Archaeologists unearthed the graves of the sixth-century Lombard elite

12. 07. 2023

Beads, decorative pins, coins, but also weapons such as arrows and spears. Such artefacts were found by archaeologists hidden in the graves of members of the ruling elite of the Germanic Lombards in southern Moravia. A team from the Institute of Archaeology of the CAS in Brno unearthed a previously unknown part of a burial complex in the area of Mušov–Roviny, dating back to the first half of the sixth century. Systematic field research of the largest known Lombard necropolis on the territory of the Czech Republic is continuing there this year as well.

The Mušov–Roviny burial site is the largest known necropolis from the Migration Period located north of the middle part of the Danube. It is located in an area where an older burial site from the Roman period (first–fourth century CE) was also discovered.

At the sit, researchers have newly identified and examined more than 80 graves from the first half of the sixth century, when South Moravia was settled by the Germanic Lombard tribe. Just a few decades later, they left Central Europe and headed south, moving into northern Italy.

Grave no. 139 from the Mušov–Roviny site, located in the area below the Pálava Hills.

This year’s excavation revealed a section of the necropolis with a number of graves of an elite character. “These are extensive grave pits with a wooden chamber structure, with supporting beams in the corners and timbering on the sides. Although the graves were robbed shortly after they were placed, as was the custom of the time, unique sets of archaeological findings have been preserved,” explained Zuzana Loskotová, head of the research team from the Institute of Archaeology of the CAS, Brno.

Women’s ornaments and men’s weapons
In the rich graves of women, archaeologists found objects related to clothing, such as clasps, colourful necklace beads, and belt components. “An interesting discovery is the grave of a woman who was interred with bronze ace-shaped clasps inlaid with almandine. This type of semi-precious stone was highly prized at that time and was imported from as far away as present-day India,” Loskotová described.

Detail of a horse skeleton found in a separate grave.

Mostly weapons are preserved in the male graves, such as spearheads and arrowheads, while antler combs were also a common find. Buried animals were also discovered at the site, such as whole skeletons of dogs, or a separate horse grave located in the immediate vicinity of one of the most important (“princely”) graves at the burial site.

The silver coins of kings
“What is absolutely unique is the discovery of two silver coins from grave number 100 at the edge of the burial site. These are coins of the Ostrogothic kings Theodoric the Great and Athalaric from the first half of the sixth century, minted in Ravenna, which have never before been found in our territory. They prove that the local Lombard elite must have maintained strong contacts with the region of northern Italy,” Loskotová remarked.

The silver coin of the Ostrogothic king Athalaric. From the first half of the sixth century.

This year’s discoveries by researchers from the Institute of Archaeology of the CAS in Brno confirm that the area below the Pálava Hills was one of the important power centres on the political map of Central Europe in the first half of the sixth century.

The archaeological research in 2023 was financially supported by MND, Inc.

Author: Markéta Wernerová, Division of External Relations, CAO of the CAS, drawing on the press release of the CAS
Translated by: Tereza Novick
á, Division of External Relations, CAO of the CAS
Photo: Institute of Archaeology of the CAS, Brno

Licence Creative Commons The text is released for use under the Creative Commons licence.

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