Slovak Chamber Grave Perfectly Preserved


Yesterday I met a Slovakian colleague, the amiable Matej Ruttkay of the Institute of Archaeology at the Slovak Academy of Sciences. We had an animated conversation in broken German about 1st Millennium graves and he showed me loads of find pix. Matej’s own excavations are absolutely ace, with some really weird Style II metalwork, not actually very far from the Scandinavian prototypes yet clearly of local make. But what blew my mind was the pix and news of the Poprad-Matejovce chamber grave, excavated by Matej’s colleagues last summer and not yet widely publicised. It’s an extremely well-preserved waterlogged chamber grave of c. AD 400, robbed of some furnishings in antiquity but retaining every single piece of wood in pristine condition. See those wooden beams in the pic? That’s the roof of the chamber, 16 centuries old.

The burial has an AD 375 gold coin pendant, a brass sheet vessel, three axes, lathe-turned wooden furniture, a set of shears in a basket, textiles, burnished pottery and probably loads of stuff that wasn’t in Matej’s pics. This thing was sitting alone, two metres below the ground surface, in the middle of an industrial development. Geophysical survey didn’t turn up any neighbours.

More about the find at the Slovak Spectator: click here and scroll down to the heading “Tomb of 5th century Germanic leader”.

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17 thoughts on “Slovak Chamber Grave Perfectly Preserved

  1. Where are the Kurgans, or some evidence of the Kurgans who just took over the kindly matriarchy and established the dominator model of patriarchy.

    Ain’t no trace of Kurgans???

    You mean that Marija Gimbutas, Riane Eisler, David Korten, and Joe Campbell are full of literary poo-poo?

    Whaddabout the Goddess Movement?


  2. Wow! What awful-I mean Wonderful-preservation. When I was in high school, about ’83 I recall, I got to work on a Middle Woodland (+/- early Neolithic, ca. AD 200) burial mound, the Twin Mounds/Mound 6 at Pinson Mounds State Park in Tennessee. The sub-mound tombs were cut thru the soil into the underlying white sand, so bone preservation was excellent. The wood was gone, but there were still clear impressions of the logs and split-cane matting of the crypt, which was still hollow. Tap with your trowel, Thunk! Thunk! Some university profs came out and didn’t believe us, so one rammed a chaining pin down (as it turns out, missing a copper ear-spool by about a cm) and said, “well, I’ll be damned, it is hollow!” There were 4 men, all primary,extended, articulated; the middle and oldest had what we thought were turtle-shell rattles tied at his knees, but they turned out to be 4 engraved discs cut from human parietals. And there were plenty of other interesting finds, like the man under 7 young women covered with pearls…
    Thanks for all your work on this blog!


  3. I’ve been living i Cincinnati, Ohio, and I’ve been traveling on the road in Tennessee, I’ve been to the place you, Mary write about, and also to Serpent Mound. Really exciting places. Where do I found texts and pictures from the place you describe?
    Young women with pearls. Pearls, I’ve made a noaididress full with pearls (it’s a piece of art), we had pearls in the rivers where I come from.
    In Sweden there´s a grave from Vikingtime, a saami-noaidi and a young boy (12 yaers old) are buried in it. And on their dresses pearls are fastened.


  4. Gerald, a kurgan is a barrow and not a person. And Gimbutas was full of poo-poo. And the Goddess movement is a branch of newage — ’nuff said.

    Mary, I’d love to dig something like that!

    Savon, Vivallen is such a cool site.


  5. Savon, they made a movie of us while we were looting mound 6, I think they still show it sometimes (I’m the one with the ‘fro–that’s not my real hair!) They used to sell the video. Bob Mainfort was the site director at the time, he is now at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville as director of the Sponsored Research Prograpm (a euphemism for CRM, if you cantact him thru Arkansas ArcEological Survey, he can tell you about the Tenn Division of Archaeology Reports, he has also summarized some of the Pinson burial mounds in Southeastern Archaeology journal and I think in some edited volumes. he’d love to talk about it. The Md 6 report has the engraved skull rattles on the cover, drawn by the late great Jerry Maness, a digbum/Civil War re-enactor, Georgia Yellowhammer Artillery, killed by a log truck, in his grey.

    Martin, yeah, it has all been downhill from there. My career peak experience at 17…Ay! Most of my “good preservation” in recent years comes out of 19th c. wells and cisterns, or worse.

    Marksville-Hopewell strikes me as a lot like the European Neolithic mound tradition: a vast range of variations on the same theme–a log crypt, or maybe stone; a cremation or maybe a cremation and an inhumation or a bunch of inhumations with a few spare parts; lots of grave goods or a few; on a hill, on a bayou bank…Every one is a little different, but there is a definite pattern. The mounds at Helena, Arkansas (dug by the greatest archaeologist ever to come out of Mississippi, Jim Ford), right across from my village, had log tombs, and as I recall, some worked human bone, a little copper, including a panpipe.


