I have written before about the fact that Thomas Atkinson often described the ancient archaeological remains, especially the kurgans (tumuli), he came across during his travels. Both of his books are full of descriptions of remarkable examples, particularly those he came across in the Zhetysu region, although he also noted similar examples along the Yenissei River in what is now Khakassia in southern Siberia and elsewhere. He even wrote a paper for the Geological Society of London about some ancient remains he had found buried in Siberia.
He also describes visiting the ancient site of Koilyk on the Lepsy River and mentions a copper knife given to him by Cossacks in what is now northern Kazakhstan.
Until now I had always thought that these writings had had little impact. Thus is was a pleasant surprise to find recently that they have not been entirely ignored. In 1897 the American author Barnard Shipp published Indian and Antiquities of America (Sherman & Co, Philadelphia, 1897). Shipp, who studied at Yale and was an authority on the early Spanish explorations of America, travelled widely in Europe and became interested in the ancient buildings of antiquity.
Although mostly about America, his fascinating book contains eight pages of direct quotes from Thomas Atkinson’s books and also includes two of Thomas’ woodcuts showing kurgans located outside the town of Kopal where the Atkinsons lives for nine months in 1848-9.
Many of the kurgans drawn by Atkinson are still standing just outside the town of Kapal (as it is now called), although the standing stones that once adorned them have long since disappeared, many of them used as gravestones in the local cemetery. I found some of these on a previous trip to the area.
As you can see, the stones are unusual as far as Russian Orthodox grave markers are concerned. The Cossacks used them because no other cut stone was available in the nineteenth century when these two were first erected.