Old Beltir (Russie) :Macabre mystery
Archaeologists unearth headless woman and child wearing lavish gold-lined fur found buried in 2,500-year-old tomb
The unique grave was found in the Altai Mountains and may hail back to long-gone Siberian rituals
Two skeletons were found in the riverside tomb close to Old Beltir village
Baffled archaeologists have uncovered a mysterious 2,500-year-old tomb containing a headless woman and child wearing lavish gold-lined fur.
The macabre find was unearthed by Russian excavators, leaving them confused about the bizarre placement of the adult skeleton's head at her kneecaps.
The unique grave was found in the Altai Mountains in a burial site of the ancient Pazyryk culture.
Archaeologists are now trying to understand if this was a bizarre unknown ritual for long-gone Siberians, or whether there is another explanation.
The decapitated remains
"Remnants remain of fur garments," according to a local report.
"Evidently the dead were dispatched to the afterlife warmly dressed against the Siberian cold in the Altai Mountains.
"Two small bronze mirrors and parts of a ceramic vessel were also discovered in a 2,500-year-old grave that had been partially robbed in ancient times."
Skulls of the ancient adult and child
Found, too, was ancient gold foil, still intact, which was probably part of the clothing of the beheaded pair whose remains were found in Taldur II burial ground, close to Old Beltir village.
"Headless burials were a feature of this era, yet this one is completely different to anything seen before from the Pazyryks, a culturally advanced group that held sway at this time," reported The Siberian Times .
Dr Nikita Konstantinov, of Gorno-Altaisk State University in Altai Republic, who led the excavations, said: "Burials without heads are quite common.
Bronze mirrors, golden foil and remnants of fur clothes were also found in the tomb
"Usually, it is because of war.
"There was a widespread practice in which bowls were made of the heads of defeated enemies."
The victors would eat from the skulls of their enemies in the ultimate victor's justice.
But in previous burials, the heads of these enemies were not put in the same grave.
And in this newly-found case, the adult and child or adolescent - it's not clear yet if they were male or female - did not appear to be enemies.
Care was taken to send the deceased on their way to the next life well dressed and alongside artifacts commonly seen in Pazyryk tombs.
"We have never previously seen burials of children without heads," said Dr Konstantinov.
"And the heads are not missing at all .
"They were included in the burial."
One theory is that grave-robbers who stole valuables in ancient times may have severed the heads - "perhaps they were afraid that the dead could resurrect and revenge? Or was it an act of humiliation?"
But the skeletons show no visible sign that they were disturbed once in the grave, say the experts.
If this happened, it must have been very soon after death, he said.
The main theory for now is that "is that these people were buried initially with their heads cut off....and placed close to their knees."
The academic admitted: "We have no explanation why this was done so. We have no similar examples."
Further research will be undertaken on the remains to determine "when the heads were cut off or separated in some other way".