Unlooted Migration Period grave found in East Bohemia

Archaeologists have discovered a rare unlooted grave from the 5th century near Hradec Králové in Eastern Bohemia. It was one of six graves from the early Migration Period found in the village of Sendražice during a 2019 excavation. The other five had all been looted in antiquity, but the intact grave contains a rich collection of elite grave goods that make it an unprecedented find in the Czech Republic.

The six individuals ranged in age from 16 to 55. The deceased in the unpillaged grave was a woman between the ages of 35 and 50. She was buried in a wood chamber tomb, only the second chamber tomb from the Migration Period ever found in Eastern Bohemia. The other was found in 1960 at a site about five miles away.

Among the treasures found in the woman’s grave are a gold-decorated headdress, four buckles of gold and silver inlaid with semi-precious stones, glass beads, an iron knife, a bone comb, egg shells and a ceramic vessel. A small animal was buried with her. A pair of silver buckles placed in the area of her lap have fragments of a textile with canvas and twill weave still attached.

One of the fabrics belonged to the garment fastened by the buckles, the other to a coat or cloth that covered the woman. Remains of leather and fur were also found on the buckles, according to research by Helena Březinová from the Institute of Archeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

Remains of some funerary offerings were found in the looted graves, including of a scramasax short sword, iron knives, metal belt fittings, shoe fittings, antler combs, amber and glass beads. One ceramic vessel survived the looting intact. Analysis of residue inside the container revealed that the meat of a ruminant had been cooked in it.

Osteological examination has thus far only been able to confirm the sex of the woman in the intact grave as the remains in the other graves were damaged during the robberies. Based on what’s left of their grave goods, archaeologists believe a man was buried in grave 3 and a woman in grave 6. Evidence of arthritic changes were found on some of the bones, indicating they may have been of older age and/or worked strenuously in life. Traces of cancer were found in the skull and pelvis of one individual. Another had asymmetrical muscle development the lower limbs. Not enough of the skeleton has survived to make a determination as to the cause of this asymmetry, but it may have been the result of a stroke. Tooth decay and damage to the joints was also found.

The skeletal remains will continue to be studied. Radiocarbon dating will be performed to narrow down the ages of the graves. Stable isotope analysis will reveal their diets and areas of origin. DNA analysis will be performed to determine if any of the people buried were related to each other.