  6. I forgot the best part about mound 6: There were, midway thru construction, 4 very thin layers, coats, of soil, one being the white McNairy sand the tombs cut into, also red, yellow, blue…not to get too hypothetical, but we figured it must indicate a Middle Woodland period version of Earth Diver (how the world was made out of water, by Beaver, Otter, Kingfish…) and/or 4-corners/quarters and thier associated colors (maybe yall have seen the Tibetan world-map/cosmogram?)


  7. Martin, you may not be aware of the phenomenal success of Riane Eisler’s breathless new age flak entitled, “The Chalice and the Blade.” Eisler sucked up to the most irrational side of the feminist movement, and became a publishing goldmine. David Korten is milking her success with a vengeance. Korten sold his juvenile schuck in my N. California town six months ago. The new agers, both young and old, were orgasmic. Yes, the goddess movement is nonsense, but there are plenty of believers. Hillary’s peeyar people are right in there goddessing.


  8. Gerald, you’re right, I’m not so clued-in to what the newage people are believing at the moment. I do know that po-mo archaeologist extraordinaire Ian Hodder has had a lot of friendly contact with goddess cultists at his Neolithic tell dig at Catal Höyük in Turkey. But he doesn’t buy their beliefs: he just thinks they have a right to be there and believe weird things.

    I consider myself part of the somewhat rational side of the feminist movement, and I know that no average salary has ever been improved by chanting and burning joss sticks.


  9. How about if I don’t capitalize paleolithic, mesolithic and neolithic? Dig Poverty Point, Gulf Formational, Miller; Tchula/Tchefuncte, Marksville,Baytown, Mississippian?
    Do y’all have them neopagan folks in Sweden?…I read yr article about getting rid of the abandoned churchs.


  10. Regardless of capitalisation, “neolithic” usually refers to archaeological cultures with agriculture and ground stone tools but no indigenous metalwork. That rules out the Bronze Age.

    Yeah, we’ve got neopagans of various stripes in Sweden. The ones I’ve come in contact with tend to be into archaeology, Medieval re-enactment, live roleplaying, fantasy and science fiction. There’s for instance my buddy Eddie, who’s a goldsmith and a woodsman and cultivates poisonous plants in pots on his windowsill. He sacrifices to the Aesir & Vanir.


  11. We also have a real shamanistic tradition, the Saami. In no way neo-pagan or new age.
    As you know, it is a survival from thousands of years. I would´nt call it a religion, it is more a way to explain life and death. Even to cure some sorts of illnesses, psychologically. My father could stop people from bleeding from wounds, and help to get rid of nasty carbuncles and so on. And see some of the future…

    It was practised openly until the christian church started its mission during 1600-something. (We had those wicth-processes during the same time) Crusched our drums or stole them, killed noaidies… sorry I cannot finish, I have to rush …


  12. Well, then maybe Woodland and Mississippian are chalcolithic…never thought of that..I thought cold-worked copper could still get you classified as neolithic. Woodland has groundstone and some (incipient) ag, which is how I was taught the definition. Mississippian has field agriculture (corn), palisaded permanent towns, slight craft/rank specialization.
    Medival re-enactment…I’ve heard the Germans like to go to the woods and play Wild Indians, which I find quite odd…shouldn’t they be dressing up in wolfhides and fornicating and quaffing fermented honey?
    Yeah, I’ve read a couple books last yr or so about the various reindeer people of the Eurasian artic. You can’t find out much about Saami here.


  13. I’m not sure that classifying American cultures in Old World terms is very helpful. But what started this exchange was when you said “European Neolithic mound tradition”. I am unaware of any such tradition.


  14. All Eurasian mounds are Bronze Age? Huh? Well, I will blame it on Harvard and thier universalism for introducing this sort of technological-stages terminology into Southeastern archaeology, which was theretofore pretty isolated, at best looking to Hausteca or Veracruz for any outside influences. And I don’t claim any such connections, just gross comparablity, and said this for the benefit of those who might not have any specific idea invoked by my saying “Middle Woodland.” No offense, dude! I too think terminology should be clear. But for archaeology to have any relevance beyond local history (regional sequences)and use to the state in building thier myths of claim to the land (ikky!), we need to compare sequences from the entirity of humanity, particularly in terms of similarities and differeneces in responses to similar circumstances & environments.


  15. Savon and anyone else interested: I slightly misstated the descrption of one of the Pinson Mound 6 tombs. In interest of acuracy, I got the report out and put summary/review and drawing of skull rattles on yahoo360/maryestarr (Starr’s Science and History Blog). Thank you, I have no more to say.


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