Of great scientific value is the compendium describing the monuments of the Pra-gue-Penkov or just the Penkov culture. The creators of this culture represented a major dialectal and tribal Slavonic group in the 3rd quarter of the first millennium, A. D., known in Byzantine historical sources and in the Jordanes's composition "The History of the Goths" as the Antas. According to Procopius the Caesarean, a Byzantine historian who lived in the 6th century, "multiple tribes of the Antas" populated territories from the lower Danube in the western part up to the lands of the Utigurs, a Turkic tribe living along the Meotide coast (the Sea of Azov). In characterizing the Penkov culture researchers, until now, have based their conclusions on the well-studied monuments of the Dniester-Danube interfluvial area, the Southern Bug basin and the Dnieper region. Now the eastern limits of the Penkov culture settlements have become still more clear-cut. In 1970s ancient monuments of this culture were discovered along the Seversky Donetz area and quite recently A. Nickolaen-ko have found and investigated similar antiquities in the forest-steppe part of the Oskol basin. His catalogue of the Penkov culture monuments prepared for the present edition adds significantly to the existing sources, being equally important both for studying the eastern areas inhabited by the Antas and for clarifying their relations with the Alanian, proto-Bulgarian and other tribes which occupied territories along the Don basin and in the Azov region. It might well be used to study the origin of the Slavonic population represented by the Borshev culture.
However, the most significant part of the book is, undoubtedly, the study by G. Afanasyev of the forest-steppe grouping of the Saltovo-Mayatsk culture containing multisided description of historical and cultural development of the early medieval tribes populating the forest-steppe zones along the middle reaches of the Don in the 8th-10th centuries.
Above all, one should note appreciable results obtained by G. Afanasyev in studying the Saltovo-Mayatsk settlements. Unlike earlier works based largely on the materials which were found at burial sites, with data on ancient settlements playing a secondary part, today the settlement-associated antiquities have become a no less important source of information. That is why the study accomplished by G. Afanasyev opens a fresh chapter in exploring the forest-steppe region of the Saltovo-Mayatsk culture.
Of special interest is the section in the book carrying a comprehensive analysis of the Saltovo-Mayatsk fortified settlements. It introduces the latest, scientifically-processed materials, offers information on exploratory excavations made at the sites of some ancient towns. In this context the fortified settlements described in the section are broken down into four comprehensively characterized groups with settlements in Group 4 being of particular interest. They include strongholds with fortifications built up in conformity with all military and defence specifications of that time, which made up a chain of borderline fortresses designed to protect the northern territory of the Khazar Khaganate. The author proves that such secure strongholds with multi-century military and engineering achievements behind them were built up by the state and with assistance of Byzantine masters.
Considerable interest presents the section devoted by G. Afanasyev to the Saltovo-Mayatsk house building techniques. The author isolates and provides a meticulous description of various types of dwellings characteristic of tribes diversity among the bearers of this culture. Fresh information is offered to the readers in the section dealing with the ethnic structure of population within the forest-steppe zone along the middle reaches of the Don. Special attention is given here to examination of the Saltovo-Mayatsk burial sites, since they have been considered to be the most significant ethnographic indicator. The author provides a detailed analysis of all formal viewpoints on the ethnic belonging of the Saltovo-Mayatsk monuments by exposing their weak and strong sides. Upon examination of ritualism he comes to the conclusion about a multicomponent composition of the population and isolates four ethnic groups among the bearers of the Saltovo-Mayatsk culture. The Alanian origin of the people who made catacombes-like entombments seems to be indisputable, as it has been substantiated more than once in earlier works. Through employment, inter alia, of anthropological materials G. Afanasyev distinguishes two types of the Saltovo-Mayatsk pit burials, i. e. those left by the Alanians and by the Onoguro-Bulgaro-Khazarian tribes. An entirely new approach is employed to investigate a tribal affiliation among the representatives of the Saltovo-Mayatsk culture in view of discovering the cremation ritual cases and emerging lately new materials concerning this rite. Having analysed the existing viewpoints, the author comes to the conclusion that cases of burrying by cremation found in the Saltovo-Mayatsk entombments are characteristic, most likely, of the descendants of the local pre-Saltovo population, that is the Penkov culture tribes. This standpoint seems to be the most convincing today.
The study of G. Afanasyev is marked by several new substantial observations, although one can find a few debatable points because yet insufficient amount of data has been available to archeological science to find a solution to certain historical and cultural questions. It is believed that the present work will be of interest to archeolo-gists and specialists in the medieval history of Eastern Europe.