Outside the Russian village of Dargavs, there is an ancient necropolis which has got the attention of historians and the tourist to visit the oldest burial ground called “City of the Dead”. This prehistoric cemetery holds the remains of more than 10,000 people – many of whom lie with their clothes, ornaments and they are so perfectly preserved that the flesh has not been separated from the bones even after hundreds of years.
Although historians and researchers have discovered some of the facts about this ancient graveyard, still some natives believe that anyone who enters in this city of the dead will not come back alive. Wrapped in mysterious beliefs, historians have unraveled some important facts about this graveyard which is stretched over the border from Georgia.
The first story about the city of the dead connects it to the Mongol-Tatar invasion during the 13th century when this valley was used as a burial ground. At that time, the space in this 17 km valley of the Caucasus mountains was scarce so the locales began burying their dead bodies above the ground crypts.
The other theory about the city of the dead suggests that this city was created on the pattern of the migrating Sarmatians who settled in southern Russia and they used to bury their dead bodies above the ground to respect the land.
Today, the site comprises 99 remarkably conserved medieval curved-roof crypts with single windows and contains more than 100 bodies. Some are so well preserved that flesh is still attached to their bones. The City of the Dead’s story also incorporates another piece of the region’s history: a series of plague epidemics in the 17th and 18th Centuries, tells us the report published by the BBC.
There is substantiation that infected inhabitants quarantined themselves in the crypts as they waited for death to come within the reach of them. Some bodies inside the crypts are also buried inside wooden coffins that resemble boats, and one dead body was even discovered with an oar next to it. With no navigable rivers nearby, some historians think ancient residents believed that one must cross a river to reach heaven.
While many visitors travel to this 1.5-hectare cemetery to see remarkably well-preserved medieval architecture, historian Lyudmila Gaboeva believes they come away with something more. “The people who come here in wonder of the beauty of this place achieve peace with the eternal fear of death,” she said.
Research about the city of the dead is very helpful in understanding how people used to live and how they used to bury their loved ones 400 years ago. The site has been the center of attention of archeologists who have found many interesting items valuable of scientific research.
The site has attracted tourists from all parts of the world even though it is much difficult to be discovered and traveled. The superstitions spread by the locales have also played some part in keeping this city away from tourists, there are still many of them lingering in the valley due to pleasant and spellbinding environment, peace and tranquility prevailed in the valley.