Republication from the history blog  

Z-type sword found in chamber grave. Photo by J.Szmit.

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Four richly-adorned graves found in a medieval cemetery in the village of Ciepłe, Eastern Pomerania, Poland, contained the remains of Scandinavian men, not the early Piast elite. The burials date to the time of the first king of Poland, Bolesław I the Brave (b. 967 – d. 1025) and were located in the center of the cemetery. They are the oldest of the 60-plus graves unearthed thus far and stand out for their high quality and their grave goods.

The bodies were buried with extensive weaponry and horse fittings indicating the deceased were warriors. There were finely decorated swords, knives and spearheads, and complete sets of horse tackle (spurs, stirrups, bits, buckles). Other grave goods found in the graves include coins, combs, a set of scales with weights, metal and wood utensils.

The graves would have been special in their own right even if they had not been so full of funerary goods. They are chamber graves, which are very rare in the archaeological record of medieval Poland. Two of them were made of horizontal logs connected in the corners with cog joints, and the other two with vertical piles in the corner. The pile graves also featured huge coffins, the largest of their kind ever found in Poland. All four of the burials were oriented along the North-South axis, another unusual feature in Polish graves from this period. The group of burials was surrounded by a fence or palisade and was never interfered with, suggesting the locals remembered and respected the deceased.

The cemetery was excavated between 2004 and 2014, and the four central burials generated much discussion between archaeologists and historians.

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