptly sparked all kinds of rumors about finally coming up with evidence of its particular monstrosity:

The dive made by Dmitry Schiller’s team into the icy waters of Lake Labynkyr on February 1, 2013 could qualify for the Guinness World Records. The team members dived to the bottom of the polar lake at the coldest time of year, in Russia’s coldest region.

The dive has already prompted a blaze of publicity in the Russian media, not to mention the repercussions it has borne. Rumors abound that parts of the skeleton and jaws of a huge animal were found on the lakebed, with the help of camera technology.

The members of the Russian Geographical Society team have since denied this claim, but “Nessie Fever” was unstoppable. Both scientific and pseudo-scientific exploration teams have set off in pursuit of a Russian Loch Ness Monster all over the country.

Lake Labynkyr is meant to be the home of a massive, predatory fish, with a “dark-grey, oval-shaped body,” known as the “Devil of Labynkyr.” A similar “bull-pike” is reportedly to be found in nearby Lake Vorota and also distant Lake Khaiyr, in Yakutia above the Arctic Circle, along with a more reptilian or serpentine creature, “probably 4 to 4.5 meters [13-14 feet] long, 1.5 to 2 meters tall, with a long neck, maybe 1.5 meters. It had a small, flat head, like a snake”… Far, far to the east is Lake Elgygytyn, and no one even knows what the great entity living within its icy depths may be. These aren’t all beasts of Siberia, though. Bubbling Lake Brosno, located in Tver Region, is considered home to Brosnya, a water dragon. (That RBTH article also has a handy map showing the locations of all these places.)