Although constructed originally in first centuries of the Christian era, this fortress, excavated first by V. I. Sizov in 1886, returned to prominence under the Ottoman Empire. The ruins left behind pull together the many cultures and confessions of eastern Black Sea littoral. Rebuilt by Genoese traders circa the turn of the 14th century, kale is the Turkish word for fortress, and Mamai refers to the stone babas, or steppe idols associated with the Cumans, or Polovtsi, nomadic tribes who traded with the Italians and others.
Mithrdates VI, the Great king of Pontus 120-63, defended his kingdom most successfully against the Romans until he was betrayed by one of his sons. The first archeological museum of Kerch, stylized as a Greek temple with artefacts piled around it, sat atop Mt. Mithridates; the West European powers raided the museum during the Crimean War.
One of the Greek colonies founded early in the 6th century, Panticapaeum, present-day Kerch, became the capital of the Bosporan Kingdom in the 5th. Destroyed by an earthquake circa 70 BCE, it was rebuilt by the Romans before being destroyed by the Huns in 370. A number of important kurgans lie nearby.
Located on the lower Kuban River, because of the number of kurgans, this was thought to be the burial grounds of 7 Brothers. Although most had been vandalized for the gold treasures they held, nos. 2 and 6 were untouched when Tizengauzen began his excavations in 1876. The Greek and Scythian artefeacts dated from the 5th and 4th centuries BCE.
This Scythian kurgan was stumbled upon by the Voronezh Infantry detachment quarrying rock for building in 1830. Known as Царский курган, or the Royal Kurgan, it was one of the most important examples of architecture, mixing a Scythian exterior with a Greek interior. The great size of the tomb led to the assumption that someone of stature had found his place of eternal peace, as Anton Ashik, another who excavated it in the 1830s, romanticized the kurgan. Unfortunately, the kurgan was not well guarded and much of the wealth was looted.