A farmer digging a pit on his land unearthed 2,000-year-old treasure inside the ancient burial mound of the tomb of a nomadic 'royal', along with a 'laughing' man with an artificially deformed egg-shaped skull.
Stunning gold and silver jewellery, weaponry, valuables and artistic household items were found next to the chieftain's skeleton in a grave close to the Caspian Sea in southern Russia.
Local farmer Rustam Mudayev's spade made an unusual noise and it emerged he had struck an ancient bronze pot near his village of Nikolskoye in Astrakhan region.
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A chieftain was buried with his head raised as if on a pillow (pictured). It is believed the individual was a high-ranking 'royal' of a nomadic society
He took it to the Astrakhan History museum for analysis and an experts opinion on the find.
'As soon as the snow melted we organised an expedition to the village,' said museum's scientific researcher Georgy Stukalov.
'After inspecting the burial site we understood that it to be a royal mound, one of the sites where ancient nomads buried their nobility.'
The Sarmatians were a group of people who lived for almost a millennium from the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD.
Their range stretched, at its largest in the 1st century AD, from the Caspian Sea across Eurasia and towards modern-day Poland.
The territory was known as Sarmatia and included today's Central Ukraine, South-Eastern Ukraine, Southern Russia, Russian Volga and South-Ural regions, also to a smaller extent north-eastern Balkans and around Moldova.
They had conflicts with the Roman Empire as they expanded east at their peak, allying themselves with Germanic tribes.
Towards the end of their reign they faced competition from Germanic Goths and the Huns.
The Sarmatians were eventually decisively assimilated by the burgeoning populations in Eastern Europe.
The burial is believed to belong to a leader of a Sarmatian nomadic tribe that dominated this part of Russia until the 5th century AD, and other VIPs of the ancient world, including a 'laughing' young man with an artificially deformed egg-shaped skull and excellent teeth that have survived two millennia.
'We have been digging now for 12 days,' said Mr Stukalov.
'We have found multiple gold jewellery decorated with turquoise and inserts of lapis lazuli and glass.'
The most 'significant' finds is seen as a male skeleton buried inside a wooden coffin.
This chieftain's head was raised as if it rested on a pillow and he wore a cape decorated with gold plagues.
Archaeologists found his collection of knives, items of gold, a small mirror and different pots, evidently signalling his elite status.
They collected a gold and turquoise belt buckle and the chief's dagger along with a tiny gold horse's head which was buried between his legs, and other intricate jewellery.
Another grave was of an elderly man - his skeleton broke by an excavator - but buried with him was the head of his horse, its skull still dressed in an intricate harness richly decorated with silver and bronze
A farmer digging a pit on his land unearthed 2,000-year-old treasure inside the ancient burial mound of the tomb of a nomadic 'royal', along with a 'laughing' man (pictured) with an artificially deformed egg-shaped