Search launched for lost Viking cemetery
Archaeologists are searching for a lost Viking cemetery in northern Poland, which will shed further light on the death and burial rites of the area’s medieval inhabitants.
Between the late 8th and late 11th century AD, the Vikings spread from southern Scandinavia, raiding and trading with wide parts of Europe.
In Poland, archaeologists have searched for traces left by the Vikings in the north of the country, near the Baltic Sea cost. Earlier this year, researchers from the Archaeological Museum in Gdańsk, discovered that certain medieval graves in the village of Ciepłe, in northern Poland, belonged to warriors from Scandinavia.
Now a different Polish team is trying to locate a lost Viking cemetery by the village of Janów, near Elbląg in northern Poland.
Since the 1980s, archaeologists have been studying the settlement, Truso. One of the most thoroughly studied Viking trading sites near the Baltic, it was inhabited from the 8th century and later abandoned in the 11th century AD.
Their research showed how its inhabitants lived, breeding animals, fishing, trading and through crafts, from working as blacksmiths to producing jewellery. However, it was not clear where they were buried – until now.
“We propose that the necropolis was located to the south-west of the settlement. This is evidenced by the discoveries made in the 19th century, during the levelling of the area for new buildings,” said Dr Marek Jagodziński from the Archaeological and Historical Museum in Elbląg, who established the settlement’s location in the 1980s, and is leading the current research project.
The 19th century builders found the remains of human and horses’ skeletons, along with fragments of clay vessels, ash and charcoal. Today’s researchers have more advanced research tools.
In May and June, they used a ground-penetrating radar, which detects signals reflected from objects below the surface without having to dig into the ground, to search the site for graves.
It seems that humans were buried in different ways at the site. Although the Danes at the time burnt the dead on a pyre, by the 9th century Viking burial practices were being influenced by Christianity, which led to people being buried in the ground.
For this reason, Jagodziński says that finding skeletons buried in the ground on the site of the cemetery in Truso should not come as a surprise.
The research is being conducted as part of the "Baltic Odyssey — Creation of common historical and cultural area” project, co-financed by the Poland-Russia Cross-Border Cooperation Programme 2014-2020.