In a turn of events that makes our world seem a little more Dungeons and Dragons, archaeologists have found a 2,000-year-old suit of armor made of reindeer antlers. The odd suit was uncovered in the Arctic Circle. It was highly decorative, and researchers believe that it was intended to be an offering to ancient polar gods. Metal bands across the world have been notified.
The armor dates to around the first century B.C. It was made at a sacred site called Ust-Polui. It is the oldest armor ever found north of western Siberia. Ust-Poloi is an archaeologically rich site. Over 18,000 artifacts have been unearthed there since archaeologists began excavating it in the thirties. The iconography of the artifacts suggest a religious idolatry for bears among the tribe that created them.
"There are about 30 plates in the collection of Ust-Polui. They differ regarding the degree of preservation, as well as the size, location of mounting holes, and the presence or absence of ornamentation," says Andrey Gusev, an archaeologist. "The ornamentation on the plates can be individual, that is after the thorough analysis we could say how many warriors left armour here, judging by the style of decorations."
The armor was constructed with different sizes of antler plates. The larger ones are between 9 and 10 inches long. They were probably attached to a leather base garment, though the leather has long-since decomposed. The smaller plates are about five inches long. The shorter plates are thinner, and also bear more ornamental inscriptions than the larger plates.
The armor looks very much like the kind of armor that was worn by Kualai warriors. The Kualai were a tribe of hunters and fishermen who were indigenous to the Siberian taiga.
Before the armor was found, archaeologists found a 2,000-year-old bronze ring at Ust-Polui that bore an image of a bear's head and paws. The ring is too small for human fingers, leading some to speculate that it was meant to decorate a bear claw.
The ring probably adorned the claw of a bear that was slain in a sacred ritual. The bear was killed, a festival was held, and the dead bear was decorated to honor it.
Hopefully Ust-Polui will yield some more fascinating archaeological relics. Since there is a track record of the site offering evidence of an ancient bear cult, it would be edifying to find more bear-related artifacts. A warrior wearing reindeer armor must have been quite imposing.