Archeologists find VIKING graves in Polish village

The graves were found in a medieval cemetery in the village of Ciepłe, northern Poland. Z. Ratajczak

Archaeologists in northern Poland have made an unexpected discovery: certain local graves from the Middle Ages belonged to warriors from Scandinavia.

The discovery was made in a medieval cemetery in the village of Ciepłe, in the Pomeranian region in northern Poland.

Some of the graves are around 1,000 years old; they belong to people who lived during the reign of Bolesław the Brave, the first King of Poland, who lived from 967 to 1025.

Some of the weapons found with the warriors, primarily swords and spearheads, appear to have been made in western Europe or Scandinavia, rather than by local swordsmiths.J. Szmit

Four graves located in the centre of the cemetery caught researchers’ attention.

“Men, probably warriors, were buried in them, as shown by the weapons and equestrian equipment laid there with them,” said Sławomir Wadyl of the Archeological Museum in Gdańsk, who has been conducting research at the cemetery.

A study of the site edited by him, entitled “Ciepłe. An elite early medieval cemetery in eastern Pomerania”, was published in Polish last year.

An artist’s interpretation of the graves in the cemetery.  K. Patalon

One of the questions that Wadyl and his colleagues wanted to answer in their research was where the people buried in the cemetery came from.

Samples from some of the remains were sent off for genetic and stromium isotope analysis, which can provide researchers with information about where someone lived.

Some of the graves belong to people who lived during the reign of Bolesław the Brave, the first King of Poland, who lived from 967 to 1025.Public domain

This analysis yielded some surprising results: the four warriors buried at the centre of the cemetery were not locals. Instead, they came to Poland from Scandinavia – most probably Denmark, according to Wadyl.

Indeed, some of the weapons found with the warriors, primarily swords and spearheads, appear to have been made in western Europe or Scandinavia, rather than by local swordsmiths.

“Men, probably warriors, were buried in them, as shown by the weapons and equestrian equipment laid there with them,” said Sławomir Wadyl of the Archeological Museum in Gdańsk, who has been conducting research at the cemetery. Sławomir Wadyl 

The graves themselves provide a further clue: the four warriors were buried in graves made of wood – a type of grave found in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, but rarer in medieval Poland – unlike the other bodies in the cemetery, which were buried directly in the ground.

The discovery of the Scandinavian warriors provides researchers with further insights into society in early medieval Poland.

Vikings were Scandinavians who from the late 8th to late 11th centuries, raided and traded from their Northern European homelands across wide areas of Europe.Wolfman/ Creative Commons License.

Wadyl said: “Buried in the central part of the cemetery, they represented the social elite at the time, as shown by the monumental nature of their graves and rich equipment.

“They probably belonged to a group of elite riders, but their role was probably not limited to warriors’ functions.”